Fanny Mendelssohn
  • Fanny Mendelssohn
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The Other Mozart is a play for the stage based on the lIfe of Mozart’s sister Nannerl. The production is here for one night only on Sunday, June 12, 7:30 p.m., at the Balboa Theatre. The play is a part of this year’s Mainly Mozart Festival.

Maria Anna Mozart, or Nannerl, was Wolfgang’s inspiration as a child. She was four and a half years older, and Wolfgang, observing Nannerl’s music lessons a toddler, wanted to play just like her.

The two toured extensively as prodigies, but when Nannerl reached a certain age she was left at home to be married. None of her compositions have survived.


Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel-Lied

Larghetto from Song Without Words, Op. 8, No.3

Larghetto from Song Without Words, Op. 8, No.3

Nannerl isn’t who I want to talk about right now. We’ll get plenty of her from the show this weekend.

I want to talk about Fanny. Fanny Mendelssohn was Felix Mendelssohn’s older sister, by four years, who faced the same fate as Nannerl a few generations later. However, in the case of Fanny her compositions have been preserved.

The similarities between Nannerl and Wolfgang and Fanny and Felix are interesting. Both sisters were four years older. Both brothers were inspired by their sisters.

Both brothers were fantastic prodigies when it came to composing. While Mozart is the ultimate child composer, Mendelssohn’s Midsummer’s Night Dream Overture is equal to anything Mozart composed at the same age.

When I listen to Fanny’s music is strikes me as top-quality German Romanticism. Fanny’s father discouraged her from publishing her compositions as did her brother. A few of her piano works were published under Felix’s name but for the most part she limited herself to parlour music that could be shared in her home.

There are a few larger pieces for orchestra and chorus, but by and large her oeuvre is for solo piano, piano and voice, and a few chamber pieces for trio or quartet.

It is my sincere hope that one of San Diego’s musical institutions will establish a festival for female composers. The San Diego Symphony is doing an American composers festival next season. Maybe we can look for a women’s program sometime soon.

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