Sheila Hayman, a writer and filmmaker, shares a motivational tale about her ancestor, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. Her film offers a significant analysis of the current classical music industry, which predominantly features works by male composers in 90% of its concerts.
Fanny was a talented composer who was often overlooked due to the fame and admiration of her younger brother Felix, also a composer. Throughout her life and even after her death, she lived in his shadow. Some of her works were mistakenly credited to him, such as the delightful lied Italien. In fact, it was even performed by Queen Victoria when Felix was a guest at Buckingham Palace in 1842. He later acknowledged the unfairness of the situation.
Felix was supported by his traditional family to pursue a career in music, while Fanny was only allowed to view music as a secondary role to her duties as a wife and mother. Despite this, her hidden talent resulted in numerous compositions, with many still waiting to be performed. One such piece is the Easter Sonata, which was only recently debuted by the talented pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, whose remarkable interpretation of the piece is a valuable learning experience for any audience member.
Marcia Citron and Angela R Mace, both music experts, have shared in interviews the challenges they faced in trying to retrieve the original manuscripts of the Easter Sonata and other pieces. These works were scattered in various archives and auction houses, where there was resistance and even attempts to hinder the recovery process. The Easter Sonata’s handwritten pages, for instance, were discovered to have been secretly torn out from the bound volume that eventually ended up in the Berlin State Library and was later sold at a Paris auction in the 1970s. It took a significant amount of investigative work to locate the missing pages, making for a compelling tale of a much-awaited revival.