“How Beautiful It Sounds!”: The Lieder and Sonntagsmusiken of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel


  • Sabrina Rae Baeta University of Florida




undergraduate research


Throughout her lifetime, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was primarily known as the sister of the musical genius, Felix Mendelssohn, as the daughter of her distinguished parents, Lea and Abraham Mendelssohn and as the wife of her artistic husband, August Wilhelm Hensel. Today, Hensel is remembered for her remarkable musical talents and a wide breadth of compositions. Though often passed over as a woman in the nineteenth-century, Fanny Hensel played a key role in the musical life of the city of Berlin. Hensel’s musical voice was defined by her comprehensive musical education and through her Sonntagsmusiken (translated “Sunday Musicales”). In the next generation, British author Virginia Woolf shed light on the obstacles to a female artist’s life. In the essay, A Room of One’s Own, Woolf outlined the main elements necessary to create art: financial security and a room to one’s self. For Hensel, financial security was ensured through her family, yielding for her a rich musical education. Hensel was given a private space for her creative work in an adjacent building called the Gartenhaus. This paper investigates how Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s educational and performance opportunities shaped her compositional voice and circumscribed her influence on nineteenth-century Berlin musical society.



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