Converse Celebrates Works by the Forgotten Mendelssohn
While hosting the Fall 2005 meeting of the Southeast Chapter of the American Musicological Society Oct. 7-8, the Petrie School of Music at Converse College will celebrate the music of one of history’s most underappreciated female composers with a full concert of her works and a keynote address by a leading music history scholar.
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of her birth, a number of compositions by Fanny Mendelssohn will be performed during an Oct. 7 concert featuring the Converse Symphony Orchestra, the Converse Chamber Singers and the Converse Trio. The concert, which is open to the public and free of charge, will begin at 8 p.m. in Daniel Recital Hall.
Fanny Mendelssohn is perhaps best known as the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn, composer extraordinaire and author of such works as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Fanny, however, was a prolific composer in her own right, and since the 1970s, her works have slowly begun to receive their due appreciation and recognition. In July, a three-day conference about her was hosted at the University of Oxford in Great Britain, and in November Florida State University will host the International Fanny Mendelssohn Conference.
“Fanny Mendelssohn is considered to be one of the most important women composers in music history,” said Dr. Siegwart Reichwald, associate professor of musicology at Converse. “This concert will mark the first time that some of her works will have ever been heard in the Southeastern United States.”
On Saturday, Oct. 8, Dr. Marcia Citron, Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Distinguished Service Professor of musicology at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and author of several books and articles on Fanny Mendelssohn, will deliver an address entitled “A Bicentennial Reflection: Twenty-Five Years with Fanny Hansel.” Dr. Citron’s presentation, which is also free and open to the public, will begin at 11 a.m. in Daniel Recital Hall. Dr. Citron’s visit to Converse is made possible through the Nancy Oliver Gray Women in Education Visiting Scholars Program.
The oldest child in one of nineteenth-century Berlin’s most prominent and cultivated families, Fanny’s compositions were often played with Felix’s in the highly popular concerts which were held at their family home, site of one of Europe’s most flourishing salons. It was her influential leadership of one of history’s most talented family musical enterprises that has earned her an important place in the understanding of the cultural life of the time.
“Like her younger brother Felix, Fanny showed exceptional musical ability at an early age and began to write music when she was still a child,” said Dr. Reichwald. “She would go on to write in many genres, but unfortunately was a bit of a victim of attitudes at the time that were not particularly supportive of women. In fact, some of her works were credited simply as ‘F. Mendelssohn,’ which led many people to assume that those works were composed by her brother Felix. Within the last 30 years, musicologists have rediscovered Fanny’s works, which were mainly in manuscript form, and are recognizing her tremendous talents as a composer that were overlooked for so long.”