Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

Music History Monday: The Other Prodigious Mendelssohn: Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

We mark the birth on November 14, 1805 – 217 years ago today – of the German composer, pianist, wife, mother, and hausfrau Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, in the Hanseatic city of Hamburg.  She died on May 14, 1847, all-too-young at the age of 41, at her home in the Prussian capital of Berlin. Fanny Cäcille Mendelssohn was the first child (of an eventual four) of Lea and Abraham Mendelssohn. Lea Mendelssohn took one look at her infant daughter’s hands and famously exclaimed: “Look!  She has Bach fugue hands.” And that she did. The next Mendelssohn child was born three years and three months later, Fanny’s baby brother – the “genius” – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).   “Genius” The word “genius” is so overused as to be almost useless.  Nevertheless, it is necessary that we define it and then discuss an aspect its usage.   Definition.  Admittedly, while there is no precise, scientific way to measure and define genius, the following definition, by Walter Isaacson, will do. (Isaacson “knows” genius; his biographies of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and Leonardo da Vinci are must reads.)  “Genius is a characteristic of original and exceptional insight in the performance of some art or endeavor that surpasses […]

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