November 14, 1805 - May 14, 1847
born in Hamburg, Germany, composed during the Romantic period
Fanny Cécilie Mendelssohn's father, Abraham, was a prosperous banker. When Napoleon's troops occupied Hamburg in 1811, the Jewish family relocated to Berlin. There, in 1816, Fanny and her younger brother Felix were baptized as Lutherans. The two talented youngsters were brought up in an exceptionally stimulating atmosphere and both became highly accomplished composers and pianists. Based on contemporary accounts and her music, she had talents as a composer that were fairly comparable to those of her brother. However, her father opposed a professional career as unsuitable for a young gentlewoman. Felix carried on this opposition after their father's death.
At the age of 17 she fell in love with a struggling painter, Wilhelm Hensel. After some years of familiar opposition due to his lack of wealth, they were married and moved into a house in the family compound. In 1839 and 1840 the couple visited Italy. There Fanny found herself the center of a circle of young musicians who admired her music. She blossomed under this attention and composed with renewed confidence. She wrote piano music, oratorios, and chamber music. In the mid-1840s she informed her brother that she intended to begin to publish her music and he apparently dropped his opposition. However, at about that time she began to suffer recurrent nosebleeds, which we recognize now as a sign of high blood pressure. On May 16, 1847, while rehearsing a performance of one of Felix's oratorios, she felt her hands go numb, then fell over, struck by a fatal stroke. Her music never had its just debut during her lifetime and much of it remained unheard and unpublished. It was only in the late 1900s that recordings brought evidence of her exceptional gifts as a composer to the general public. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi