Fanny’s Dreams of Life

Stand for Israel  |  November 19, 2019

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, 1842
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, 1842

Fanny Mendelssohn was born 214 years ago to a Jewish family that included her younger brother Felix, whose musical fame would eclipse her own. But Fanny, both during her lifetime and today, was renowned not just for her musical compositions, but her piano-playing abilities (their teacher praised Fanny by saying, “She plays like a man”) were also astounding.

One of Fanny’s works was titled, in German, “Das Jahr” (“The Year”), and includes the above piece for November. Included in Fanny’s original sheet music was this poem, translated here into English, which matches the winter mood we all are feeling as autumn flees and the chill sets in:

How the trees rustle so wintry
The dreams of life flee from it
A lament sounds
Through hills and forest

Fanny would die at only forty-two of a stroke, the same ailment that claimed her parents and would only six months later take the life of her beloved younger brother Felix. But before Felix died, he completed his final work, the String Quartet No. 6, which he called “Requiem for Fanny.”