Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) And Clara Schumann (1819-1896)


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The limelight is shared by two composers, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Clara Schumann.

Donald Macleod begins his survey with the pair's early training.

Publicly, Fanny's talents were overshadowed by her younger brother Felix, but privately she was a highly esteemed musician who has left behind an impressive body of work.

Clara Schumann, née Wieck, made her debut as a virtuoso pianist aged only nine and maintained a career of international standing for over 60 years.

She began to write music as a child when the composer-pianist was an accepted phenomenon on the concert platform - and was later encouraged to write music by her husband, Robert Schumann.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Italien (Grillparzer), published in Felix Mendelssohn's Op 8

Susan Gritton (soprano)

Eugene Asti (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Verlust, Die Nonne, Sehnsucht (published in Felix Mendelssohn's Op 9)

Barbara Bonney (soprano)

Geoffrey Parsons (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Sonata in Gm

Liana Serbescu (piano)

Clara Schumann: Polonaise in E flat

Josef De Beenhouwer (piano)

Clara Schumann: Variations de Concert sur la Cavatine du Pirate de Bellini, Op 8


Donald Macleod evaluates the effect that their respective marriages had on the composing lives of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Die Ersehnte, Op 9, No 1

Susan Gritton (soprano)

Eugene Asti (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Lieder on poems by Johann Gustav Droysen

Francine van der Jeijden (soprano)

Ingrid Stijsiger (alto)

Joost van der Linden (tenor)

Ursula Dütschler (fortepiano)

Clara Schumann: Quatre Pièces Caracteristiques, Op 5

Josef De Beenhouwer (piano)

Clara Schumann: Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, Warum willst du and're fragen (Robert Schumann's Op 37)

Werner Güra (tenor)

Christoph Berner (piano)

Clara Schumann: Piano Trio in Gm, Op 17

Allegro moderato and Scherzo - Tempo di Menuetto

Clara Wieck Trio

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Nachtreigen

BBC Singers

Jason Lai (conductor)

BBC recording.


Donald Macleod contrasts the life Clara Schumann enjoyed as an international concert pianist with that of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, who was never encouraged to seek a professional career and instead found an outlet for her artistic talents by creating musical gatherings at her family home.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Allegro molto in Cm

Irene Barbuceanu (piano)

Clara Schumann: Impromptu (Souvenir de Vienne), Op 9

Josef De Beenhouwer (piano)

Clara Schumann: Piano concerto in Am, Op 7

Lucy Parham (piano)

BBC Concert Orchestra

Barry Wordsworth (conductor)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: The Chorus of Mourning, excerpt from Biblical Oratorio

Chorus and Orchestra of Kölner Kurrende

Elke Mascha Blankenburg (conductor)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Schöne Fremde; Schweigend sinkt die Nacht; Lust'ge Vögel

BBC Singers

Jason Lai (conductor)

BBC recording.


For 19th-century women like Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Clara Schumann, their social class determined their possibilities.

Fanny's long awaited journey to Italy with her husband and son lasted nearly a year and proved immensely fruitful.

As much as Fanny's travels stimulated her to write more music, it seems that Clara's itinerant existence as a performing artist stifled hers.

Clara wrote much of her music during her marriage to Robert Schumann when the demands of a large family and her husband kept her closer to home.

Presented by Donald Macleod.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Die Schiffende

Susan Gritton (soprano)

Eugene Asti (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: January, September and December, from The Year

Carlo Levi Minzi (piano)

Clara Schumann: 3 songs for Mixed Chorus - Abendfeier in Venedig, Vorwarts, Gondoliera

BBC Singers

Jason Lai (conductor)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)


Despite a natural talent for writing light opera, Emmanuel Chabrier's obsession was grand opera.

Briséis was his last offering in the genre and was the work in which Chabrier saw himself as being modernist, raising the ideals of French opera above and beyond anything that had come before.

Donald Macleod examines the history of this opera and the reasons why Chabrier saw it as his crowning masterpiece.

Duo de l'ouvreuse de l'Opéra Comique et de l'employé du Bon Marché

Geraldine McGreevy (soprano)

Toby Spence (tenor)

Graham Johnson (piano)

Marche Joyeuse

Orchestra National de France

Armin Jordan (conductor)

Excerpt from Scene 2, Act 1 from Briséis

Joan Rodgers (soprano)

Mark Padmore (tenor)

Kathryn Harries (mezzo soprano)

Chorus of Scottish Opera

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Jean Yves Ossonce (conductor)

Farmyard Songs: Ballade des gros dindons

Stephen Varcoe (baritone)

Villanelle des petits canards; Pastorale des cochons roses; Les Cigales

Felicity Lott (soprano)

À la Musique

Female Chorus of Toulouse-Midi-Pyrenees

Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse

Michel Plasson (conductor).

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Donald Macleod concludes his survey of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Clara Schumann with a look at some of their later compositions.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was 40 before she finally plucked up the courage to publish some of her music under her own name.

The favourable reception she received gave her the encouragement she needed to tackle one of her finest and final works, the Piano Trio in Dm.

For Clara Schumann, the sad years of Robert Schumann's breakdown and death had left her feeling that music was a powerful source of solace rather than one to inspire her to compose.

Once she resumed her career as an international concert pianist, she more or less stopped composing and concentrated instead on championing her husband's music in her programmes.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Allegro molto vivace in Gm from 6 Mélodies for Piano, Op 4

Irene Barbuceanu (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Overture

The Women's Philharmonic

Jo-Ann Falletta (conductor)

Clara Schumann: Three Romances for Violin and Piano

Andrew Hardy (violin)

Uriel Tsachor (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Piano Trio in Dm

Clara Wieck Trio

Clara Schumann: Die stille Lotosblume

Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone)

Imogen Cooper (piano).