Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 – May 14, 1847

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her “Songs Without Words” small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.