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date: 17 October 2021

Hensel [née Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy)], Fanny Cäciliefree

Hensel [née Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy)], Fanny Cäciliefree

  • Angela Mace Christian

(b Hamburg, 14 Nov 1805; d Berlin, 14 May 1847). German composer, pianist, and salon hostess. Fanny Hensel was one of the most prolific female composers of the 19th century, among the first women to write a string quartet, and a life-long proponent of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and her brother, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Hensel was a pianist of rare talent and prodigious memory who dazzled private audiences at her concert series in her Berlin home. She struggled her entire life with the conflicting impulses of authorship versus the social expectations for her high-class status, finally deciding to publish her music only one year before her early death at the age of 41; her hesitation was variously a result of her dutiful attitude towards her father, her intense relationship with her brother, and her awareness of contemporary social thought on women in the public sphere. Hensel’s music reflects her deep reverence for Bach especially, as well as for Beethoven, but also exhibits the fine craftsmanship and lyricism typical of the post-Classical Mendelssohnian style, and her own experimental and inventive approach to form and content. During her lifetime, Hensel’s career, conducted mostly in the private sphere, was overshadowed by the more public exploits of her brother. The true extent of her compositions (over 450 completed compositions and drafts) and her contributions to the Mendelssohnian style have been rediscovered and appreciated in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

NB: The history of names in the Mendelssohn family is complicated, because the family names shifted with baptism and marriage. Throughout this article, I will use the surname ‘Hensel’ to refer to the composer generally. When distinguishing her from her brother or husband, I will refer to her as ‘Fanny’. Her preferred name after her marriage was ‘Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy’.

1. Childhood and religion.

Fanny Hensel née Mendelssohn Bartholdy was born on 14 November 1805, in Hamburg, Germany to Lea Mendelssohn née Salomon and her husband Abraham Mendelssohn. Upon seeing her first-born daughter, Lea Mendelssohn remarked that Fanny was born with ‘Bach fugal fingers’ as reported by the new father in a letter to his mother-in-law Bella Salomon (Elvers, I(iii)1997, p.17), thus immediately placing the infant in a rich context of music, erudition, and strong female leaders in the Itzig-Salomon family. The young Fanny Mendelssohn inherited decades of tradition also as the granddaughter of the Enlightenment Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, whose legacy included the fight for Enlightenment in the Berlin Jewish ghettos, and whose six children went on to become influential leaders in the arts, finance, and natural sciences. Indicative of his rationalist thought and freedom of choice in a world heavily oppressive to members of the Jewish diaspora, Moses Mendelssohn’s six surviving children (of ten) would take three different paths: Joseph and Recha remained Jewish, Abraham and Nathan converted to Protestantism, and Henriette and Brendel (a.k.a. Dorothea Veit Schlegel) converted to Catholicism (the latter via Protestantism). Questions of identity and religion would remain part of Hensel’s daily life and would influence her choices and the choices made for her by her parents. Even today, the nature of the Mendelssohn family’s religious observance remains contested in both the Jewish and the scholarly communities.

Little of Fanny Mendelssohn’s childhood is known before her family moved to Berlin in 1811. The move was most likely prompted by some illicit activities in which her father was engaged; there is evidence to suggest that Abraham and Joseph Mendelssohn, and their bank Gebrüder Mendelssohn, were involved in smuggling in Hamburg as part of the resistance to Napoleon’s army then occupying much of Germany, including what had been the previously politically neutral port city of Hamburg. Some accounts (especially that of Sebastian Hensel in Die Familie Mendelssohn, H1879) romanticize the flight from Hamburg to Berlin as a dramatic escape from the authorities. Although the reality was rather that the Mendelssohn family made a rational and timely choice to move to the centre of finance in Berlin, once they arrived in Berlin, the French authorities in Hamburg suspected their move had been timed to hide unpaid customs, and insisted on arresting the brothers and examining their accounts.

Just one year after Napoleon Bonaparte became Napoleon I, Emperor of the French – an imperialistic move violating the democratic agenda of the French Revolution – Hensel was born into a world torn by conflicting ideals of revolution, emerging democracies, and rapidly shifting cultural norms and artistic fashions. As a young girl, Hensel probably sensed little of these day-to-day political conflicts or her father’s troubles with the authorities, but it is clear that she did absorb the atmosphere of political unrest. Her diaries and letters later in life reveal a broad world view that often eclipsed her interest in writing about her own life. She inherited some of the liberal tendencies of her father, and when she became a parent herself in 1830, she sewed ribbons representing the French flag onto the clothes of her newborn son, Sebastian Ludwig Felix Hensel (named after her three favourite composers). As children of the wealthy upper class in Berlin, Fanny and her siblings were mostly sheltered from prejudice shown to Jews on the streets, although Felix may have been accosted in the streets during the ‘Hep Hep’ riots of 1819 (Ense, I(iii)1859, pp.614–15). The story is not well documented, but the reality was that the Mendelssohns were outwardly Jewish and may well have experienced some racial stereotyping. Indeed, the upper-class German Pistor family, with whose daughter Betty the Mendelssohn siblings were quite close as children, objected to the Jewishness of the Mendelssohns, causing a painful rift between the young friends (Christian, I(iii)2014). Neither Fanny Mendelssohn nor her siblings were educated in the Jewish faith, and as Jeffrey S. Sposato has demonstrated, their parents took great pains to assimilate their children into Protestant Prussian society from birth (Sposato, I(iii)2005).

Little more is known about Hensel’s childhood before her teens. What we do know survives mostly in letters she wrote, some of which were mailed from Vienna (Klein E2007, ‘Die Mendelssohns auf der Flucht’). The Mendelssohn family’s short residence in Vienna for several months in the summer of 1813 was a result of the Napoleonic wars. While Abraham was travelling between Berlin and Vienna for business, his young family lived with Fanny von Arnstein in Vienna as refugees. Until Hensel’s younger brother, Felix, started to exhibit unusual musical talent, few records were kept of the family’s day-to-day life. After Fanny and Felix began their formal musical and general education side-by-side, however, the recorded information on the two composers increased.

2. Early education, 1816–20.

Since Hensel was born into a family full of highly educated and musical women, it is no surprise that she received early education in both general humanities and music. She showed prodigious and precocious talent in both her academic and her musical studies. Her mother and her great-aunts were exceptional role models in this regard. Hensel’s son, Sebastian, in his family history Die Familie Mendelssohn (H1879), recorded that his grandmother Lea had been highly accomplished not just in the usual social graces expected of a late 18th-century woman, but also in learning. She sang, played piano (especially Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier), and drew; she could speak and read French, English, and Italian in addition to German, and she even read Greek, although she kept that less typically feminine ability a secret. Fanny’s great-aunts on her mother’s side were also deeply involved in the arts, and in J.S. Bach’s music in particular. Sarah Itzig Levy, who was well known in Berlin as one of the early and influential salonnières, was a student of W.F. Bach and later patroness of C.P.E. Bach. Hensel’s grandmother, Bella Salomon, was equally influential, and was responsible for providing Felix with his famous copy of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

Musical education had begun by 1816 with piano lessons from Lea Mendelssohn. Fanny and Felix quickly outgrew their mother’s tutelage. The Mendelssohn parents hired the best tutors available in all subjects for their children, and for piano lessons they turned first to Franz Lauska, an acquaintance from Carl Friedrich Zelter’s Singakademie. Fanny and Felix also enjoyed a few lessons with Marie Bigot when the family spent some time in Paris in 1816. Ludwig Berger, highly respected in Berlin as a piano pedagogue, started teaching the siblings in 1817. A protégé of Muzio Clementi, Berger had been forced to give up his own concert career due to tendon injuries; after 1815, he became influential as a composer in the Berlin Liederschule tradition. He was a key member of the Stägemann Liederkreis which produced the first version of Die schöne Müllerin during the winter of 1816–17, and subsequently worked with Wilhelm Müller to publish in 1818 the first settings of some of the poetry (in Berger’s op.11) that would be taken up by Franz Schubert in 1823. Hensel’s future husband, Wilhelm Hensel, was also a part of the Stägemann Liederkreis (he contributed the part of the hunter), but it is not yet known whether Fanny had any knowledge of him before their first documented meeting in 1821. The Stägemanns lived not far from the Mendelssohns in Berlin, but they were not part of the Mendelssohn family’s assimilated Jewish social circle, so the likelihood that their paths crossed is not high. Berger was openly at odds with the Mendelssohns’ influential teacher, Carl Friedrich Zelter, and established his own Jüngere Berliner Liedertafel in opposition to Zelter’s Berliner Liedertafel. Fanny and Felix continued lessons with Berger until 1822, at which point he was dismissed.

While unfortunately little is known about what exactly Hensel learned under Berger, it is clear from her performance activities and emerging piano composition style that he promoted a light and nimble technique in the late 18th-century style (perhaps as a result of his apprenticeship under Clementi) and that he was among the first to introduce her to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Zelter began teaching Hensel in 1819, and was no keyboardist: he was responsible for teaching counterpoint and some free composition. The presence of early works for keyboard among Hensel’s papers most likely reflects Berger’s tutelage rather than Zelter’s, while her efforts in counterpoint (and those of her brother, which are more clearly preserved in his exercise books) are the result of Zelter’s guidance. Indeed, by 1824 Zelter could proudly relate to his epistolary confidant, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, that Hensel had written 32 fugues (none of these is known to survive). In addition to studying counterpoint with Zelter, Fanny and Felix enrolled in Zelter’s Singakademie in 1820, attending rehearsals every Friday. It was there that they encountered the choral music of the previous century – most significantly of J.S. Bach – that would inform their own choral music compositions for the rest of their lives.

Hensel’s compositional efforts during her study with Berger and Zelter display an emerging young pianist and composer exploring diverse genres and styles. While her first and fourth surviving works are for solo piano (h-u1 and h-u4), it is clear that she very quickly found her voice in the Lied. Three-quarters of her ensuing 100 works (which include works up to October 1823) are solo Lieder. The others display a variety of genres, including choral songs, piano pieces, etudes, a piano sonata, a piano quartet, an Adagio for piano and violin, and a work for piano four-hands. One clear influence in her early preference for the Lied was that of her father. As a young upper-class woman, Hensel was encouraged to write Lieder since their diminutive proportions were considered more appropriate for her gender and class, and her father reinforced these concepts of social propriety. Her choice of text in her first attempts suggests how much she aimed to please her father. Abraham Mendelssohn had lived in Paris for several years before returning to Berlin to marry Lea Salomon, and retained his Francophilia for the rest of his life; 13 out of Hensel’s first 26 Lieder are on French texts of Jean Pierre Claris de Florian, a favourite poet of Abraham’s. Two more are on French texts of other authors. The predominance of the French poets subsides after Hensel started setting Goethe (her first Goethe setting appeared in summer 1820), and she never again set Florian after March 1821. The Lied would continue to dominate her compositional activities; along with works for solo piano, the Lied is the only genre in which she composed consistently throughout her career. By the time she had finished her last composition on 13 May 1847, she had written about 255 Lieder, just over half of her entire compositional output.

Even as Hensel enjoyed lessons with Berger and Zelter and continued to develop her piano skills at a high level, the reality of her situation was that she could not continue in the same vein as her brother. Her family was full of contradictions on this point, however; at the age of 13, Hensel performed all 24 of Bach’s Preludes from the Well-Tempered Clavier from memory, most likely for her father’s birthday. This feat was enjoyed privately by the family, so did not violate her approved role in society. A young girl, though, would have difficulty making that distinction, especially while observing a younger brother’s more publicly acknowledged efforts at the same time. In response to a letter Hensel apparently wrote on this topic (which does not survive), Abraham Mendelssohn in the summer of 1820 unequivocally suppressed his 14-year-old daughter’s emerging ambitions:

What you wrote to me about your musical occupations with reference to and in comparison with Felix was both rightly thought and expressed. Music will perhaps become his profession, whilst for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the root of your being and doing. We may therefore pardon him some ambition and desire to be acknowledged in a pursuit which appears very important to him, because he feels a vocation for it, whilst it does you credit that you have always shown yourself good and sensible in these matters; and your very joy at the praise he earns proves that you might, in his place, have merited equal approval. Remain true to these sentiments and to this line of conduct; they are feminine, and only what is truly feminine is an ornament to your sex. (S. Hensel, H1879/1882, vol.1, p.82.)

Thus Hensel’s professional hopes were extinguished quite early. It was clear that she was to subordinate her ambitions to those of her brother and prepare instead for her role as a wife, mother, and woman of high class. Music could not be a career for her; rather, she could only pursue it as a talented amateur and avoid exhibiting any unfeminine ambition. Hensel’s awareness of her abilities versus the constricted stage for her activities became her life-long struggle.

3. Changing priorities, 1821–3.

As Hensel matured from a child into a young woman, the Lied became important to her in a biographical sense. As mentioned above, Hensel wrote only sparingly about her life in her diary and in her letters. She did not start her diary until 1829, already long past her formative years. Thus we do not know the intimate details of her education and developing personality. However, Hensel’s Lieder open windows into understanding her frame of mind and reactions to various life events. In 1821, at the age of 16, Hensel met the artist Wilhelm Hensel, either at a performance of tableaux vivants he had designed or at an exhibition of his paintings. Wilhelm, a rising star in the Berlin art scene, had been commissioned to paint visiting Russian dignitaries in their roles in the tableaux vivants entitled Lalla Rookh performed at court as part of their entertainment. The paintings were to be sent to Russia from the Prussian court as a memento of their visit; before they were shipped away, they were exhibited. Nothing specific is known about the meeting between Fanny and Wilhelm, nor how the acquaintance was encouraged, but it is clear that by the summer of 1822, Wilhelm was openly courting Fanny. We see her first setting of one of his texts on 15 June 1822 (h-u48); this is Lebewohl, which Wilhelm had penned to the young Fanny (still only 17 years old) before the Mendelssohn family’s departure on an extended trip to Switzerland. The manuscript bears evidence of a young woman unsure of her own feelings; the page is smeared and blotted with ink, almost to the point of illegibility, and was affixed to the facing page with drops of sealing wax. The ink blots transfer to the facing page as well, indicating that the song was sealed rather hastily while the ink was still fresh. While the exact reasons for hiding this particular setting are unknown, one possible interpretation is that she was attempting to keep her feelings private from her family. On this trip to Switzerland, Hensel longed to cross the Alps to visit Italy; both Fanny and Felix had read Goethe’s Italienische Reise, and wished to experience the country for themselves. The wish to visit Italy remained strong for Hensel her entire life; she would finally visit with her husband and young son in 1839–40. In the meantime, she wrote several Lieder on the subject of Italy, including Sehnsucht nach Italien (h-u50), composed during the Swiss trip, and Italien (h-u157), composed in 1825 and published as her brother’s op.8 no.3. On the return journey to Berlin, the family stopped in Weimar to visit Goethe. Felix had already visited Goethe in November of 1821, and now Hensel, too, had the opportunity to meet the giant of German literature and cultural thought whose texts would become among her most frequently set. Hensel performed Bach and her own settings of Goethe in his home, both of which were very well received by the aging Goethe and his family.

At Christmas that same year, Wilhelm gave Fanny a copy of his friend Wilhelm Müller’s Sieben und siebzig Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (‘77 Poems from the Posthumous Papers of a Travelling Natural Horn Player’), which contained the collection Die schöne Müllerin (im Winter zu Lesen). Fanny promptly selected and set several poems from the collection, including ‘Die liebe Farbe’ (h-u62). The text conveys the wandering boy’s disappointment that the miller maid’s favourite colour was green, meaning that she preferred the hunter over him; however, in her own scenario Hensel becomes the miller maid and her choice of text clearly shows her preference for Wilhelm (11 years her senior), who had played the hunter in the Stägemann Liederkreis. Hensel also embedded references to the original version of Die schöne Müllerin in her settings by nearly quoting her teacher Ludwig Berger’s setting of ‘Rose, die Müllerin’, most clearly in her incorporation of the hunting horn topic. Her awareness of Berger’s model (and her own insecurity about her attempt) is also clear; she wrote ‘Das hat Herr Berger besser verstanden’ (‘Herr Berger understood this better’) on the manuscript of her own Die liebe Farbe.

Her parents expressed concerns about Wilhelm Hensel’s age, his middle-class status, and his mystic Catholic sister, Luise. When Wilhelm left in 1823 for a five-year trip to Italy to study the masters and finish his artistic education, Lea Mendelssohn forbade any correspondence between her 19-year-old daughter and Wilhelm, for fear that he would return from Italy a Catholic. The topic was broached in a rather unpleasant scene in May 1823, a few months before he left. He had told Fanny at some point earlier about his interest in the religion; assuming she had conveyed that information to her parents and assuming their tacit blessing by their silence on the subject, Wilhelm was caught off guard when Lea brought it up in casual conversation. The reaction from Lea and Abraham was apparently much less congenial than he had hoped, with Lea declaring that if he did convert, she would make every effort to persuade her daughter to break any engagement. Such a conversion would in fact have made it impossible for Fanny’s parents to give their blessing for her marriage, as the association with a Catholic would have damaged their assimilated status. Moreover, it would have greatly narrowed Wilhelm’s professional opportunities in a heavily Lutheran Berlin. In place of writing letters to her absent lover, Fanny wrote Lieder – over 30 in that year alone, her most prolific year – which display her preoccupation with the absent Wilhelm. She chose texts predominantly on the subjects of distance, loss, and absence.

In addition to Lieder, Hensel explored some larger genres in the early 1820s. Starting in autumn 1821, she moved from piano pieces and etudes to try her hand at a piano sonata. Her first attempt, a sonata in F major (h-u43), does not survive. Her next attempt dates from early the following year (January to February 1822), with a 140-bars-long movement of a sonata in E major (h-u44). Later that same year, Fanny made an early attempt to write chamber music with her Piano Quartet in A♭ major (h-u55). We can see in this effort an attempt to equal the activities of her younger brother, who had by that time completed his first piano quartet, published as his op.1 in 1823 with a public and high-profile dedication to Prince Anton Radziwill. In stark contrast, Hensel worked on her piano quartet in private for seven months, from May to November 1822, and never performed (as far as we know) nor published the work. It appears to have been left unfinished without a finale; however, she did break the minuet and trio form of the third movement with a showy Presto, marked Fine. The form of this movement thus encompasses both third and fourth movements. The scope of the quartet is ambitious, and shows Hensel grappling with broader sonata forms, although her compositional choices with their reliance on passage-work and repetition may be thought to betray the impatient hand of a young and inexperienced composer. The theme of the Larghetto is attractively lyrical, and calls to mind the slow movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no.21, k467. The lyricism of the movement perhaps reveals the influence of Berger, who had known the inventor of the nocturne, John Field, in St Petersburg. Fanny put the piano quartet away and returned to piano pieces and etudes for another year; these works show increasing skill in terms of both piano technique and compositional mastery. An etude in D minor from December 1823 (h-u103) shows her absorbing the virtuoso techniques of the pianists she was meeting and hearing; the etude exhibits running octaves in the left hand, a formidably difficult technique that was a hallmark of Frédéric Kalkbrenner’s style. The resemblance is not coincidental: Fanny wrote ‘alla K[alkbrenner]’ on the manuscript.

As Hensel expanded her compositional horizons and dealt with the absence of Wilhelm in Italy, life in the Mendelssohn home in Berlin remained vibrant and full of opportunity. In 1823 Fanny’s parents began the tradition of the ‘Sunday musicales’ that would remain at the heart of Hensel’s musical activities for the rest of her life. The first of these events took place in the Mendelssohn family’s home at Neue Promenade 7, where the Mendelssohns lived before moving permanently to Leipzigerstrasse 3 in 1825. These fortnightly events generally featured opportunities for the precocious young Felix to hear his newest works performed by excellent musicians; the Mendelssohns even hired members of the Prussian court orchestra on occasion to read Felix’s string symphonies and other orchestral works. The young composer would usually conduct the performances himself. Hensel performed frequently in these programmes and was just as much appreciated by the guests as was her brother; indeed, many visitors remarked on her equal, if not more mature, talents as a performer. She was not limited to the demure sonatinas of Clementi or Kuhlau, as most young women would have been. Rather, in addition to Lieder, piano duets, and other works, Hensel often performed what is still the core of most virtuoso piano concert repertoire: the piano concerto. Her concerto repertoire included Hummel’s Piano Concerto in A minor, op.85; Hummel’s Rondeau brilliant in A major, op.56; her brother’s Piano Concerto in A minor and his Concerto for Two Pianos in A♭ major; and Beethoven’s Piano Concertos in C major, op.15, G major, op.58, and E♭ major, op.73. Fanny and Felix often accompanied each other on a second piano, or were accompanied by a small string ensemble. Hensel wrote her own cadenza to Beethoven’s Concerto in C major, op.15, on 11 April 1823. At this time, women did not write their own cadenzas, since to display such creativity – especially in the context of a masterwork written by Beethoven – was considered the purview of male genius. Fanny’s cadenza is neatly preserved in one of her composition notebooks and shows her intimate knowledge of the themes, structure, and style of Beethoven’s concerto as well as her aesthetic position on cadenza styles in the early 19th century (Mace [Christian], I(i)2012, 223–48).

It is not clear that Hensel performed much, if any, of her own music at the Sunday musicales (they were intended for her brother’s professional development), but she continued to compose nonetheless. On Felix’s birthday, 3 February 1824, Zelter effectively ended Felix’s tutelage and welcomed him as a ‘journeyman’ rather than an ‘apprentice’ in the music trade. No one would welcome Hensel in the same way until Felix did so himself in 1846 after she had published her first opus. But still Hensel persisted with remarkable determination to continue composing. Her ability to keep challenging herself and developing as a composer is evidence that she was driven by a true need to write music. She was not just an unusually talented amateur; rather, she was at her core a creative artist. Despite the discouragement she received from her father and from society, she received considerable support and respect from her family and friends. As she waited for her suitor to return from Italy, Hensel turned inwards to her circle of siblings and friends; these relationships became intensely important to her over the next five years.

4. A developing composer, 1824–8.

In February 1824 Hensel returned to the idea of a sonata with her Sonata o Capriccio in F minor (h-u113). Like her 1823 attempts, this is a one-movement work. The heavy textures bring to mind Beethoven’s Sonata in F minor, op.57, the ‘Apassionata’. Hensel reimagined the dark, thickly voiced, theme of Beethoven’s first movement in her own Sonata o Capriccio.

Hensel detected the inventive approach Beethoven took in his sonata forms; perhaps she felt blending the sonata with the capriccio would allow her to reflect the shifting moods characteristic of Beethoven’s style. Hensel’s opening is rather more stolid than Beethoven’s, perhaps influenced by the repeated chords voiced low in the piano and in close position at the opening of Beethoven’s Sonata in C major, op.53, the ‘Waldstein’. In July 1824 we find the first surviving multi-movement piano sonata by the young Hensel. The Piano Sonata in C minor (h-u128) is in three movements; its classicism clearly exhibits the impression of her tutelage with both Berger and Zelter. In this sonata, Hensel developed her themes with a greater sense of ease and overall organicism. Hensel maintains here the character of each movement throughout with notably greater control than in her Piano Quartet of two years earlier. The second movement particularly effectively combines Hensel’s Lied style with the instrumental genre, featuring a gentle, song-like theme marked by a steady quaver rhythm. Beginning at bar 35, Hensel again evokes Beethoven with a moment that recalls the opening of his Sonata in D major, op.28, the ‘Pastoral’, with a chordal motive that descends stepwise over a steady quaver drone.

If 1823 had been Hensel’s Liederjahr, with over 30 Lieder, 1824 followed closely behind in this regard, when she produced some 20 Lieder. Her yearly Lied output would remain steady through her teenage years and early twenties until her marriage. After 1829, Hensel averaged just about four Lieder per year, with the exception of 1841 when she was inspired by her trip to Rome (1839–40) and wrote 12 Lieder. Another increase in activity occurred in 1846, when she wrote 15 Lieder after becoming a published composer for the first time. However, understanding how much her Lied output dropped off after 1829 helps us put her work into context; she turned instead to larger genres, such as the cantata, string quartet, concert arias, choral songs, and even an orchestral overture. Although these works don’t form the backbone of her entire oeuvre as her Lieder do, they remind us that she was not always exclusively a Lied composer but cultivated a range of other genres.

Hensel’s 1824 obsessions, besides the exploration of sonata form, were the poems of Ludwig Tieck and Johann Peter Eckermann. She had first set one of Tieck’s poems in 1822 (Schlaflied, h-u58) and then set his work again in 1823, with five settings after 20 September, and on into 1824, when she set nine of his poems between January and September. Her final Tieck setting was a vocal duet, Schäfergesang (h-u160), in September 1825. She wrote a cluster of six Eckermann settings between September 1824 and January 1825, and then never set his poetry again. This obsession with one poet at a time was quite typical of her compositional practice; she proceeded through genres in a similar way in the 1830s.

Hensel also intensified her musical relationship with J.S. Bach in 1824. In addition to finishing her 32nd fugue, as reported by Zelter, she produced a lengthy Toccata in C minor (h-u114) in three-part form. Earlier in 1824, Felix had received the famous copy of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, and Bach and his Passion became central to the Mendelssohn family’s musical study and efforts for the next five years.

The major event of 1825 was the family’s move to Leipzigerstrasse 3, after Bella Salomon died leaving her daughter Lea disinherited. Because Neue Promenade 7 now belonged to the rest of the family, Lea and Abraham had to purchase it or rent it; they chose to purchase a new house near Leipzigerplatz. The mansion was in disrepair and had to be broadly renovated, but with the renovations completed, Leipzigerstrasse 3 became an inspirational centre of daily life for the Mendelssohn family and their friends. The house was shaped like a ‘U’ with a Gartenhaus in the back that became the central music room for the Sunday musicales run by Lea and Abraham and later Hensel herself. The Gartenhaus opened onto a lawn and spacious garden of several acres, where guests could mingle in numbers of up to 200 and enjoy the music spilling from the open doors of the Gartenhaus. Hensel became deeply attached to this location, and indeed it became central to the Mendelssohn family identity. She wrote in the autumn of 1846: ‘I can’t even express how happy the garden made me this summer. Our entire lifestyle depends so entirely on this location, that I can only think with terror of having to crawl off somewhere else’ (S. Hensel, H1879/1882, vol.2, p.369). Fanny and her generation did not live to see the house fall once again into disrepair in the 1890s, after which point it was torn down.

Map of Berlin 1833. Published by the Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

Image of the Gartenhaus courtyard by Wilhelm Hensel, showing Fanny Hensel’s studio windows to the left of the columns. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s summer house in Berlin, Leiperzigerstrasse 3. bpk Bildagentur / Mendelssohn-Archiv, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin /

Photo: Ruth Schacht / Art Resource, NY.

Perhaps partly owing to their new location and beautiful surroundings, the Mendelssohns’ social circle became even larger and more close-knit. Hensel’s diaries later recount almost nightly gatherings of friends for music and conversation. One especially important new friend was Adolph Bernhard Marx. Marx was known as an avid Beethoven proponent in an era that still did not understand Beethoven’s late style. Marx and Felix formed a tight bond, corresponding and seeing each other almost daily; Marx is credited with helping Felix revise several of his most famous youthful works, including the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Marx’s impact on both Fanny and Felix was immeasurable. We know that both siblings took especially the late works of Beethoven as a model, which at that time was unusual. Abraham specifically did not care for Beethoven’s late works and certainly did not encourage his children to study them, nor did their teacher Zelter, but it is clear that they did so.

In 1826 Hensel travelled again, four years after her last trip away from Berlin, this time to Bad Doberan (a small town near Rostock) with her father. There she composed a piano piece in D minor (h-u166) and some seven or so Lieder. One Lied in particular referred to the location: her Die Äolsharfe auf dem Schlosse zu Baden (h-u179) later revised and published as Schloß Liebeneck, on a text by her friend Friederike Robert. However, her 1826 poet of choice was Johann Heinrich Voss; of the 18 Lieder she composed that year, eight were on texts of Voss. The poet had died that year, drawing renewed attention to the group of poets dedicated to Klopstock. We can see a related interest in the poetry of Klopstock emerging in her settings of 1827 and 1828, although she never set his poetry to the same extent. Klopstock had been famously associated with the lovesick Werther in Goethe’s Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers; perhaps Hensel channelled her suppressed feelings for the still absent Wilhelm through the association with this poetry. She continued to set Goethe, as well, including an ambitious, 77-measure vocal duet, Ich hab’ ihn gesehen (h-u186).

Well known from 1826 is Felix’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, completed in August. As usual, Felix confided his compositional ideas to Fanny and told her that he had ‘begun to dream the Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by early July 1826. Significant here is that by June 1826 Felix (and most likely Fanny as well) would have been familiar with Carl Maria von Weber’s Oberon, from which Felix adopted a kernel of the ‘Mermaid’s Song’ for his organically developed theme in his overture. A few years later, in April 1829, Hensel would also recall Oberon and the ‘Mermaid’s Song’ when she wrote her duet Schlafe du, schlafe du süß (h-u233) as Felix departed for his first trip to London. In her setting, on a text by the family friend Johann Gustav Droysen, Fanny and her sister Rebecka most likely are depicted by two mermaids who accompany a small boat – representing Felix’s ship from Hamburg to London – on a sea journey for safety. The family referred to Fanny and Rebecka as ‘the two otters’, thus the translation to mermaids does not require a great stretch of the imagination.

Of special interest both for Hensel’s continuing attempts to find validation for her compositional efforts and for the relationship between Fanny and Felix was the publication in 1826 of two of Hensel’s Lieder under her brother’s name in his op.8, nos.1–6 (Fanny’s were no.2, Das Heimweh, h-u129, and no.3, Italien, h-u157). One more would follow in May 1827 when the rest of the opus was published, Lieder nos.7–12 (Fanny’s is no.12, the duet Suleika und Hatem, h-u149). The incorporation of these Lieder in Felix’s publication sparked misunderstandings from Hensel’s own lifetime to our own time. Most likely, the reason her authorship was repressed was to avoid drawing unwanted public attention to the daughter of an upper-class family in such an enterprise, while still allowing her the pleasure of seeing her work made public. The motivation has been variously interpreted, from attributing it merely to casual disregard, to seeing it as the active suppression of Hensel’s creative voice by her brother. However, Hensel actively participated in selecting the Lieder for this opus, and her brother openly admitted that his sister’s were among ‘the very best we possess of Lieder’ (Sirota, G1981, p.85) – no light praise coming from a man who could walk away from ten years of close friendship over his brutally honest low opinion of Marx’s oratorio. Despite their best attempts, Hensel’s authorship of the Lieder was a poorly kept secret; Marx poked some fun at the situation in his review of the opus in his Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, saying that one might believe the composer was a woman ‘if one did not know the composer, if there were female composers, and if ladies could absorb such profound music’ (Marx, I(iii)1827, p.179). And in 1829 John Thomson openly stated in the Harmonicon that ‘three of the best songs’ had been composed by Fanny (Thomson, I(iii)1839, p.99). The most high-profile revelation came in 1842 when Felix visited Queen Victoria and Prince Consort Albert, and the three enjoyed some time together playing the piano and organ, and singing, in the Queen’s private chambers. Queen Victoria selected what she thought was Felix’s op.8 no.3, Italien, to sing while Felix accompanied. When she had finished, Felix was forced to admit that the song was his sister’s, and requested that she sing another of his own composition.

The three years from late 1826 onwards were, according to Sebastian Hensel, the happiest years in the lives of the Mendelssohns. The social circle around Fanny and Felix continued to grow and enrich their lives. They hosted gatherings included readings of poetry, conversation, and always music. The friends, led by Karl Klingemann, also founded an in-house mock newspaper for their personal entertainment, entitled in summer the Gartenzeitung and in winter the Schnee- und Thee-Zeitung. By May 1827, Felix had matriculated at the University of Berlin (now known as the Humboldt University), where inevitably Hensel was not able to follow. However, Alexander von Humboldt was one of the friends who frequented the Mendelssohn house during these years and even contributed to their mock newspaper. We may assume that Humboldt did not dispense scientific knowledge in social settings; instead Hensel attended his public lectures at the Singakademie where she bitingly observed that ‘Gentlemen may laugh as much as they like, but it is delightful that we too [women] have the opportunity given us of listening to clever men’ (S. Hensel, H1879/1882, vol.1, p.151). Concurrent with the beginning of Felix’s formal college education was the end of his formal musical education, and by extension, Fanny’s; Zelter was dismissed and broader, more public, professional opportunities were sought for Felix.

As usual, despite the disparity between her brother’s opportunities and her own, Hensel forged ahead with her compositional projects. In 1827 she began another lifelong fascination, with the poetry of Heinrich Heine. The Mendelssohns knew Heine personally, but Hensel could never bring herself to like him. She found him to be self-conscious and affected; and although she admired his poetry immensely, she found it difficult to like his disjunct style and famously ironic twists. On occasion, she even modified the poetry to remove the irony. Nevertheless, Hensel’s Heine settings are among the best in her catalogue. Also in 1827, as rehearsals for the St Matthew Passion began in earnest, Hensel demonstrated an even more intense engagement with J.S. Bach’s music, which was also to continue for the rest of her life. At some point in 1827 she finished a ‘Piano book in E minor’ containing two preludes, a fugue, an Allegro di molto, a Largo, and a toccata, as well as a fragment of another fugue. The inspiration for the Klavierbuch appears to have been the keyboard suites of Bach, although it is clear that she took some formal latitude within that approach. The Fugue exhibits an especially close relationship to Felix’s E minor Fugue from June 1827; Hensel’s fugue is undated, so we cannot know whose came first, but the rising triadic subjects and subsequent chromatic fortspinnung are undeniably similar. Felix’s comparable suite-like set of Sieben Charakterstücke, op.7, would once again present the more public face of their parallel compositional trajectories, when he published it in 1827 with a dedication to their former piano teacher, Ludwig Berger.

In 1828 Hensel’s Bachian proclivities manifested themselves in a particularly intriguing work with an equally intriguing history: the Easter Sonata. For almost two centuries the work was considered lost. The only surviving evidence of its existence was a handful of letters from 1829, and a few scholarly references from the 1980s and 1990s. The manuscript surfaced briefly in Paris in 1972, when it was recorded by Eric Heidsieck for the Cassiopée label as the Sonate du Pâques attributed to Felix Mendelssohn, before disappearing once more. Finally, the work was rediscovered in 2010, as described by Angela Mace Christian (Mace [Christian], 2013), when she was allowed to view it and verify it as the missing autograph in Hensel’s hand. For many years, scholars believed the work dated from 1829 because letters containing the first surviving references to the work are from that time; however, the date on the autograph reveals that Hensel wrote it between 7 April and 10 May 1828. The work is quite possibly Hensel’s ‘finishing piece’ for her education, as it reflects the stylistic models that she and Felix had been studying for the previous ten years: Bach and Beethoven, in addition to a clear use of what would become known as the ‘Mendelssohnian’ style. The sonata is ambitious, and is structured in four movements. The first is a Beethovenian sonata-allegro movement in A major, followed by a severe prelude and fugue in A minor, steeped in Bachian chromaticism. The fugue shows a distinct relationship to the fugues she had written the previous year; we can see this as an extension of her fascination with Bachian counterpoint inspired by the St Matthew Passion. A light but slightly sinister Scherzo follows, exhibiting the elfin style found also in Felix’s orchestral writing, and most familiar from the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The finale is a tour de force, concluding the work with stormy tremolo passages in the left hand which could depict the earthquakes from the Passion story (a time-honoured topic in such settings). The Finale ends with a radiant chorale fantasy on ‘Christe, du Lamm Gottes’, clearly in reference to the liturgical season when Hensel was writing her sonata. The work is among her most well-crafted for the piano, and reflects an advanced keyboard technique clearly influenced by her study of both Beethoven and Bach (Mace [Christian], I(iii)2013, pp.42–86).

Another enormously significant event of 1828 was the return of Wilhelm Hensel from Italy in October. On his return to Berlin, Wilhelm found the Mendelssohn family circle rather intimidating, and himself rendered an outsider both because of his extended absence and his lack of musical ability. He returned to find Felix planning his first extended professional journey, and the Mendelssohn family in the throes of preparing for the monumental performances of the St Matthew Passion. Immediately upon his arrival, Wilhelm exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin. His success there won the approval of Friedrich Wilhelm III, who initiated the move to appoint him as Hofmaler (court painter). As Wilhelm awaited a formal appointment, which would allow him the professional stability to marry Fanny at last, he and Fanny had first to get to know each other again. For her part, Hensel had developed intimate friendships with others in her circle, as well as an intense emotional bond with her brother. Finding his place within the family again would prove to be difficult for Wilhelm. One particular object of jealousy was Droysen, who had become particularly close with both Fanny and Felix. Hensel set six of his texts between 1828 and 1829; when Wilhelm finally broached the sensitive topic of her closeness with Droysen, Fanny declared she would never write a Lied again and would leave her composing behind as she became a wife and eventually mother. Wilhelm was able to urge her gently away from these drastic measures, but Fanny never again set another text by Droysen. In fact, she immediately thereafter set four texts by Wilhelm, and continued to set his texts for the remainder of her life.

5. Engagement and marriage, 1829.

Hensel began her diary on 4 January 1829 with the portentous statement: ‘Felix, our soul, is leaving, the second half of my life stands before me’ (Hensel ed. Klein and Elvers, H2002, p.1). Indeed, this year would mark the end of her childhood and the joys of her relatively carefree life with her siblings and friends. It also marked the culmination of years of preparation personally for Fanny – she would finally become the wife she was expected to be – and professionally for Felix, with the successful revival of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Through it all, Hensel remained remarkably prolific as a composer. By the time she married Wilhelm on 3 October 1829, almost precisely ten years after penning her first surviving Lied in 1819, Hensel had completed just over half of what would be her entire surviving catalogue.

On 23 January 1829, following the announcement of his appointment as Hofmaler at the Prussian court, Wilhelm Hensel and Fanny Mendelssohn were formally engaged. They immediately began planning their wedding, while at the same time taking part in the St Matthew Passion revival and saying goodbye to Felix. On Midsummer’s Day, 24 June 1829, as she later described to her brother, Fanny and her friends facetiously initiated Wilhelm into the tightly knit family circle, referred to as ‘The Wheel’:

When we picked up Mother and Father at Marianne’s in the evening, the entire wheel came along, Louis Heydemann carrying coats and umbrellas (it was a dry heat, with no hint of rain). And when we had to separate, the wheel, struck with enthusiasm, selected Hensel to be one of its members, right on the street, by means of a ceremonious round wreath of roses and holding up of the opened umbrella

(Citron, E1987, p.60).

Wilhelm responded with a drawing titled ‘Das Rad’ (‘The Wheel’), showing the family circle as a wheel, with the spokes formed by each family member or friend. Wilhelm painted himself on the outside of the wheel, connected to Fanny by a leash. Clearly he still felt like an outsider in this highly talented and passionate family.

Wilhelm Hensel, ‘The Wheel,’ 1829. With the portraits of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in Scottish costume, Fanny and Rebecka in an embrace, with a sheet music and otter tails, Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy with Albertine Heine, the Heydemann Brothers, and J.G. Droysen. bpk Bildagentur / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen /

Photo: Jörg P. Anders / Art Resource, NY.

1829 was, however, a difficult year for Hensel, as she dealt simultaneously with her imminent marriage and the first extended absence of her brother. She faced the challenge of falling back in love with a man she hadn’t corresponded with in five years while at the same time learning to accept that another man could replace her brother as her closest confidant. Her letters to Felix and Wilhelm between January and October document the troubled state of her mind; at first, she hoped that she could continue to love Felix and Wilhelm equally, and Wilhelm even ceded that Felix should be first in her affections. As the summer wore on, the ‘wheel’ started to disassemble as the members travelled or found their own husbands and wives, and Hensel started to feel left behind. Wedding planning was not always a smooth process; Lea Mendelssohn was difficult to please, and Hensel started to feel even more the lack of her brother’s harmonizing presence. Towards August, she started to make the transition to greater emotional dependence on Wilhelm rather than on Felix, but her underlying emotions erupted again on the morning of her wedding. Felix had sustained a leg injury in a coach accident in London that prevented him from returning to Berlin for the wedding, and Fanny poured her heart out to him:

My dearest Felix! Today is the third of October and my wedding day. My first joy on this day is in finding a quiet fifteen minutes, which I’ve wanted for a long time, so that I can write on this very day and tell you once more everything that you’ve already known for a long time. I am very composed, dear Felix, and your picture is next to me, but as I write your name again and almost see you in person before my very eyes, I cry, as you do deep inside, but I cry. Actually I’ve always known that I could never experience anything that would remove you from my memory for even one-tenth of a moment. Nevertheless, I’m glad to have experienced it, and will be able to repeat the same thing to you tomorrow and in every moment of my life. And I don’t believe I am doing Hensel an injustice through it. Your love has provided me with a great inner worth, and I will never stop holding myself in high esteem as long as you love me

(Citron, E1987, p.90).

The relationship between Hensel and her brother was clearly at a crisis point here; the two remained devoted to each other, but distance, time, and eventually Felix’s own marriage in 1837 drove a wedge of silence between them.

Hensel’s wedding took place on 3 October 1829, at the Parochialkirche in Berlin, which was full of assembled family and friends. Her organist was A.W. Grell (whom she knew from the Singakademie), and the music included her own recently composed processional and recessional. Fanny had asked Felix to write her processional, but he did not finish it in time for the wedding, most likely due to his leg injury. So, in the days before her wedding, Hensel sat down and wrote her own processional, a triumphant march in F major. It is rather lengthy for a processional in a small church (even walking slowly, one should be able to traverse the Parochialkirche in about a minute) and contains alternating chordal and imitative sections. Fanny wrote a low D♭ in the pedal part, which is accessible on most modern organs today, but doesn’t appear to have been available on the organ installed in the Parochialkirche at the time. Grell had only the day of the wedding to learn and perform the piece, so we must assume that he quickly made an adjustment to the pedal part. No change was made in Fanny’s score, however. The pianistic idiom of much of the piece betrays her limited experience of the organ, but it is still a successful work, and is her first surviving work for the organ. Little further detail about the wedding survives. The couple immediately moved into their own apartment in the parental house. In this way, echoing his induction into the ‘wheel’ four months earlier, Wilhelm became a Mendelssohn at the same time as Fanny became a Hensel.

Parochialkirche, Berlin.

Although throughout that year, Hensel did not compose a great deal of piano music (turning instead mostly to song), immediately after her wedding she started another piano sonata, a genre she hadn’t attempted since completing her Easter Sonata over a year earlier. This new work was a Piano Sonata in E♭ (h-u246). She completed three movements over the next two months before abandoning the work. A few years later, in 1834, she would pick up the sonata again and convert it successfully into her String Quartet in E♭ (h-u277). Before writing her string quartet, Fanny had experimented with other chamber genres in 1829, producing two works for cello and piano: a Sonata o Fantasia (h-u238) in August and a Capriccio (h-u247) later in the autumn. A particularly meaningful work was the song cycle she wrote in response to her brother’s departure. After her initial response to Felix’s absence – the duet Schlafe du, schlafe du süß (h-u233) written on 11 April – she apparently felt the need to work through the separation musically in a more substantial form. Hensel worked on this Liederkreis (h-u234) from 25 May to 6 June in collaboration with Droysen, who wrote the texts for all six of the Lieder. The song cycle loosely traces a departure, separation, and eventual reunion, and she refers in it to Felix’s own works (Bartsch, G2007). The Liederkreis is the only surviving example of a single-poet song cycle by either Hensel or her brother; Hensel had planned to write another later the same year, working this time with both Droysen and Wilhelm, but that cycle never materialized. Another touching biographical moment reflected in Hensel’s Lieder can be seen in her Schlafe, schlaf (h-u241), on a poem that Wilhelm wrote to her about one week before their wedding. He accompanied his gift of the poem with a newspaper cutting announcing their upcoming nuptials. Fanny responded immediately by setting it on 21 September. Hensel would set her new husband’s texts twice more that year, both in song and in a more substantial context. Lea and Abraham celebrated their silver anniversary in 1829, and their talented children naturally could not let the occasion pass without appropriate musical festivities. Both Fanny and Felix contributed stage works; in Fanny’s case, she collaborated with Wilhelm on a Festspiel entitled Die Hochzeit kommt, which featured three sopranos, a tenor, two basses, four-part mixed choir, and orchestra. Text was really all Wilhelm could contribute; he was famously tone-deaf.

6. Sonntagsmusiken and early maturity, 1830–38.

Within a month after her wedding, Fanny was pregnant with her first and only child. Sebastian Ludwig Felix Hensel was born one month premature on 17 June 1830, after a difficult and dangerous pregnancy. The birth of her son brought Hensel great joy and for most of 1830 occupied her time and energies. It was not at first certain that the child would survive, but by 7 July she could relate to her brother that ‘Sebastian…was dressed for the first time today, but not with jacket and boots. Rather, he’s grown into a regular child’s outfit…from a little package that was bundled up and put into a tiny bed almost too pathetically’ (Citron, E1987, p.103).

During her confinement beforehand (from 17 April) and her ‘lying-in period’ after the birth (which appears to have been six weeks), Hensel was not allowed by those around her to compose or play piano. Thus, she produced no new compositions from 10 April to 29 October. In total, she committed to paper only seven compositions (five Lieder and two works for piano) that year, by far her least productive year to date. Of note in 1830, however, was the publication of her next three Lieder under Felix’s name, in his op.9. The opus was divided into two halves, entitled ‘Der Jüngling’ and ‘Das Mädchen’. Probably not coincidentally, all three of Hensel’s Lieder appear in the second half, as nos.7, 10, and 12. The titles suggest the idea of cyclicity or at the least some sort of dialogue, but the opus is otherwise neither cyclic nor programmatic. However, examination of the key relationships and alternating performance options, as discussed by Douglass Seaton and Angela Mace Christian, may reveal more intimate connections between the selections (Seaton, I(ii)2003, p.217ff; and Christian, I(ii)2015, pp.63–84). The publication of Hensel’s Lieder under her brother’s authorship has been interpreted as ‘appropriation’ by Felix, but it is clear that Hensel was a full partner in, or even a co-author, of this opus, just as she had been of op.8 in 1826 and 1827. In fact, Felix was still in the United Kingdom when his publisher, Schlesinger, pressured him to submit the opus in August 1829; Felix wrote, requesting that Fanny ‘without any further reference to me…select from my or her things completely without stipulations’ (Appold and Back, 2008, Sämtliche Briefe, vol.1, p.376). Hensel’s contributions were Die Nonne (h-u46) from 1822, Verlust (h-u213) from 1827, and Sehnsucht (h-u219) from 1828. Die Nonne completes the opus, as no.12, with a simple but highly effective setting of Uhland’s poetry. The piano part and vocal line push insistently at an upper e″ as if the young nun were protesting against her confinement in the cloister walls, while descending lines throughout represent resignation and images of death (both of the young nun’s former lover and of the nun herself). Hensel’s setting of this poetic text reveals the depth of her psychological insight into the plight of a young woman whose worldly options have been delimited by society. Hensel’s diary suffered as much from her new domestic duties as did her music; thus we find her recording the birth and early growth of her child in two entries in July and August (along with a brief mention of a revival of her parents’ Sunday musicales on 31 July 1830), and then an entry on 4 March 1831 apologizing for her long silence. She narrates the continuing growth of Sebastian, her brother’s travels, and a plan to winter in Italy that was derailed by her parents’ extreme objections. It is not entirely clear why her parents objected so strongly, but when the idea of an Italian journey had been considered for their honeymoon, the objection had been that it would be foolish to spend an entire year’s income so early in marriage; since Hensel was also pregnant immediately after the wedding, such a trip had been out of the question. Despite once again being disappointed in her desire to visit Italy, Hensel entered a phase of domestic bliss with increasing intimacy and joy in her marriage, after some renovations to their living space which had caused Fanny and Wilhelm to sleep apart for many months were complete and they could once again share a bed. She describes their marital bliss thus: ‘Wilhelm has become accustomed to cradling my head in his arms, and so the nights become even more dear to us than the days. It seems impossible to us that love and happiness could grow even greater, but so it is, that with every day we become closer, and every night we agree how happy we are’ (Hensel ed. Klein and Elvers, H2002, p.32).

While 1831 was not one of Hensel’s most productive years in terms of quantity – again that year she completed just seven compositions – she worked in some of the largest genres she had explored to date, starting what was effectively a ‘cantata project’ in tandem with launching her own version of her parents’ Sunday musicales, her Sonntagsmusiken. She initially planned her series as a venue for choral music, very much along the lines of Zelter’s Singakademie, and thus appears to have written her three cantatas for this purpose. Her brother encouraged her also to perform on the piano for her guests, and Hensel followed his advice. Her Sonntagsmusiken became a site for performance in a variety of genres, from her own Lieder to the oratorios of her brother, and of composers ranging from Bach to Chopin. Attendance at her Sonntagsmusiken became the most sought-after invitation in Berlin; audiences reportedly numbered up to 200 people including Prussian royalty, and among her performers were such visiting virtuosi as Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt. She ran the Sonntagsmusiken more as a concert series, with a budget for performers and refreshments, rather than along the lines of the early Berlin social salons that her great-aunts and her parents’ friends had maintained. She was thereby finally able to transcend the private and public divide to reach out to a broader audience with her musical abilities. Her family considered this sort of activity socially acceptable as it was within the private sphere (no critics were ever present at the performances, which could be attended by invitation only) and it brought great prestige to the Mendelssohn family name in Berlin and abroad.

Hensel completed all three cantatas, Lobgesang (‘Song of Praise’) (h-u257), Hiob (‘Job’) (h-u258), and the Choleramusik (‘Cholera Cantata’) (h-u260), between 6 February and 20 November 1831 in quick succession; a space of only one to two weeks separates the end of work on one cantata and the beginning of work on the next. Each cantata took progressively less time as she gained facility in the genre (about four months, two months, and seven weeks, respectively). With each composition, Fanny also expanded her ensemble. Lobgesang features two soloists (soprano and alto) as well as a four-part choir and a small orchestra. Hiob adds two more soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), and expands the orchestra with two timpani. Finally, the Choleramusik represents Fanny’s most ambitious attempt. The work later acquired the title ‘Oratorio on Scenes from the Bible’; that title did not originate with Hensel, however, and at only 13 movements the work is more of a cantata than an oratorio. In addition to the expanded instrumentation used in Hiob, the Choleramusik incorporates three trombones and an eight-part choir. Each cantata was intended to mark an important moment in the composer’s life. With Lobgesang, written for her son, Hensel praised God for sparing the life of both herself and her child a year earlier. Hiob was dedicated to her husband for their second wedding anniversary; Hensel finished the score on October 1 and recorded in her diary that the work was ‘probirt’ (tried through) on 3 October, which was the couple’s second wedding anniversary. Finally, the Choleramusik, while it was primarily intended to mark the cessation of the cholera epidemic that ravaged Berlin in 1831, was performed as part of the festivities for her father’s birthday on 10 December. An ethereal freely-composed chorale, Ich habe einen guten Kampf gekämpfet, provides homage to Bach’s cantatas, while simultaneously intersecting with her brother’s concurrent use of invented chorales in several of his works (Todd and Mace [Christian], I(iii)2009). The cantata’s final chorus sets the text ‘Singet Gott, lobsinget dem Herrn’ particularly effectively, with a rich orchestral texture complementing that of the introduction, showing homogeneity of compositional style from start to finish. Hensel solicited her brother’s feedback on her first cantata early in the year, but he did not respond until mid-December, after she had already completed all three cantatas. His criticism was sharp, although buffered with self-deprecating humour, and Hensel never again tried to write a cantata. A similar phenomenon occurred after Felix criticized his sister’s String Quartet in E♭ major in 1834; she never wrote another string quartet.

Spanning the end of 1831 and the beginning of 1832 is a work that builds on Hensel’s newly acquired experience of writing for ensemble, and sets the trend for a year of diverse genres: the ‘dramatic scene’ or concert aria, Hero und Leander (h-u262). Fanny and Wilhelm collaborated on this work for Fanny’s friend Ulrike Peters, when she became ill. Wilhelm adapted the Greek myth featuring two lovers separated by the sea, from Hero’s point of view, and Hensel set the text effectively, with references to her brother’s sea-inspired music, Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt. The orchestration includes flutes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani, strings, and even a serpent, which Felix had also used in his 1828 overture. Continuing with orchestral genres in 1832, Hensel began her own overture in late March, and had completed it by late April or early May. The resulting work was her Overture in C (h-u265), which reveals a continuing interest in her brother’s Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (by virtue of similar formal organization and use of solo flute at the transition), as well as Beethoven and Carl Maria von Weber. This overture remains Hensel’s only piece for orchestra; it received its premiere in her home in 1834. Only two unfinished works for solo piano date from 1832; one, Das Nordlicht (h-u263), was a reaction to the unusual spectacle of the aurora borealis visible in Berlin that year. After having written so heavily for voices the previous year, Hensel composed just one Lied, Wiegenlied (h-u266), in mid-September. It is possible that she had intended this lullaby for her second child; sadly, Hensel delivered a stillborn daughter on 1 November 1832. She also wrote a fragment of a choral work for four-part male choir and piano (h-u268), and a duet on a text by Wilhelm, So soll ich dich verlassen (h-u264), which possibly marked the passing of a dear family friend, Eduard Rietz. It is clear that her compositional focus had by this time shifted away from the Lied, perhaps as she felt greater autonomy from her brother and father after her marriage. Continuing the more public face of her reputation as a Lied composer, however, was the publication of her early setting of a text by Sir Walter Scott, Ave Maria (h-u20), from 1820, in The Harmonicon, vol.10/2 (1832). The same English reviewer, John Thomson, who had praised her works in Felix’s op.8 in The Harmonicon, now apparently took the liberty of sharing the Lied with the journal. According to Thomson, Hensel had given him a copy before he left Berlin in 1829. He claimed that she had composed it on his request, but that is clearly not the case since the Lied dates from 1820, not 1829. It is not clear whether or not Hensel requested or even authorized the publication of the Lied, but this publication is significant in that it was the first time her music had appeared under her own name.

After the stillbirth of her daughter, Hensel had difficulty returning to composing and her Sonntagsmusiken in 1833. She produced only four works that year, including two Lieder and a Fugue in E♭ for piano (h-u273). However, Felix was living with his family in Berlin that winter while he awaited the determination of the Singakademie on its new leader (Zelter had died in 1832 and Felix did not get the post in the end, which caused a rift between the Mendelssohn family and the Singakademie), and he encouraged Hensel to return to practising the piano and hosting concerts. These events became the artistic and social outlet she needed at the time to keep performing and composing. One friendship that became especially important was with the soprano Pauline Decker, who had retired to the private sphere after her marriage. As a former professional singer, Decker was able to match Fanny’s abilities and provide a rewarding artistic partnership. Hensel wrote her most ambitious work in 1833 for Decker, the quasi-mass, quasi-tableau vivant, Zum Fest der heiligen Cäcilia (‘On the Feast of St Cecilia’, h-u272). Hensel composed this work for performance on 22 November, which was not only the Feast Day of St Cecilia in the liturgical calendar (and Fanny’s name day), but also marked Felix’s debut as conductor in his new position in Düsseldorf. Hensel’s work included settings from the introit, gradual, and collect of the Latin Mass text for the liturgical Feast of St Cecilia. The visual aspects were handled by Wilhelm and his students, who created a small organ prop and dressed Decker in robes after Raphael’s altarpiece in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, entitled The Ecstasy of St Cecilia. The performance, as Hensel described it, ‘made a magical, beautiful effect’ (Citron, E1987, p.114–15). In this way, the two artists lived out their own description of their married life as ‘a double counterpoint of music and painting’ (S. Hensel, H1879/1882, The Mendelssohn Family, vol.2, p.43).

In 1834, Hensel returned to programming her Sonntagsmusiken regularly; from the surviving documentation, there is evidence that she hosted at least 13 of these events. Hensel most frequently programmed music of Bach, Handel, and Beethoven, as well as many works by her brother. She offered the Berlin premiere of her brother’s Rondo brillante, op.29, while the famed pianist Luise Dulcken performed Felix’s Piano Concerto in G minor, op.25 with the accompaniment of a string quartet. Hensel does not appear to have performed her own music as much as the music of others, but she did programme her own Overture in C on 15 June, performed by the Königstadt Theater orchestra. On this occasion the conductor, Julius Amadeus Lecerf, insisted on laying down his baton and inviting Hensel herself to the podium. Hensel often conducted performances of her own and her brother’s choral music in smaller ensembles, but this marks the only known instance of Hensel conducting an orchestral work. Wilhelm had been busy as well, and finished his masterpiece, Christus vor Pilatus, by September; it depicts about 50 figures gathered when Pilatus washes his hands of the blood of Jesus. The painting, measuring around 15 by 19 feet, had occupied Wilhelm for almost four years. It was installed in the Garnisonkirche in Berlin after the king purchased it for 6000 thalers; when the church burnt down in 1908, the painting was destroyed along with it. Wilhelm’s decision to paint the ‘turba’ crowd from the Passion tradition may have been a response to his wife’s musical depiction of this scene a few years earlier in the finale of her Easter Sonata, with its intriguing Allegro con strepito tempo indication, as well as the entire family’s intense involvement with the revival of the St Matthew Passion in 1829. Wilhelm’s inclusion of Fanny and their son Sebastian as part of the crowd in the lower right-hand corner of the painting emphasizes the personal involvement of the Mendelssohn family in this tradition.

Dating from 1834 (though drawing on her unfinished piano sonata from five years earlier) is one of Hensel’s most ambitious and successful essays in the chamber music genre to date, her String Quartet in E♭ (h-u277). This is Hensel’s only mature work in that genre (and among the first surviving string quartets by any woman), and stands alongside her Piano Trio in D minor, op.11, as one of her most impressive chamber works. Hensel reworked the first two movements of the piano sonata to become the first two movements of her string quartet, and wrote a new slow movement and finale to complete the work. While rescoring the first movement of the sonata for quartet, she made several subtle adjustments for better balance and dramatic progress, giving us a rare opportunity to view how she revised, since many of her works survive in only one version. The themes bring to mind Beethoven’s ‘Harp’ Quartet in E♭, op.76. Felix had also responded to the ‘Harp’ quartet in 1829 with his String Quartet in E♭, op.12, another instance of the siblings’ simultaneous and complementary absorption of models and ideas (Bartsch, 2007). Hensel changed the ending of the second movement radically: she added a section beginning with a scampering fugato in all four voices that strongly evokes the trio of Beethoven’s Symphony no.5 in C minor, op.67, and then developed the motives for some 90 bars before returning to the opening theme to conclude the movement. Its extended ternary form thus essentially constitutes a Scherzo and Trio. Hensel disposed of the original third movement of her piano sonata altogether. With its thickly voiced chords and repetitive march-like rhythms, Hensel may have felt it was too pianistic. Instead, she inserted a ‘Romanze’ in G minor, featuring a cantabile theme in the first violin, and sighing motives that seem to search for a G minor chord, which is never achieved throughout the entire movement. Each time, the prepared G minor cadence is foiled by conversion into a seventh chord, or as at the final cadence, a G major chord. The final movement is a lively Allegro molto vivace in E♭.

When Felix provided his critique of this quartet, he clearly could not come to terms with Hensel’s loose handling of key areas and what we now consider to be her fantasia-like approach to form. For Felix, Hensel’s experiments offended his sense of respect for the Classical forms he had been educated to use, and strayed perhaps from the style the two composers had developed together. After his harsh comments, although Hensel never wrote another string quartet, nor did she change her score in accordance with her brother’s criticism. With the exception of a private reading in her home, no record survives of any performance of the quartet. Hensel had asked her brother if he could arrange a performance, but he never did so. In a letter to Felix shortly after this episode, Hensel expressed some discouragement as to her success with large genres, as well as her own view of her inability to escape from under the ‘shadow of Beethoven’:

I’ve reflected how I, actually not an eccentric or overly sentimental person, came to write pieces in a tender style. I believe it derives from the fact that we were young during Beethoven’s last years and absorbed his style to a considerable degree. But that style is exceedingly moving and emotional. You’ve gone through it from start to finish and progressed beyond it in your composing, and I’ve remained stuck in it, not possessing the strength, however, that is necessary to sustain such tenderness. Therefore I also believe that you haven’t hit upon or voiced the crucial issue. It’s not so much a certain way of composing that is lacking as it is a certain approach to life, and as a result of this shortcoming, my lengthy things die in their youth of decrepitude; I lack the ability to sustain ideas properly and give them the needed consistency. Therefore Lieder suit me best, in which, if need be, merely a pretty idea without much potential for development can suffice

(Citron, E1987, p.174).

The disappointment in her progress and lack of confidence in her own abilities is palpable here. Hensel had written only six Lieder in 1834 in addition to her String Quartet; she now ended her trend towards ever more ambitious chamber and orchestral genres to return to vocal writing in 1835. Although she wrote only four solo Lieder in that year, she also produced three vocal duets and three vocal trios, a concert aria, and, quite tellingly, no instrumental works at all. 1835 brought Hensel a rare chance to travel beyond Berlin and expand her experiences and artistic horizons. The Hensel family journeyed to Paris, with a stop on the way in Cologne for the Niederrheinisches Musikfestival, which Felix directed that year. There, Hensel participated in the festival performance of Handel’s Solomon, singing in the alto section under her brother’s baton. A stop in Düsseldorf, where Felix was then employed, produced an opportunity to compose for a domestic setting other than her own home; the Hensels’ hosts were the Woringens, and Hensel composed two vocal trios and possibly a duet for the Woringen siblings. By midsummer, the Hensels finally arrived in Paris, where they attended opera, mingled with high society, viewed art, and met Chopin and heard him play on several occasions during their five-week stay. There is no evidence, however, that Hensel performed in the famous Parisian salons. Departing on 6 August, the Hensels travelled next to Boulogne sur Mer, then a tiny picturesque seaside town, so that Fanny could ‘take the cure’, as was commonly prescribed in that era. In Hensel’s case, her difficult pregnancies had affected her health, thus prompting her visit to the coast. In addition to attending to her health, Hensel was able to relax and compose, writing two Lieder; one of these was on a text by Heine, who was also in the town visiting Sarah Austin. Boulogne sur Mer’s position on the English Channel ensured a stream of other friends as well, including Sophia Horsley, whose family had hosted Felix in London, as well as the much-loved Mendelssohn family friend, Karl Klingemann. The family travelled slowly back to Berlin via Belgium and the Netherlands, visited Rebecka and her family in Bonn, and saw Felix in Leipzig, where he had just accepted his final post at the Gewandhaus. They returned to Berlin just in time to say goodbye to Wilhelm’s mother, who died only a few days after the Hensels arrived back there. Hensel returned to her Sonntagsmusiken on 15 November, despite the gruelling travel. However, almost simultaneously, another event would shock the family: the death of Abraham, who had been gradually going blind for some time, but suddenly declined after a short illness in mid-November. The impact of his death was felt by all, as they grieved through Christmas and into 1836. Hensel discontinued her concert series until June 1836 and also stopped writing in her diary. Her brother channelled his loss into redoubled efforts to complete his first oratorio, St Paul, which had been a project his father longed to see completed, and Rebecka and her husband moved back to Berlin and into the family house to help comfort their widowed mother.

Despite the sorrowful start to 1836, Hensel would return to greater compositional activity in the genres she had cultivated before her marriage, producing seven Lieder, five vocal duets, two vocal trios, and ten solo piano pieces. She travelled again, this time with her mother Lea, to Leipzig in March to attend the conferring of an honorary doctorate from the University of Leipzig on her brother. This time, in contrast to Paris, Hensel did perform, although still privately, as well as attending her brother’s concert at the Gewandhaus. Yet another opportunity to participate in her brother’s public triumphs came in May, when she travelled with her brother Paul and his wife Albertine again to Düsseldorf for the Niederrheinisches Musikfestival, where Felix’s oratorio Paulus was scheduled to receive its premiere. Once again, Hensel performed in the alto section; this time, she even had an unexpected solo when one of the soloists lost his place and Hensel sang the missing notes to guide him back. After returning to Berlin, Hensel produced her own performance of St Paul for one of her Sonntagsmusiken on 19 June the first one since her father’s death – and thereby provided the Berlin premiere of her brother’s oratorio. Hensel’s renewed efforts in writing piano pieces did not go unrewarded; she received the praise she craved from her brother for several of these pieces, and apparently was emboldened by it to bring up once again the idea of publishing. A Berlin publisher – which one is not known – had apparently asked her if she would consider publication, and as usual, Hensel deferred to the opinion of her brother, even though her husband encouraged her to go ahead. In a private exchange from June 1837, Lea Mendelssohn tried to convince Felix to help his sister publish her works, but Felix refused to take the first step:

I hopefully don’t need to say that as soon as she decides to publish I will spare no effort, to the extent that I can, to find her opportunities. But to encourage her to publish I cannot do, since it runs counter to my views and convictions

(Wald and Kauba, eds, 2012, p.292).

He went on to say that as a proper wife and mother his sister could not possibly wish to enter the public world of composing, which would require her to produce ‘a series of works, one after the other’. Felix seems to have underestimated his sister, who had already expressed to Klingemann in 1836 her frustrations with working always in a vacuum without access to a broader sounding-board for her compositions. Just one of the piano pieces she wrote that year would eventually be published: the Andante in G (h-u301), which appeared as her op.2 no.1 in 1846.

In early 1837, Hensel went ahead with publishing her Lied from 1827, Die Schiffende, in Schlesinger’s Neue Original-Compositionen für Gesang und Piano, under her own name. The publisher placed her setting alongside her brother’s Wie kann ich froh und lustig sein. Felix wrote to congratulate his sister, despite his reservations, and even programmed her Lied on a benefit concert at the Gewandhaus (with himself at the piano), where he reported it was very well received. Hensel enjoyed another productive year of composing in 1837, including six Lieder, four vocal duets, a vocal trio, and four piano pieces. The first Lied she wrote in 1837, Warum sind denn die Rosen so blaß? (h-u312) became part of her first published opus in 1846, as op.1 no.3. This hauntingly beautiful Lied on a text of Heine, its soaring vocal line variously supported by gentle arpeggios or contrasted with resonant chords in the piano, became her brother’s favourite from Hensel’s op.1. It also represents the earliest work Hensel chose to publish; once she started publishing, she selected only newly composed works, or works from her last five or so years of productivity. Thus, we can see that Hensel started to take her ambitions seriously around this point and to think more concretely about the possibility of publication. Hensel’s op.9, posthumously assembled and published most probably by Felix, forms the anomaly among her published works; the Lieder are selected mostly from the 1820s, and are likely to represent Felix’s favourite Lieder from the happiest years he had spent with his sister, rather than works that Hensel felt reflected her professional aspirations.

On 28 March, an event the Mendelssohn family had long wished for finally occurred: Felix was married to Cécile Jeanrenaud, the daughter of a Huguenot minister from Frankfurt. Abraham had once noted that if Felix were as fastidious about selecting a wife as he were about selecting an opera libretto, he’d never marry. Felix did not bring his fiancée to meet his family before the wedding, nor did he bring his wife to Berlin after the wedding, when he travelled for his honeymoon and for his professional work. Finally, about eight months after the wedding, Hensel travelled to Leipzig herself to meet her sister-in-law. The lack of introduction caused some tension in the family, who could not attend the wedding due to various impediments. Lea was becoming more infirm, Fanny and Rebecka were pregnant, and Paul was in Hamburg acquiring a bank. Indeed, just a few days after the wedding, Hensel had miscarried another advanced pregnancy. The alienation between brother and sister intensified during that year as Hensel felt ever more deeply not just the physical but also the spiritual absence of her brother. Increasingly she did not hear about or see her brother’s compositions until they appeared in print, when she found she was forced to ‘look at them with the eyes of a stranger, i.e., criticize them without partiality; but it always makes me sadly recall the time when I used to know his music from its birth’ (Todd, G2010, p.217).

Despite her brother’s lack of presence and the breakdown in communication, Hensel remained devoted to performing his music in her Sonntagsmusiken, perhaps as a way of feeling she was still involved in his life. Thus, she organized two impressive concert performances of St Paul in January and June 1837. The first was for one of her regular audiences of about 100; the second was even larger, for about 300 guests, including a semi-public audience of friends invited by the performers. Later that same year she programmed more oratorios, this time by Handel, and hosted the violin virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps before his Berlin debut, in one of the most ambitious and successful of her concert seasons.

Hensel’s increasingly important cultural position in Berlin intensified as 1838 dawned with new opportunities. First, she was invited to rehearsals of Felix’s St Paul at the Singakademie, where none of the Mendelssohn family had been present since they had cut their ties with that institution in 1832. Her three performances of St Paul made her the expert on the work locally, and her letters to Felix reporting on the rehearsals show her to have been a pugnacious and exacting advocate for the correct performance of the work. A month or so later, on 19 February, Hensel emerged even more openly onto the public stage, performing in a public concert for the first time in her life with Felix’s Piano Concerto no.1 in G minor, op.25. The occasion was a benefit concert, however, and so most of the performers’ names, including her own, did not appear in the reviews. Hensel herself was identified only as an ‘excellent dilettante, intellectually and naturally related to the composer [of the concerto]’ (Todd, G2010, p.225).

In April, Felix finally brought his wife to Berlin to visit, with their first child, Carl. The family enjoyed about two months together until Felix departed with his family to the Niederrheinisches Musikfestival, and Wilhelm travelled in the opposite direction to London. Hensel would never visit London herself, but enjoyed her husband’s reports of visiting their London friends, Karl Klingemann, Ignaz Moscheles, and the Horsleys. Wilhelm attended the coronation of Queen Victoria on 28 June; he had the opportunity to meet the Queen in August, four years before his brother-in-law would have his first audience. Queen Victoria and Prince Consort Albert were great patrons of the arts, and provided Wilhelm with the opportunity to view the artistic treasures at Buckingham Palace; they would become well-known supporters of Mendelssohn’s music.

Hensel had enjoyed a productive and illustrious year in all aspects of her musical life, but soon had to put that aside for a time as the Mendelssohn house was once again in mourning; that autumn, measles broke out in Berlin, and in November claimed the life of Rebecka’s infant son, Felix. Fanny curtailed her Sonntagsmusiken while the family was mourning and returned instead to composing. She produced several more solo and ensemble Lieder as well as two new piano pieces at this time. The most striking and successful of these works is her Notturno in G minor (h-u337), a stormy, passionate barcarole with clear ties to her brother’s famous Venetianisches Gondellied in G minor, op.19 no.6. Her own composition clearly only takes her brother’s work as the germ of an idea, however, as the dimensions and thematic development of her Notturno are notably more ambitious. Her engagement with the genre prefaced a life-changing event for which she had been yearning since her teenage years: her first trip to Italy.

7. Travels to Italy, 1839–40.

By 1839 Wilhelm’s need to return to Italy finally overruled the family’s objection to the expense. This time he did not leave Fanny behind. In an era when to reach Italy from Germany took weeks of gruelling travel, it was not generally the custom to travel to Italy for just a few weeks, but rather to spend the better part of a year there. The family left Berlin on 27 August 1839, travelling first to Leipzig, where they spent a week with Felix and his family. On 4 September, they went on to Italy via Erlangen, Nuremburg, Regensburg, and Munich before finally crossing the Alps – fulfilling Hensel’s dream from about 15 years earlier – and arriving in Milan on 30 September. Hensel was initially delighted by the lush flora of Italy, but that impression gave way to disgust when they encountered the decay prevalent in the cities. Her distaste, however, quickly turned into a ‘mania for antiquities’ as the crumbling sculpture and architecture in Rome earned her admiration. Venice’s beauty she described as ‘fairy-like’; she revelled in seeing at first hand the sites and artworks she had known until then only via pictures. Throughout all her explorations she remained mindful of how she had first encountered these strange new sights through the eyes of Goethe in his Italienische Reise, and of her brother, who had been there before her and had written home with colourful reports. Despite lack of regular access to a piano until they reached Rome, this journey inspired her to compose. Hensel’s Serenata in G minor (h-u345), written shortly before she left Venice, recalls her earlier Notturno in G minor as well as Felix’s Venetianisches Gondellied op.30 no.6, but recasts the previously imagined Venetian experience in the light of her direct encounters with the fabled city and its gondoliers.

Leaving Venice on 4 November, Hensel enjoyed a short stay in Florence, where she spent most of her time admiring art and the city’s gardens. By 26 November the family had finally reached Rome, where her brother’s reputation preceded her, and where they would spend the majority of their time in Italy. Hensel immediately became an active member of the musical scene there, and she found herself a prominent member of the social circle at the French Academy at Villa Medici. Every Sunday – in what was essentially an extension of her Sonntagsmusiken – she would perform piano trios semi-publicly with local musicians, at gatherings hosted by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. The adulation she received there for her skills as both pianist and composer was a new sensation, and one which she appreciated very greatly: ‘I never was made so much of as I have been here, and that this is very pleasant nobody can deny’ (S. Hensel, H1879/1882, vol.2, p.120). The young musicians and composers present – including Charles Gounod, who was there as Prix de Rome winner that year – looked up to her as an authority on German music, much of which they had never heard before. Gounod had come to Rome to study Palestrina but instead was completely surprised and enraptured by the German music of Bach, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn performed by Hensel. Hensel experienced here for the first time her power to affect another composer deeply, and gained respect for her ability to inspire others (besides Felix) beyond mere admiration for her talent.

Hensel did not spend her entire visit making music, however much she enjoyed that part of her stay; the family saw Pope Gregory XVI process into the Sistine Chapel, spent Christmas in Rome, danced in the streets during Carnaval, and generally absorbed as much as they could of Roman culture, although Fanny found the desired level of musical performance (especially in the churches and on the streets) severely lacking. Leaving Rome was difficult after the culturally rich six months she had spent there among an ever-widening circle of new friends and acquaintances. Ingres threw a farewell party for the family at the Villa Medici that included all-day chamber music readings outdoors, food, and finally, around midnight, moonlit improvisations and part songs indoors. Before heading north back to Germany, the Hensel family journeyed south on 2 June 1840 to complete the ‘Grand Tour’ through Italy. They spent several weeks in Naples, exploring Vesuvius (they even got to the summit of the still active volcano) and neighbouring towns and islands, where they enjoyed the rich local culture and summer festivals. While Wilhelm proceeded southwards, Fanny and Sebastian stayed in Naples to escape the summer heat: there she entertained Gounod and the painter Bousquet, until Wilhelm returned on 21 July. They started their journey homewards on 11 August, passing through Milan before crossing the Alps into Switzerland and heading to Strasbourg, Heidelberg, and Frankfurt before finally arriving back in Leipzig in early September to visit Felix and his family, almost exactly a year on from their original departure.

For good reason, this journey through Italy is widely regarded as one of the highlights of Hensel’s life, representing a turning point in her work as a composer. The sights, sounds, smells, and flavours of Italy had not fallen short of her long-cherished idealization of that country. The artistic community she found there, and the sense of freedom and spontaneity she observed, helped to challenge her strict Prussian sensibilities. In terms of her compositional productivity during the Italian trip, we can see how profoundly this opportunity to travel inspired the somewhat discouraged composer to return to her work. In the 12 months prior to departing for Italy (from August 1838 to August 1839), she completed 11 works: four Lieder, three vocal duets, and four piano pieces. The opportunity to perform for a group of admiring young artists and musicians seems to have inspired her to return more prolifically to compositions for the piano. During the 12 months that she spent travelling (August 1839 to August 1840), she completed 24 works: five Lieder, two vocal quartets, four vocal duets, and 13 piano pieces. When she started publishing six years later, she returned to several of these Italian works as her first selections; her op.1 no.1 is the Schwanenlied (h-u358), which was among the first works she composed in Italy in autumn 1839. Five of her piano pieces from this journey appear in her opp.2, 4/5, and 6, four of them taking their inspiration directly from her favourite haunts and moments she experienced in Italy: Gondelfahrt/Serenata (h-u345), Abschied vom Rom/Ponte Moll (h-u352), Villa Medicis (h-u353), and Villa Mills (h-u357), op.2 no.3.

8. Return to Berlin, 1840–42.

When Hensel arrived home on 11 September 1840 (at 9.30 p.m., as she related in her diary), she found everything in good order, just as the family had left it. However, Hensel had returned from sunny, carefree Italy to the realities of everyday life in northern Germany. Her first full entry a week after returning home, on 16 September 1840, paints a vivid picture of her depressed mood: ‘Everything looks dreary, gloomy, and joyless, and to that end it storms, rains, and blows outside, and there is a chill that freezes my fingers’. Her sister-in-law Albertine lost a baby and her mother broke her arm. Her diary, in which she had written every few days while travelling, lay neglected except for entries every one to ten weeks. Hensel did remain musically active, however; she bought a new Viennese piano, composed lightly, and even considered writing an opera based on Ernst Raupach’s Der Nibelunghort, sharing her idea with Felix, although nothing came of it. To relive the joys of her journey, she reread her brother’s letters from ten years earlier (as she told Felix in a letter of 28 September 1840), and took great delight in seeing her brother’s descriptions in a new light, having seen and experienced the same things.

Through the remainder of the year, Hensel finished three vocal duets (h-u363) and between one and three piano pieces. The first of these (h-u364) is dated in December, but for the other two (h-u365 and 366) 1840 is the earliest possible known date of their composition as the autograph manuscripts are lost. Since all three appeared in Hensel’s op.4/5 as nos.3, 5, and 6, it is possible that they were all completed around the same time if she conceived of them as a set. Indeed, all three works depend heavily on three-hand technique and rising arpeggio figures. The first, op.4/5 no.3, gives particularly the impression of a fantasia. Perhaps Hensel, returned to reality in her Berlin home, was reliving her long-anticipated Italian sojourn through improvisation at the piano in this manner.

1841 was a remarkably productive year for Hensel in contrast to the fallow years before the Italian trip. She wrote 16 piano pieces (which included the 13 collected under the title Das Jahr), nine Lieder, two vocal duets, one vocal trio, one vocal quartet, and a tableau vivant. A fragment of a chamber work for violin and piano also dates from around this time. About half of these works were completed as joint projects with her husband; the tableau vivant featured Wilhelm’s libretto and his artwork, and he supplied vignettes for each of the pieces in Das Jahr. She recommenced her Sonntagsmusiken (although she complained to Felix that the musicians in Berlin didn’t measure up to those in Rome), and appeared in public for the second time on 4 March 1841. The performance took place at the Berlin Schauspielhaus where she played in Felix’s Piano Trio in D minor, op.49. As a non-professional woman, she was again not referred to by her full name. This time, rather than being identified as Felix’s sister, she was referred to as her husband’s wife: ‘Frau P.H. [Professorin Hensel]’. To her delight 1841 brought the return of her beloved brother to the family home in Berlin. Felix was less pleased, however; he had been summoned by the newly crowned King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (reigned 1840–61) to accept an ambiguously worded charge to reinvigorate Berlin as an artistic centre, but Felix had no desire to give up his post at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and move his family back to Berlin to serve the whims of the new King.

Fanny’s piano cycle Das Jahr is generally interpreted as the musical diary of her year in Italy, but another collection dating from 1841 also bears considerable significance in that regard: the Reisealbum. Fanny and Wilhelm compiled this album from May to November 1841; it contained works composed between October 1839 and August 1841. As he did with Das Jahr, Wilhelm decorated the multicoloured pages with vignettes depicting places and memories from their trip, and created a title page with an image of Germany handing the Reisealbum to Italy (both countries being personified as women). The album contains five Lieder, four vocal duets, two vocal quartets, and seven piano pieces tracing the beginning of the journey (Nach süden, h-u373), the musical flavours of Italy (Il saltarello romano/Tarantella, h-u372), favourite haunts (Villa Medicis, h-u353 and Villa Mills, h-u357), the departure from Rome (Abschied vom Rom/Ponte Moll, h-u352), and finally the arrival home (Hausgarten, h-u355). The mix of musical genres encapsulates Fanny’s experience of composing and performing during the Italian sojourn, while Wilhelm’s charming illustrations complete the concept. The album was never intended for publication; rather, it was a musical and artistic scrapbook of their memories, meant for domestic consumption only.

The Hensels were evidently so pleased with this joint project that they soon began another: a cycle of character pieces entitled Das Jahr (‘The Year’, h-u384). In this case Hensel composed all the works newly and specifically for this project, and they are all for solo piano; she began composing on 28 August (no.2, Februar), but appears not to have started working seriously on the cycle until 7 October (no.3, April). At this point, she completed each new piece at steady intervals, from just a day or two up to about two weeks apart, and devoted her time for composing entirely to this project. We can assume that she started Das Jahr while Wilhelm finished filling in the illustrations on the Reisealbum, which were not completed until November. Each of the 13 pieces in Das Jahr (one for each month of the year and a ‘Nachspiel’) illustrates some characteristic of that month. For example, März includes an Easter chorale (Christ ist erstanden) in reference to the celebration of Easter around that time, although not necessarily directly to their own Italian experience. (Easter fell on 31 March in 1839, on 19 April in 1840, and on 11 April in 1841: the Hensels were still in Berlin to celebrate Easter in March 1839.) Mai is a ‘Frühlingslied’, Oktober a ‘Jägerlied’, and Dezember includes the Advent chorale Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her. The Nachspiel, appropriately, is a setting of the chorale Das alte Jahr vergangen ist.

The importance of this work in Fanny’s output cannot be over emphasized. The whole takes about 60 minutes in performance and demonstrates a large-scale cyclic concept entirely missing from her brother’s works in either the genre of character piece or that of Lied. Like the Reisealbum, Das Jahr is neatly copied onto the multicoloured paper. Wilhelm’s vignettes appear in the upper left-hand corner of the first page of each work; the staves were custom-drawn to allow for these insertions, which were completed at some point during the first few months of 1842. One added feature, however, are the epigrams copied into the album (without attribution to their author) on a blank sheet prior to each piece. There was clearly no attempt to save space and expense with this album, which was a Christmas present for Wilhelm; the intended effect was of music, art, and literature combining to create a deeply personal and evocative work on a variety of levels. When Hensel published September as her op.2 no.2, she removed all programmatic and extra-musical elements and presented it as an abstract character piece; perhaps she wanted to conceal both the personal aspects of the project she shared with her husband and the ‘unfeminine’ qualities associated with its original place as part of a large-scale cycle.

“The Year – January” [Das Jahr – Januar]. Autograph clean copy by Fanny Hensel with title vignette by Wilhelm Hensel. After 1840. bpk Bildagentur / Mendelssohn-Archiv, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin / Art Resource, NY.

During 1841 Hensel was happily engaged in composing, spending time with her own family, and with Felix and his family, while neglecting her diary and her letter-writing. Thus, we have little insight into her views on her compositions, although her higher output this year attests to the continuing inspiration generated by her Italian trip. Felix’s frequent presence in the family home was also rejuvenating for Hensel (and mostly explains the lack of letters from this period). Despite the resurgence of her compositional inspiration, the question of publishing remained taboo; ironically enough, while Felix was still discouraging his sister from composing, he encouraged Josephine Lang, sending her newly published Lieder to Fanny in July 1841 (Krebs).

As the year 1842 began, Hensel was occupied in Berlin as hostess; not a single piece survives dated to 1842. She was still busy with completing Das Jahr, the joint project with Wilhelm, as well as running her Sonntagsmusiken, and hosting numerous guests including Franz Liszt, who stirred the German capital into a mania for his pianistic fireworks. Despite their public attempts to appear respectful to Liszt, neither Fanny nor Felix cared for him or his music. Wilhelm travelled to Dresden for about two weeks in July to exhibit one of his new paintings, visit galleries, and expand their network (the whole family would return to Dresden for about nine days in September), and Hensel welcomed both Paul’s family and Felix to the family home for extended stays (Paul was a refugee from a fire in Hamburg that destroyed a quarter of the city centre), among numerous other family and friends. Hensel sat for her portrait by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, in which she is depicted as a socialite; that is, as a woman of wealth and class dressed in fine lace, jewellery, and a fashionable hairstyle, but (as R. Larry Todd points out) with no obvious means of identifying her talents as a musician or intellectual. However, as a hostess she managed to make a powerful impression; thus William Sterndale Bennett expressed unusual terror at playing in her presence at her home. On 9 October 1842 Hensel recorded at length in her diary the drought that had plagued the region since August; several cities, she reported, had burnt, her garden had withered to a crisp, fruit cost four times as much as usual, and even potatoes were excessively expensive. An event near the end of the year eclipsed everything else: Lea Mendelssohn suffered a stroke on 11 December 1842, while at a party in memory of her late husband’s birthday, and died the next morning. Now, with both Mendelssohn parents gone, the duty to carry on the family as ‘children no longer’ (in Felix’s words) fell to Fanny, as the only Mendelssohn still in permanent residence at the Berlin family home.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Portrait of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, 1842. The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, U.S.A. Gift of Daniel M. Friedenberg.

9. Lost illusions, 1843–5.

After the death of her mother (and the ensuing strain of dealing with her estate and personal effects), Hensel fell into a depression that lasted for much of 1843. Her diary entries until March focus exclusively on the theme of her mother’s death. Part of the healing process for Hensel included realizing the love and happiness she still possessed within the family that remained to her, and in late February they spent a week in Leipzig with Felix’s family. For the first time that year she mentions music; she attended several concerts at the Gewandhaus and heard the music of Gade, Berlioz, Clara Schumann playing Robert Schumann, and Felix’s Symphony no.3 in A minor, op.56, the ‘Scottish’, among others. Perhaps as a reaction to being part of an active musical culture again, Hensel ruminated ruefully on her own lack of compositional inspiration. Her time at the piano was becoming more rare as she was required to deal with family crises. On 12 March, the house at Leipzigerstrasse 3 suffered a break-in; Rebecka sounded the alarm when the thieves entered the bedroom where she and her husband were asleep. Her screams sent them running and not much was taken, but the incursion deeply upset Fanny and Rebecka. Fanny had mentioned to Felix in a letter of 17 January that burglaries were common in Berlin that winter and she feared just such an event, especially as they were occupying solely the Gartenhaus, and the rest of the house was dark and quiet following Lea’s death. One ambitious project broke her compositional hiatus of over a year and occupied Fanny for most of the first half of 1843; begun on 23 March and concluded in early July, this was her Scenes from Faust, Part II, Scene 1 (h-u389), for soprano, four additional soloists (two sopranos and two altos), a four-part female choir, and piano. Remarkable here are the exclusively female voices; there is no male voice to sing the part of Faust. By choosing not to set the character of Faust himself, but rather to write for the spirits who surround the scene, Fanny approaches Faust from a uniquely feminine perspective and thereby highlights the ‘eternal feminine’ which plays such an important role in Goethe’s epic play.

Despite the many struggles she had faced in the early part of 1843, Hensel maintained an active social role and entertained numerous guests. On 23 April, the presence of her dear friends the Woringens unfortunately prevented her from accepting her brother’s invitation to the unveiling of his Bach-Denkmal in Leipzig. A few days later, on their way to dinner at Paul’s, the Hensels ran into Gounod (who had just arrived in Berlin with the express intention of visiting Fanny) and invited him to join them for their evening plans, which included going to see Devrient perform in Armide. Thereafter, Gounod spent nearly every afternoon for almost three weeks with Hensel, playing and talking about music. Just as he had in Rome, Gounod reinvigorated Hensel’s self-confidence, and in this case, also helped to reawaken her compositional inspiration. She considered his musical style much improved and his artistic judgement more highly developed. His visit seems to have prompted her to return to composing for the piano, if only briefly; a piano piece in G minor (h-u391) dates from 20 May, just five days after his departure. Gounod headed next to Leipzig with a letter of introduction from Fanny to Felix; in this way, Hensel occupied an unusual position for a female amateur, as letters of introduction were typically written by prominent male artists to support either younger males or females.

6 June found the Hensel family in Leipzig for a short stay to celebrate the baptism of Felix’s fourth child, and on 19 June Wilhelm departed for London. There, he had audiences with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She had dreaded her husband’s absence, but found herself pleasantly surprised by how happily she had been able to fill the time with visiting family and friends in her home and her garden (the drought of the previous year was now forgotten). A ‘weakness’ in her arms prevented her from engaging in many musical activities, however; this loss of sensation was a premonition of the stroke that would take her life in 1847. After anxiously waiting two weeks for Wilhelm to return, with little to no communication between them, Hensel joyously welcomed him home on 14 September, reporting that his trip was both personally satisfying and strategically advantageous for his career. His good mood supported her through the remainder of the year. She attended the premiere of Felix’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op.61, on 14 October and described his music as a perfect match for Shakespeare (‘hat er volkommen auf gleicher Linie mit Shakes.[peare] nach erschaffen’). In late November, letters from family and friends in Rome prompted her to muse about the possibility of taking Sebastian back in five years before he began his university studies; this trip, sadly, would never happen, as Hensel only had three years remaining.

Besides the Scenes from Faust, Hensel’s most striking effort from 1843 is her return to the genre of the piano sonata. A tour de force in G minor (h-u395), this final piano sonata, like her Easter Sonata, demonstrates a wide stylistic range and diverse technical challenges. The first movement is the strongest of the four, with its rumbling tremolo and Beethovenian disjunct groups of threes that give way to a lyrical theme maintaining a three-against-four pattern. The movement ends in the major mode (G major) and employs a common-tone modulation via B♮ to transition directly into the second movement, a Scherzo in B minor. The B major trio section in the Scherzo features an internal double tremolo with melody and bass notes articulated by the outside of both hands, a technical challenge that in her teens Fanny had encountered and mastered in Beethoven’s late sonatas.

The Scherzo also proceeds directly into the slow third movement in D major, via an arpeggiated transition evoking the story-telling harp that also opens Felix’s Fantasie op.28. Hensel’s Lied style comes to the fore in this movement, much as it would in her later Piano Trio in D minor op.11. A flowing Finale utilizing the three-hand technique brings to mind the style of her Lieder for piano (such as the works she published in her op.4/5). This movement repeats sections several times and hammers the tonic extensively in the final pages. Because Fanny improvised so much at the keyboard, we can surmise that she didn’t necessarily play the work with this ending every time; she most probably would have used the harmonic and motivic framework to extemporize alternate versions. Like many of her written compositions, especially for piano, the version on the page is only a snapshot in time that represents a captured version of a work which had a life beyond the documented version. Since the work bears the date ‘Im Herbst 1843’ (‘Autumn 1843’), the weakness in her arms that had been troubling her all summer must presumably have abated.

The winter of 1844 presented new opportunities to hear some favourite music conducted by her brother; Beethoven’s Symphony no.9 on 27 March led Hensel to exclaim that the performance made her feel uncommonly musically happy. Felix spent most of the winter in Berlin with his family, which contributed to Hensel’s good mood, and produced several other performances of his own music as well as Handel’s Israel in Egypt. Hensel began her Sonntagsmusiken again and programmed Felix’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht twice. Her first performance of the work took place on 10 March, with the composer in attendance and assisting her in the overture at the keyboard. She also programmed her brother’s new Andante and variations, op.83a, for piano four hands, which she performed with him on 11 February, as well as the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Three of the four works for piano four hands in Hensel’s catalogue date from early 1844. Felix’s engagement with the genre at the same time seems to have spurred Hensel’s interest, in a situation that we see repeatedly throughout the siblings’ lives. Her four piano works and three firmly dated Lieder from 1844 all date from this same time period – January through March. A Liederzyklus, which would have been another joint project with her husband, is thought to date from summer 1844, but the manuscript, if it ever existed, is lost. Felix’s departure from Berlin (which would become permanent in November, as Felix negotiated reduced duties to the King that didn’t require his residence in Berlin) seems to have depressed Hensel musically, and another cold, wet summer with much of her family away served further to dampen her compositional spirits.

Hensel would soon be reunited with some of her family, but under conditions of duress; Rebecka and her husband, Gustav Dirichlet, had been spending the summer of 1844 in Italy when Rebecka became ill with jaundice, and then also found out she was pregnant and unable to return to Berlin as planned. The Hensel family travelled to Italy in January 1845 to join the Dirichlets in Florence. While Wilhelm proceeded to Rome to paint, Fanny helped her sister with her home and her health and provided much needed support when Rebecka’s daughter arrived a month early in February. Despite the health concerns, Hensel’s return to Italy inspired her musically and she hired a piano, although it appears she did not compose while she was there. She did, however, complete one impressive musical task in 1844, copying out from memory selections from Bach’s cantatas bwv106 and bwv229 (h-u ii14 and h-u ii15, respectively), as well as her own Abschied vom Rom, and sending them to Julius Elsasser (the painter and brother of August Elsasser, who had been part of Rebecka’s social circle in Rome when the Dirichlets were there in 1843). After her sister had returned to health in March, Fanny and Sebastian joined Wilhelm in Rome for another two months, where they socialized and enjoyed music and art much as they had done in 1839–40. A protracted journey home commenced in mid-May with stops to visit family in Florence (the Dirichlets), Freiburg im Breisgau (Felix and Paul), Soden (the Jeanrenauds), Horchheim (Joseph Mendelssohn), and Frankfurt (joined by Rebecka and family), before finally arriving back in Berlin on 2 August. The family emergencies and unexpectedly lengthy travel in Italy (with its inevitable relaxation into nostalgia for their 1839–40 sojourn there) conspired to make 1845 the second year (the other was 1842) since she had first started to compose that Hensel did not create a single new original composition.

August Kaselowsky: Fanny Hensel in Rome (1845).

After the return from Italy in August, life in Berlin throughout the rest of 1845 returned to normal, with the usual round of social engagements, and excitement over performances of Felix’s Oedipus at Colonos in Berlin. A combination of spending too much while travelling earlier that year and a lack of sales for Wilhelm’s paintings put the Hensels into a financial decline which caused the family some worry that winter. Perhaps as a result, Hensel did not resume her Sonntagsmusiken for the autumn concert season. The family, including Fanny (uncharacteristically – she was usually helping the rest of the family recover from severe illness while she tended to report only the occasional cold herself) battled recurrent illness that winter and into early spring. But spring came early and Hensel felt restored and energized by the natural beauty that surrounded her in her home, garden, and city. Perhaps this feeling of being ‘newly reborn’, as she confided to her diary on 17 May, was what prompted Fanny to take a new direction in her life in 1846.

10. Publication, 1846–7.

1846 began as usual; Hensel reported in her diary on the health of her family and friends and recorded news from her social circle, the weather, and European politics. She resumed her Sonntagsmusiken in March, which continued through June. She also started a small choral group that met at her home every Friday (much like Zelter’s choral group at the Singakademie that Fanny and Felix had sung in as children) and her catalogue displays 11 new compositions for vocal quartet between May and September. There are only five other vocal quartets in her catalogue, three of which date to around the Italian journey of 1839–40. The Hensel family celebrated the confirmation of Sebastian with a ball and welcomed the usual assortment of family and friends as guests in their home. One guest in particular is first mentioned in Hensel’s diary on 17 May 1846: Robert von Keudell, a well-connected German diplomat and pianist. At the end of July, she noted in her diary that Keudell inspired her much as Gounod had done earlier and that he ‘looks with greatest interest at anything new that I write, makes me aware of any shortcomings, and as a rule he is correct’. In the same breath she continued, ‘Thus I have made up my mind to publish my things’. Even though Wilhelm had long encouraged her to publish, the arrival of a new source of support in Keudell cannot be underestimated. Hensel revelled in two competing offers, from Bote und Bock and Schlesinger, respectively. The only sour note in this account was the observation that she had written earlier to her brother (on 9 July) to let him know her news and as yet had received no response from him. Felix was at that time involved in the frantic process of completing and (with William Bartholomew) translating his oratorio Elijah into English ahead of its premiere at the Birmingham Town Hall on 26 August. Hensel lamented that she had to learn of the subject of the oratorio from the papers; the disconnection from her brother, despite being painful for her, was perhaps in part what offered Fanny the freedom to break finally from the expectations for her life that had held her back from publishing for over 20 years. As she put it, ‘I am as afraid of my brothers at forty as I was of my father at fourteen’. As Felix had explained privately to their mother in 1837, he could not encourage Fanny to publish, but would support her if she approached him. Hensel, unaware of his feelings on that subject, did not approach him for help; as her diary and letters reveal, she obtained her own contracts (making a point not to publish with Breitkopf und Härtel, which was Felix’s main publisher) and made her own decisions as to which works would appear first. He finally wrote shortly before leaving for England and welcomed her to the ‘guild’ just as he had been welcomed by Zelter and Goethe many years earlier. The combination of her brother’s blessing (even though she knew his heart was not entirely in it) with the most beautiful summer she had ever experienced in Berlin, and the return of a happiness that equalled that of her experience in Italy over half a decade previously, along with the musical companionship and encouragement of Keudell, resulted in one of Hensel’s most prolific years as a composer since 1823. She wrote around 50 works in each of the years 1823 and 1846, totalling almost a quarter of her entire output. Evidently the feeling of being ‘newly reborn’ in 1846 indicated a rebirth of the joy and creative energy she had felt as a young woman in 1823.

Despite the rejuvenation of her compositional inspiration in 1846, Hensel did not select works from that year for her first publications. Instead, she selected six songs from 1837, 1839, and 1841 for her Sechs Lieder für eine Stimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte op.1, and four piano pieces from 1836, 1839–40, 1841, and 1843 for her Vier Lieder für das Pianoforte op.2. Her third publication, however, featured only works newly composed in 1846: Gartenlieder: Sechs Gesänge für Sopran, Alt, Tenor und Baß op.3. These four-part settings reflect her work with her Friday afternoon singing group. In this we can see how the opportunity to hear her newly completed works inspired her and gave her the confidence to publish immediately; this is the only situation in which we can draw parallels with the Sunday Musicales hosted by Felix’s parents to give him a similar opportunity to hear his music: Hensel did not use her own Sonntagsmusiken as a professional workshop for herself.

Hensel enjoyed the rest of the summer with her family and friends; she describes in her diary one occasion on which they sailed all day on Lake Treptow, singing and eating grapes. She maintained her Friday singing group, and resumed her Sonntagsmusiken on 4 October, continuing to spend time with Keudell, and publishing her Gartenlieder op.3. The entire family dealt with sickness and toothaches, and Wilhelm’s foot was run over by a hackney cab. Felix came to visit, and for Fanny played selections from his recent triumph in Birmingham, his oratorio Elias, on 17 December. Fanny and Felix performed more four-hand repertoire, and all the siblings gathered for dinner and got drunk on wine that Felix had brought back from the Rhine region before Felix departed on 21 December. Hensel then describes her preparations for Christmas, blissfully unaware that this had been the last time she would spend any extended time in the company of her brother.

1847 opened with renewed concerns about income versus expenses, and the question of Sebastian’s future career, which he asserted would be as a painter, like his father. Hensel wished her son to take the school finishing exams (the Abitur) which would prepare him instead to attend university. In the end, Sebastian did paint, but not professionally. He became a rather unlucky businessman, and is best known today as a writer for his account of the Mendelssohn family history, Die Familie Mendelssohn. Hensel spent an hour in the afternoons playing and discussing music with Keudell throughout most of the year, and Clara Schumann visited nearly every day in March. Fanny was also occupied during this time in writing her Piano Trio, which would be published posthumously as her op.11. Clara Schumann had recently completed her Piano Trio (op.17, in G minor) and was working on publishing it; it is believed that she had intended to dedicate it to Hensel before her untimely death. Felix passed through Berlin for a day in late March, which was the last time the siblings would see each other. Hensel played her op.11 trio at her first Sonntagsmusiken of the spring on 11 April, which she had rehearsed a few days earlier with Keudell on violin and her brother Paul on cello. On 12 April, she reported that her last three opuses had appeared, and for unexplained reasons, that ‘I fear that I stand at the end of my publishing business’. On 26 April, she complained that she had lost her compositional inspiration and hadn’t written a single note since finishing her trio. That was her final diary entry. Fanny Hensel passed away on 14 May 1847, after experiencing a series of strokes. She was seated at her piano in the middle of a rehearsal of Felix’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht for her Sonntagsmusiken when she felt the first loss of sensation in her arms. She tried to return to her rehearsal, only to be struck again shortly afterwards. She quickly lost consciousness and died that night. Hensel had died just as she wished to: with no protracted illness, happy in her home, and surrounded by her family, friends, and music. We can assume that the one thing missing from Hensel’s last moments was her beloved brother and that his absence must have been her only regret. She was buried next day, Sunday 15 May, before her brother even knew of her passing. When he received the news, Felix screamed, fainted, and hit his head on the floor; he would pass away from strokes, just like his sister and mother, about five months later on 4 November 1847. Before he did so, however, he spent a summer in Switzerland painting and composing his String Quartet in F minor. He returned to Berlin to view his beloved sister’s music room, and her grave, and experienced another nervous breakdown. Several of Hensel’s last publications appeared with Breitkopf und Härtel, which was Felix’s usual publisher, so it seems that when he visited Berlin, he selected several of her songs to publish himself. Perhaps this was his way of making amends to his sister for resisting her desire to publish and become a professional musician.

The day before she died, Hensel broke her last compositional silence with her final Lied, Bergeslust (h-u466), in which she set text from Eichendorff’s Song of Travel. The lively setting betrays not the slightest premonition of her unexpected death, but the words she set were prophetic. The poem ends: ‘Our fantasies as well as our songs rise up until they reach heaven’ (‘Gedanken gehn und Lieder fort bis ins Himmelreich’). This portion of her final song was later engraved on her tombstone, where it can be viewed today in the Mendelssohn family plot in the cemetery of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity) in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Hensel’s final Lied is a joyous ode to music, nature, and the Romantic imagination: the perfect summation of a life well lived.

The Music Room of Fanny Hensel (nee Mendelssohn), 1849. By Julius Helfft, painted the way it had been preserved after her death. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum / Art Resource, NY

Fanny Hensel’s Published Works




Publisher and Date


Sechs Lieder für eine Stimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte

Berlin: Bote & Bock, 1846


‘Schwanenlied’ (Heine)

Fall 1839


‘Wanderlied’ (Goethe)

Summer 1837


‘Warum sind denn die Rosen so blaß?’ (Heine)

26 January 1837


‘Maienlied’ (Eichendorff)

1841 or later


‘Morgenständchen’ (Eichendorff)

1841 or later


‘Gondollied’ (Geibel)

June 4, 1841


Vier Lieder für das Pianoforte

Berlin: Bote & Bock, 1846



19 July 1836


Andante con moto (‘September’ from Das Jahr)

15 November 1841


Allegretto grazioso (‘Villa Mills’)

Fall 1839 – Summer 1840


Allegro molto vivace

28 October 1843


Gartenlieder: Sechs Gesänge für Sopran, Alt, Tenor und Baß

Berlin: Bote & Bock, 1846


‘Hörst du nicht die Bäume rauschen’ (Eichendorff)

3 May 1846


‘Schöne Fremde’ (Eichendorff)

22 July 1846


‘Im Herbste’ (Uhland)

14 June 1846


‘Morgengruß’ (Wilhelm Hensel)

24 June 1846


‘Abendlich schon rauscht der Wald’ (Eichendorff)

7 May 1846


‘Im Wald’ (Geibel)

9 February 1846


Six melodies pour le piano

Berlin: A. M. Schlesinger, 1847


Allegro assai

5 April 1839



21 March – 3 May 1846


Allegro molto quasi Presto

December 1840


Lento appassionato

27 July 1846


Allegro molto vivace

1840 or later


Andante soave

1840 or later


Vier Lieder für das Pianoforte

Berlin: Bote & Bock, 1847


Andante espressivo

11 November 1846


Allegro vivace

Fall 1839 – Summer 1840


Andante cantabile (‘O Traum der Jugend, o goldner Stern’)

16 May 1846


Allegro molto (‘Il Saltarello Romano/Tarentella’)

26–30 March 1841


Sechs Lieder für eine Stimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte

Berlin: Bote & Bock, 1847


‘Nachtwanderer’ (Eichendorff)

1843 or earlier


‘Erwin’ (Goethe)

4 October 1846


‘Frühling’ (Eichendorff)

1846 or earlier


‘Du bist die Ruh’’ (Rückert)

4 May 1839


‘Bitte’ (Lenau)

7 August 1846


‘Dein ist mein Herz’ (Lenau)

11 July 1846


Vier Lieder für das Pianoforte

Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1850


Allegro moderato

14 May 1846


Andante con espressione

1846 or earlier


Lied (Lenau)

1846 or earlier



4 December 1846


Sechs Lieder mit Begleitung der Pianoforte

Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1850


‘Die Ersehnte’ (Hölty)

26 February 1827


‘Ferne’ (Tieck)

29 October 1823


‘Der Rosenkranz’ (Voß)

3 March 1826


‘Die frühen Graber’ (Klopstock)

8 October 1828


‘Der Maiabend’ (Voß)

30 August 1827


‘Die Mainacht’ (Hölty)

24 June 1838


Fünf Lieder mit Begleitung der Pianoforte

Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1850


‘Nach Süden’ (Wilhelm Hensel)

April or May 1841


‘Vorwurf’ (Lenau)

1846 or earlier


‘Abendbild’ (Lenau)

2 September 1846


‘Im Herbste’ (Geibel)

23 January 1846


‘Bergeslust’ (Eichendorff)

13 May 1847


Trio für Violine, Violoncello und Klavier in d-Moll

Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1850 April 1847



  • Anon. [F. Hensel]: Die Schwalbe in Rheinblüthen 1825 (April 1824)
  • F. Mendelssohn: Zwölf Gesänge mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, op.8 (Berlin, 1827)
  • F. Mendelssohn: Zwölf Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte (Erstes Heft: Der Jüngling. Zweites Heft: Das Mädchen) in Musik gesetzt von Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Heft II. op.9 (Berlin, 1830)
  • F. Hensel: Album: Neue Original-Compositionen für Gesang und Piano (Berlin, 1836)
  • F. Hensel: ‘Schloß Liebeneck’, Rhein-Sagen und Lieder (Köln and Bonn, 1839)
  • F. Hensel: Gartenlieder: Sechs Gesänge für Sopran, Alt, Tenor und Bass componirt von Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, op.3 (Berlin and Breslau, 1846)
  • F. Hensel: Sechs Lieder für eine Stimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte von Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, op.1 (Berlin, 1846)
  • F. Hensel: Vier Lieder für das Pianofort von Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, op.2 (Berlin and Breslau, 1846)
  • F. Hensel: Sechs Lieder für eine Stimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte componirt und ihrer Schwester Frau R. Lejeune Dirichlet zugeeignet von Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, 2tes Heft, op.7 (Berlin and Breslau, 1847)
  • F. Hensel: Six melodies pour le piano composées par Fanny Hensel née Mendelssohn- Bartholdy, op.4 livre I and op.5 livre II (Berlin, 1847)
  • F. Hensel: Vier Lieder für das Pianofort von Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, II. Heft, op.6 (Berlin and Breslau, 1847)
  • F. Hensel: Album zum Besten des Frauenvereins zur Erwerbung eines Kriegsfahrzeuges (Berlin, 1848)
  • F. Hensel: Zwei Bagatellen für die Schüler des Schindelmeisser’schen Musik-Institutes componirt von Fanny Hensel (Berlin, 1848)
  • F. Hensel: Fünf Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte componirt von Fanny Cäcilia Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, op.10 (Leipzig, 1850)
  • F. Hensel: Sechs Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte componirt von Fanny Cäcilia Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, op.9 (Leipzig, 1850)
  • F. Hensel: Trio für Pianoforte, Violine und Violoncello componirt von Fanny Cäcilia Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, op.11 (Leipzig, 1850)
  • F. Hensel: Vier Lieder für das Pianoforte componirt von Fanny Cäcilia Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy op.8 (Leipzig, 1850)
  • F. Hensel: Pastorella composé pour le Piano par Fanny Hensel née Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. (Berlin, 1852)
  • F. Hensel: Ave Maria, arr. as a unison song by J. Werner (London, 1934)
  • F. Hensel: The Spinning Girl (Die Spinnerin), ed. J. Werner (London, c. 1959)
  • F. Hensel: Trio für Violine, Violoncello und Klavier, Opus 11 (Munich, 1984)
  • F. Hensel: Ausgewählte Klavierwerke (Munich, 1986) [1st ed. from the autograph ed. by F. Kistner-Hensel, with a foreword by R. Elvers]
  • F. Hensel and F. Mendelssohn: At the Piano with Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, ed. M. Hinson (Van Nuys, CA, 1988)
  • F. Hensel: Prelude für Orgel, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1988)
  • F. Hensel: Streichquartett Es-Dur, ed. G. Marx (Wiesbaden, 1988)
  • F. Hensel: Weltliche a-cappella-Chöre von 1846, Heft 1, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1988) 1988a
  • F. Hensel: Weltliche a-cappella-Chöre von 1846, Heft 2, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1988) 1988b
  • F. Hensel: Weltliche a-cappella-Chöre von 1846, Heft 3, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1988) 1988c
  • F. Hensel: Weltliche a-cappella-Chöre von 1846, Heft 4, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1988) 1988d
  • F. Hensel: Zwei Bagatellen für Klavier, ed. B. Heller (Kassel, 1988)
  • F. Hensel: Adagio für Violine und Klavier, ed. R. Marcian (Kassel, 1989)
  • F. Hensel: Frühzeitiger Frühling, ed. J. Draheim and G. Heinz (Wiesbaden, 1989) 1989a
  • F. Hensel: Unter des Laubdachs Hut, ed. J. Draheim and G. Heinz (Wiesbaden, 1989) 1989b
  • F. Hensel: Das Jahr: 12 Charackterstücke für das Forte-Piano, ed. L. Gavrila Serbescu and B. Heller, 2 vols (Kassel, 1989)
  • F. Hensel: Prélude für Klavier, ed. R. Marciano (Kassel, 1989)
  • F. Hensel: Streichquartett Es-Dur, ed. R. Eggebrecht-Kupsa (Kassel, 1989)
  • F. Hensel: Drei Stücke zu vier Händen, ed. B. Gabler (Kassel, 1990)
  • F. Hensel: Io d’amor, oh Dio, mi moro, concert aria for Soprano and Orchestra, facsimile, ed. H.-G. Klein (Berlin, 1990)
  • F. Hensel: Klavierquartett As-Dur, ed. R. Eggebrecht-Kupsa (Kassel, 1990)
  • F. Hensel: Ausgewählte Lieder für Singstimme und Klavier, ed. A. Assenbaum (Düsseldorf, 1991)
  • F. Hensel: Ouvertüre C-Dur, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1991)
  • F. Hensel: Sonate c-Moll. Sonatensatz E-Dur, ed. L. Gavrila Serbescu and B. Heller (Kassel, 1991) 1991a
  • F. Hensel: Sonate g-Moll für Klavier, ed. L. Gavrila Serbescu and B. Heller (Kassel, 1991) 1991b
  • F. Hensel: Two Duets on Texts by Heinrich Heine, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1991) 1991a
  • F. Hensel: Three Duets on Texts by Heinrich Heine, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1991) 1991b
  • F. Hensel: Three Duets on Texts of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1991) 1991c
  • F. Hensel: Lobgesang, ed. C. Misch (Kassel, 1992) 1992a
  • F. Hensel: Hiob, ed. C. Misch (Kassel, 1992) 1992b
  • F. Hensel: Io d’amor, oh Dio, mi moro, facsimile, ed. W. Gottschalk (Berlin, 1992)
  • F. Hensel: Two Piano Sonatas, ed. J. Radell (Bryn Mawr, 1992).
  • E. Rieger and K. Walter, eds: Frauen Komponieren: 25 Lieder für Singstimme und Klavier (Mainz, 1992)
  • F. Hensel: Ausgewählte Leider für Singstimme und Klavier, Bd. 2, ed. A. Maurer (Wiesbaden, 1993)
  • F. Hensel: Prelude for Organ, ed. B. Harbach (Washington, 1993)
  • F. Hensel: Ausgewählte Leider für Singstimme und Klavier, Bd. 1, ed. A. Maurer (Wiesbaden, 1994)
  • F. Hensel: Faust, Part II of the Tragedy, Act I, for Soprano and Piano with SSAA Soli and Chorus, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1994)
  • F. Hensel: Songs for Pianoforte, 1836–1837, ed. C. Cai (Madison: A-R Editions, 1994)
  • F. Hensel: Three Songs by Fanny Hensel for Voice and Piano, on Texts by Lord Byron, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1994)
  • F. Hensel: Waldruhe, Terzett für Sopran, Alt, Tenor und Klavier, ed. B. Gabler and T. Stöhr (Kassel, 1994)
  • F. Hensel: Zwei Stücke für Violoncello und Klavier, ed. C. Lambour (Wiesbaden, 1994)
  • F. Hensel: Fünf Terzette, ed. B Gabler and T. Stöhr (Kassel, 1995)
  • F. Hensel: Hero und Leander, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1995)
  • F. Hensel: Six Piano Pieces from the 1820s, ed. J. Radell (Bryn Mawr, 1995)
  • F. Hensel: 16 Songs, ed. J.G. Paton (Van Nuys, 1995)
  • F. Hensel: Three Poems from Wilhelm Müller’s ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ by Fanny Hensel for Voice and Piano, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1995) 1995a
  • F. Hensel: Three Romances on Texts by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1995) 1995b
  • F. Hensel: Liederkreis, An Felix: während seiner ersten Abwesenheit in England 1829, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1995) 1995c
  • F. Hensel: Three Poems by Heinrich Heine in the Translation of Mary Alexander, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1995) 1995d
  • F. Hensel: Altes Lied: The Spinstress’ Song: a poem by Clemens Brentano for High Voice and Piano, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1995) 1995e
  • F. Hensel: Festspiel ‘Die Hochzeit kommt’, ed. M. Vana (Kassel, 1996)
  • F. Hensel: Frühe Klavierstücke, Heft I: Leichte Stücke (1823/24), ed. B. Heller (Kassel, 1996) 1996a
  • F. Hensel: Frühe Klavierstücke, Heft II: Mittelschwere Stücke (1824), ed. B. Heller (Kassel, 1996) 1996b
  • F. Hensel: Music for Piano 4 Hands, ed. J. Radell (Bryn Mawr, 1996)
  • F. Hensel: Oratorium nach Bildern der Bible: Musik für die Toten der Cholera-Epidimie, ed. E. Mascha Blankenburg (Kassel, 1996)
  • F. Hensel: Übungsstücke und Etüden, Book 1, ed. A. Huber (Kassel, 1996) 1996a
  • F. Hensel: Übungsstücke und Etüden, Book 2, ed. A. Huber (Kassel, 1996) 1996b
  • F. Hensel: Lyrische Klavierstücke (1836–1839), ed. A. Huber (Kassel, 1996) 1996c
  • F. Hensel: Virtuose Klavierstücke (1838), ed. A. Huber (Kassel, 1996) 1996d
  • F. Hensel: Charakterstücke (1846), ed. A. Huber (Kassel, 1996) 1996e
  • F. Hensel: Vier Klavierstücke zu vier Händen, ed. I. Patay (Adliswil, 1996)
  • F. Hensel: Zum Fest der heiligen Caecilia, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1996)
  • F. Hensel: Five Songs for Voice and Piano by Fanny Hensel on Texts by Wilhelm Müller, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1997) 1997a
  • F. Hensel: Three Romances on Texts by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1997) 1997b
  • F. Hensel: Eight Songs for Voice and Piano by Fanny Hensel on Texts by L. H. Chr. Hölty, ed. S. Summerville (Fairbanks, 1997) 1997c
  • F. Hensel: 5 Klavierstücke aus der Sammlung ‘Zwölf Clavierstücke von Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Für Felix 1843’, ed. R. Hellwig-Unruh (Frankfurt, 1997) 1997a
  • F. Hensel: Klavierstücke 1843–44, ed. R. Hellwig-Unruh (Frankfurt, 1997) 1997b
  • F. Hensel: Prelude F-Dur für Orgel und 1–2 Trompeten, arr. and ed. H. Pfeiffer (Kassel, 1997)
  • F. Hensel: Präludium G-Dur für Orgel, ed. and completion of the fragments by R. Herrmann-Lubin (Kassel, 1997)
  • F. Hensel: Traum: Lied auf einen Text von Joseph von Eichendorff, F-Dur, 1844, für Singstimme und Klavier, ed. H.-G. Klein (Wiesbaden, 1997) [facs. of autograph]
  • F. Hensel: Eine musikalische Italienreise: Ausgewählte Lieder für mittlere Singstimme und Klavier, ed. A. Assenbaum (Kamen, 1998)
  • F. Hensel: Die späten Lieder, für mittlere Stimme und Klavier, ed. A. Assenbaum (Kamen, 1998).
  • F. Hensel: Das Jahr: Zwölf Charakterstücke (1841) für das Fortepiano (Kassel, 2000) [incl. introduction by B. Borchard, A. Suga-Maack, and C. Thorau]




Die Hochzeit kommt (Festspiel, W. Hensel), Dec 1829, 3 S, T, 2 B, SATB, orch (2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 3 tpt, str), in Hensel ed. Vana, 1996


Einleitung zu lebenden Bildern (W. Hensel), SATB, pf, Feb–early March 1841, D-B*


Scenes from Faust, Part II, Scene 1 (Goethe), S, S, S, A, A, SSAA, pf, 23 March–early July 1843, D-B*, ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1994

* = autograph




Lobgesang (‘Song of Praise’ the Bible and J. Mentzer), S, A, SATB, orch (2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2bn, 2 hn, 2 tpt, str), 6 Feb–14 June 1831, D-B* (Klein, Das verborgene Band, 185); in Hensel ed. Misch, 1992a


Hiob (‘Job’; on texts from the Bible), S, A, T, B, SATB, orch (2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, 2 trp, 2 timp, str), 1 July–1 Oct 1831, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Misch, 1992b


Höret zu, merket auf (Choleramusik, the Bible), S, A, T, B, SSAATTBB, orch (2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, 2 tpt, 2 timp, 3 trbn, str), 9 Oct–20 Nov 1831, D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1996


Zum Fest der heiligen Cäcilia (the Mass for St Cecilia), S, A, T, B, SATB, pf, 22–23 Nov 1833, D-B*, inc.; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1996




Overture, C, 2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2bn, 4 hn, 2 tpt, timp, str, 29 March–April or May 1832, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1991






Pf Qt, A♭, 1 May–23 Nov 1822, D-B* (facs. in Weissweiler, 189, and Cadenbach, 82); ed. in Hensel ed. Eggebrecht-Kupsa, 1990


Adagio, vn, pf, E, 28 May 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Marciano, 1989


Sonata o Fantasia, vc, pf, , g, 19–20 Aug [1829], dedicated to Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Lambour, 1994


Capriccio, vc, pf, A♭, Autumn 1829, dedicated to Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Lambour, 1994


Str Qt, E♭, 26 Aug–23 Oct 1834, D-B* (facs. in Klein, Das verborgene Band, 187); ed. in Hensel ed. Marx, 1988; Hensel ed. Eggebrecht-Kupsa, 1989 [reworking of 1829 Sonata for Piano, see h-u246]


Piece, vn(?), pf, g, c. 1841, D-B*, fragment


Pf Trio, April 1847, (1850), autograph lost: ed. in Hensel, 1984

Piano Solo




12 Gavotten für Klavier, Summer 1819, lost


Pf piece, d, 17 March 1820, D-B*


Pf piece, e, 27 Jan–3 March 1821, D-B*


Pf piece, E, 27 Jan–3 March 1821, D-B*


Pf piece, g, 18 May 1821, D-B*


Pf piece, B♭, 16 June 1821, D-B*


Etude, g, 16–18 June 1821, D-B*


Pf piece, A♭, 27 June 1821, D-B*


Pf piece, a, fragment, Summer 1821, D-B*


Sonata, F, Autumn 1821, lost


Sonata movement, E, 29 Jan–19 Feb 1822, D-B* (facs. in Hensel ed. Gavrila Servescu and Heller, 1991)


Etude, C, 6 Nov 1822, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986


Etude, C, 30 April 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, g, 16 May 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, g, 23/24 May 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986


Etude, e♭, 5 June 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, G, 9 July 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, G, 6 Aug 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, C, 2 Sept 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, C, 12 Sept 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, b, 23 Sept 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996b


Etude, g, 24 Oct 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996b


Pf piece, C, 6 Nov 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996b


Pf piece, B♭, 24 Nov 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996b


Etude, d, 3 Dec 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996b


Etude, C, c. 1823, D-B*


Sonata o Capriccio, f, 5–14 Feb 1824, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996c


Toccata, 5/13 March 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996c


Pf piece, c, 27 March 1824, D-B*


Etude, g, 5 May 1824, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1996b


Gigue, e, 28 June 1824, D-B*


Sonata, c, 3 July–c. 19 July 1824, D-B*; ed. Hensel ed. Serbescu and Heller, 1991a, and Hensel ed. Radell, 1992


Pf piece, g, 23 July 1824, D-B*


Pf piece, f, 3 Sept 1824, D-B*


Etude, c, 7 Oct 1824, D-B*


Pf piece, c, 13 Nov 1824, D-B*; ed in Hensel ed. Radell, 1995


32 Fugues, pf, c. late 1824, lost


Pf piece, g, 5 Feb 1825, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986


Pf piece, f, 26 Feb 1825, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986; ed. in Hinson, 1988.


Pf piece, c, 12 March 1825, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Radell, 1995


Capriccio, F♯, 8 Feb 1826, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Radell, 1995


Etude, F, 20 Feb 1826, D-B*


Pf piece, f, 20/21 Feb 1826, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Radell, 1995


Pf piece, d, 12 July 1826, D-B*


Pf piece, c, 23 Aug 1826, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Radell, 1995


Pf piece, c, fragment, 29 Aug 1826, D-B*


Waltz, F♯, 13 Sept 1826, D-B*


Pf piece, lost, c. Oct 1826; see Elvers, B1975, p.217


Fugata, E♭, 26 Jan 1827, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Radell, 1995


Pf piece, b, 29 March 1827, D-B*


Pf piece, f, c. March 1827, D-B*


Pf book, e, by 1827, D-B*; Prelude, Fugue, Allegro di molto, Largo, Prelude, Toccata; fugue fragment, first Prelude ed. in Hensel ed. Marciano, 1989


Pf piece, e, 24 Jan 1828, D-B*


Fugue, late Oct 1828, lost; see Citron, E1987, p. 384


Pf piece, E, 7 Feb 1829, D-B*


Prelude, a, 14 March 1829, frag., D-B*


Sonata (Ostersonate), A, 7 April–10 May 1828 (previously thought April 1829); see Mace [Christian], I(iii)2013 and Mace Christian I(i)forthcoming 2018


Pf piece, a, 31 Aug 1829, D-B*


Sonata, E♭, Oct–Nov1829, unfinished, D-B*; reused as Str Qt, see h-u277


Prelude, a, 30 March 1830, D-B*


Fantasy, A♭, 29 Oct 1830, S-Smf


Das Nordlicht, 24 Jan 1832, frag., D-B*


Pf piece, c, 22 Dec 1832, frag.


Duet, A, c. 1832, D-B* (facs. in Klein, B1997, p.203)


Fugue, E♭, 29 Aug 1833–16 March 1834, D-B*


Pf piece, B♭, 13 March–25 April 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, C, 17 June 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, g, 8 July 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994

301/op.2 no.1

Pf piece, G, 19 July 1836, (1846) D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, f, 15 Aug 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, F, 1 Sept 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, f, 8 Oct 1836, D-B*; GB-Ob, ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Capriccio, f♯, 1836/7, D-B*; ed. Hensel in Cai, 1994


Bagatelle, F, 1836 or later, autograph lost; ed. in Hensel, 1848; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1988


Bagatelle, D, 1836 or later, autograph lost; ed. in Hensel ed. Heller, 1988


Pf piece, B, 4 March 1837, D-B*; ed. Hensel in Cai, 1994


Pf piece, B♭, 28 March 1837, private collection, Berlin*, D-B; ed. in Hensel-Mendelssohn, 1996


Pf piece, c, 5 Oct 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, e, 25 Nov 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Cai, 1994


Pf piece, E, 16 June [1838], D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Pf piece, E♭, 28 June 1838, D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Etude, g, 19 July 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996d


Notturno, g, 15 Oct 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986; ed. in Hinson, 1988


Pf piece, d, 8 Dec 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1995


Pf piece, B♭, 7 Jan 1839, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a

342/op.4/5 no.1

Pf piece, A♭, 5 April 1839, (1847), D-B*, GB-Ob


Gondelfahrt (Serenata), g, 26 Oct 1839, D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997a


Pf piece, A♭, 22 Feb 1840, D-B*


Pf piece, b, 19 March 1840, D-B*


Pf piece, g, 29 March 1840, D-B*


Abschied von Rom (Ponte Molle), a, 22 April 1840, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986; ed. Hinson, 1988


Pf piece (Villa Medicis), A♭, 3–11 May 1840, D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997a

356/op.6 no.2

Pf piece, B, Fall 1839–Spring 1840, (1847), D-B*, GB-Ob

357/op.2 no.3

Pf piece (Villa Mills), E, Fall 1839–Spring 1840, (1846), D-B*, GB-Ob

364/op.4/5 no.3

Pf piece, E, Dec 1840, (1847), D-B*, GB-Ob

365/op.4/5 no.5

Pf piece, G, 1840 or later, (1847), autograph lost

366/op.4/5 no.6

Pf piece, E♭, 1840 or later, (1847), autograph lost


Pf piece, G, 1840–43, autograph lost, copy in GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997a


Pf piece, A♭, 1840–43, autograph lost, copy in GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997a

372/op.6 no.4

Il saltarello romano (Tarantella), 26–30 March 1841, (1847), D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. Hinson, 1988


Pf piece, a, 1 June 1841, D-B*


Pf piece, F♯, 6 Aug 1841, frag., D-B*


Das Jahr, 12 character pieces, pf, 28 Aug–23 Dec 1841, D-B*; facs. ed. Hensel ed. Borchard et. al., 2000

1. Januar, ein Traum, 11 Dec 1841

2. Februar, Scherzo, 28 Aug 1841

3. März, 17 Nov 1841

4. April, Capriccioso, 7 Oct 1841

5. Mai, Frühlingslied, 16 Oct 1841

6. Juni, Serenade (Niederschrift), 29 Oct 1841

6. Juni, Serenade (Reinschrift)

7. Juli, 9 Nov 1841

8. August, 27 Nov 1841

9. September, am Flusse, 15 Nov 1841, (1846) as op.2 no.2; ed. in Hensel ed. Serbescu and Heller, 1989

10. Oktober, 1 Dec 1841

11. November, 4–8 Dec 1841

12. Dezember, 16–23 Dec 1841

13. Nachspiel, Chorale (Das alte Jahr vergangen ist), 15 Dec 1841


Pf piece, g, 20 May 1843, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997b


Pf piece, e, 6 Oct 1843, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997b

394/op.2 no.4

Pf piece, A, 28 Oct 1843, (1846), D-B


Sonata, g, Fall 1843, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Serbescu and Heller, 1991b; Hensel ed. Radell, 1992


Pf piece, E♭, 1843 or earlier, D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997a


Pf piece, g, 27 Jan 1844, D-B*; ed. Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997b


Pf piece, E♭, 27 Jan 1844, frag., D-B*


Pf piece, a, 27 Jan 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997b


Pf piece, e, 14 March 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Hellwig-Unruh, 1997b


Pf piece, c, 20 Jan 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986


Pf piece, B, 21/2 January 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996e


Pf piece, D♭, 4 Feb 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986

420/op.4/5 no.2

Pf piece, c♯, 21 March–3 May 1846, (1847), D-B*

423/op.8 no.1

Pf piece, b, 14 May 1846, (1850), D-B*

424/op.6 no.3

Pf piece (O Traum der Jugend, o goldner Stern), f♯, 16 May 1846, (1847), D-B


Pastorella, A, 25 May 1846, (1848 and 1852), D-B*


Pf piece, d, May 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986


Pf piece, f♯, late May–early June 1846, frag., D-B*

438/op.4/5 no.4

Pf piece, B, 27 July 1846, (1847), D-B*


Pf piece, C, 15 Aug 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a


Pf piece, e, 19 Aug 1846, D-B*


Pf piece, E, 13 Oct 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a

454/op.6 no.1

Pf piece, A♭, 11 Nov 1846, (1847), D-B*


Lied, pf, E♭, 24 Nov 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Huber, 1996a

458/op.8 no.4

Wanderlied, E, 4 Dec 1846, (1850), D-B*


Lied, pf, A, 8 December 1846, D-B*, S-sm; ed. in Hensel, ed. Kistner-Hensel, 1986

461/op.8 no.3

Lied (Lenau), piano, D♭, 1846 or earlier, (1850), autograph lost

463/op.8 no.2

Pf piece, a, 1846 or earlier, (1850), autograph lost

Piano Four-Hands




Walzer für den Herzog von Rovigo, C, 25 July 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Radell, 1996; Hensel ed. Patay, 1996.


Piece, pf 4 hands, E♭, before 27 January 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler, 1990; Hensel ed. Patay, 1996


Piece, pf 4 hands, c, Feb–early March 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler, 1990; Hensel ed. Patay, 1996


Piece, pf 4 hands, A♭, Feb–early March 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler, 1990; Hensel ed. Patay, 1996




Prelude, F, 28 Sep 1829, US-Wc, D-B; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1988; Harbach, 1993; Pfeiffer, 1997


Prelude, G, 2 Oct 1829, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1988


Prelude, G, 22 Oct [1829], frag., D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Herrmann-Lubin, 1997

Choral Songs




Ist uns der Sünden Last zu schwer (Chorale, recitative, and arioso), late Dec 1820, D-B*


Ob deiner Wunderzeichen staunen (S, pf, mid-Jan 1821, arr. S, choir, pf, 27 Jan 1821, D-B*


Pilgerspruch (P. Flemming), S, A, T, B, SATB, 11 Nov 1823, D-B


Nachtreigen (W. Hensel), 8-pt mixed choir, 29 June 1829, D-B*


Dem unendlichen (Klopstock), TTBB, pf, 31 Dec 1832, frag., D-B*

Concert Arias


Hero und Leander (dramatic scene, W. Hensel after Schiller), (S, pf, 21–3 Dec 1831)/(S, orch (2 fl, 2 cl, 2bn, 2hn, 2tpt, serpent, timp, str, 4–21 Jan 1832)), D-B* ed. in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1995


Io d’amor, oh Dio, mi moro, (S, pf)/(S, orch (2 fl, 2 cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, str)), Jan 1835, D-B* (facs. in Hensel ed. Klein, 1990); ed. in Hensel ed. Gottschalk, 1992

Solo Songs

All for solo voice and piano




Lied zum Geburtstag des Vaters’, Ihr Töne schwingt euch fröhlich, 11 Dec 1819, D-B* (facs. in Maurer, A1997, p.16)


Lied des Schäfers (J.L. Casper), 4 March 1820, D-B*


Romance de Claudine (J.P. Claris de Florian), 22 March 1820, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997b


Chanson des bergères (Florian), 5 April 1820, D-B*


Romance de Galatée (Florian), 8 April 1820, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997b


Romance de Célestine (Florian), 17 April 1820, D-B*, ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997b


Isidore (Florian), 26 April 1820, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995b


Die Schönheit nicht, o Mädchen (J.G. Herder), 29 April 1820, D-B*


Némorin I (Florian), 10 May 1820, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995b


Zoraide (Florian), 16 May 1820, D-B*


C’en est fait (Florian), 27 May 1820, D-B*


Annette (Florian), 3 June 1820, D-B*


Sérénade de Cortez (Florian), 3 and 17 June 1820, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995b


Unique objet de ma tendresse (Florian), 17 June 1820, D-B*


Wenn ich ihn nur habe (Novalis), c. June or July 1820, D-B*


Erster Verlust I (Goethe), July 1820, D-B*, D-DÜk


Füllest wieder Busch und Tal (Goethe), Summer 1820, D-B*


Ave Maria (W. Scott), 27 July–27 Sept 1820, D-B*, and private collection (Maurer, A1997, p.57); first ed. The Harmonicon, vol.10/2 (1832): 54ff; arr. J. Werner, 1934


L’Amitié, 27 Sept 1820, D-B*


Schwarz ihre Brauen (F. Grillparzer), 6 Oct 1820, D-B*


C’est une larme, 29 Nov 1820, D-B*


So mußt’ ich von dir scheiden (Scott), 13 Dec 1820, D-B*


Wohl deinem Liebling, late Dec 1820, D-B*


Du stillst der Meere Brausen, early Jan 1821, D-B*


Némorin II (Florian), 3 March 1821, D-B*


Le rocher des deux amants (Florian), 9 March 1821, D-B*


Das stille Fleh’n, 9–21 March 1821, D-B*


La fuite inutile (probably C.J. Begas), 21 March 1821, D-B*


An bord d’une fontaine (J. Bertaut), 21 March–11 May 1821, D-B*


Nähe des Geliebten I (Goethe), 11 May 1821, D-B*


Frühlingserinnerung (F. Robert), 25 May 1821, D-B*, D-Mbs


Fischers Klage (J.L. Casper), March 1822, GB-Ob, PL-Kj, D-DS


Die Nonne (L. Uhland), May 1822, (1830, as Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy op.9), D-B*


Lauf der Welt (Uhland), May or June 1822, D-B*


Lebewohl (W. Hensel), 15 June 1822, D-B*


Der Blumenstrauß (Uhland), 19–25 July 1822, D-B*


Sehnsucht nach Italien (Goethe), 16 Aug 1822, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum (1991); Hensel ed. Assenbaum (1998)


Du hast mein Gott (M. Saaling), early Oct 1822, D-B*


Mon coeur soupire, 14 Oct 1822, D-B*


Im Herbste I (Uhland), 9 Nov 1822, D-B*


Die Linde (L. Hensel), 28 Nov 1822, D-B*


Die Somerrosen blühen (L. Hensel), December 1822, D-B*


Schlaflied (L. Tieck), Dec 1822, D-B*


Der Neugierige (W. Müller), 10 Jan 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995a


Des Müllers Blumen (Müller), 14 Jan 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995a


Das Ständchen (Uhland), 22 Jan 1823, D-B*


Die liebe Farbe (Müller), Jan 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995a


Gebet in der Christnacht (Müller), 1 Feb 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997a


Das Ruhetal (Uhland), Feb 1823, D-B*, private collection, Berlin (Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 24)


Wiegenlied I (H.R. Schick), March 1823, D-B*


Die furchtsame Träne (Schick), 16 April 1823, D-B*


Erinnerung (Grillparzer), 2 May 1823, D-B*


Der Abendstern (J.N. von Mailáth), 18 May 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton 1995.


Lied der Fee (F. Casper), 30 May 1823, D-B*


Die sanften Tage (Uhland), 15 June 1823, D-B*


Der Sänger (Novalis), 18 June 1823, D-B*


Die Schwalbe (F. Robert), 20 June 1823, D-B*, private collection, Berlin (Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 24 and 86); ed. in Rheinblüthen, 1825


Schäfers Sonntagslied (Uhland), 29 June 1823, D-B*


Einsamkeit (Müller), 12 July 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997a


Abendreihn (Müller), 4 July–1 August 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997a; arr. 2 T, 2 B, and Male Choir, arranger and date unknown, D-B*


Seefahrers Abschied (Müller), 1 Aug 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997b


Der Fischer (Goethe), 29 Aug 1823, D-B*; arr. for Male Choir, arranger and date unknown, D-B*


Die Kapelle (Uhland), 6 Sep 1823, D-B*; arr. for Male Choir, arranger and date unknown, D-B*


Am Morgen nach einer Sturm – Im Molo di Gaeta (Grillparzer), 15 Sept 1823, D-B*


Frühe Sorge (L. Tieck), 20 Sept 1823, D-B*


Wanderlied I (F. Robert), 22 Sept 1823, D-B*


Die Spinnerin (Tieck), 30 Sept 1823, D-B*, GB-Ob; ed. in Hensel ed. Werner, 1959


Wonne der Einsamkeit (Tieck), 12 Oct 1823, D-B*


Erster Verlust II (Goethe), 17 Oct 1823, D-B*

97/op.9 no.2

Ferne (Tieck), 29 Oct 1823, (1850), D-B*


Die Liebende (Tieck), Oct 1823, D-B*, private collection, Berlin (Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 81)


Vereinigung (Müller), 22 Nov 1823, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997b


Canzonetta (I. Pindemonte), 11 Dec 1823, D-B*


An die Entfernte (Goethe), 13 Dec 1823, D-B*


Ohne sie (H.W. von Gerstenberg), 26 Dec 1823, D-B*


Mein Herz das ist begraben (Gerstenberg), 31 Dec 1823, D-B*


Die glückliche Fischerin (Müller), c. 1823, lost, (facs. in Todd, I(iii)2007, p. 255


Wo kommst du her? (Gerstenberg), 2 Jan 1824, D-B*


Auf der Wanderung (Tieck), 17 Jan 1824, D-B*: ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Klage (Tieck), 24 Jan 1824, D-B*


Abschied I (Tieck), 24 March 1824, D-B*


Sehnsucht I (F. von Schiller), 3 April 1824, D-B*


Frage (Tieck), 6 April 1824, D-B*


Herbstlied (Tieck), 10 April 1824, D-B*


Frühlingsnähe (F. Robert), 17 April 1824, D-B*, S-sm


An einen Liebenden im Frühling (Tieck), 24 April 1824, D-B*


Mailied (Goethe), 28 April 1824, D-B*; ed in Hensel ed Paton, 1995


Jägers Abendlied (Goethe), 13 May 1824, D-B*


Glück (Tieck), 10 June 1824, D-B*


Leben (Tieck), 24 June 1824, D-B*


Das Heimweh (F. Robert), 19 July 1824, (1827, as Felix Mendelssohn op.8), D-B*


Eilig zieh’n in weiter Ferne (S. Dellevie a.k.a. L. Romainville), 2 Aug 1824, D-B*


Nacht I (L. Tieck), 12 Sept 1824, D-B*


Leiden (J.P. Eckermann), 16 Sept 1824, D-B*


Verlor’nes Glück (Eckermann), 24 Sept [1824], D-B*


Sonnenuntergang (Eckermann), 21 Oct [1824], D-B*


Am stillen Hain, 5 Nov 1824, D-B*


Sehnsucht II (Eckermann), 3 Jan 1825, D-B*, private collection, Berlin


Verloren (Eckermann), 19 Jan 1825, D-B*


Der Einsamwandelnde (Eckermann), 29 Jan 1825, D-B*


Wandrers Nachtlied I (Goethe), 23 March 1825, D-B*


An Suleika (Goethe), 25 April 1825, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993


Suleika I (M. von Willemer), 5 May 1825, D-B*


Deinem Blick mich zu bequemen (Goethe), 3 June 1825, D-B*


Sonnett aus dem 13. Jahrhundert (J.G. Herder, after Thibaut IV), 10 June 1825, D-B*


Das holde Tal I (Goethe), 16 June 1825, frag., D-B*


Mond (L. Hölty), 20 June 1825, D-B*, private collection, Berlin; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Ecco quell fiero istante (Metastasio), 29 June [1825], D-B*


Ist es möglich, Stern der Sterne (Goethe), 13 July 1825, D-B*


Italien (Grillparzer), summer 1825 or earlier, (1827, as Felix Mendelssohn op.8) D-B*, private collection, Berlin


Dir zu eröffnen mein Herz (Goethe), 5 Sept 1825, D-B*


Recitative and Aria ‘Numi clementi – Chi puo dire’ (Metastasio), 5–29 Sept 1825, D-B*


Harfners Lied (Goethe), 5 Nov 1825, D-B*, private collection, Berlin, F-Pn; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993


Erinnerungen in die Heimat (M. Saaling), 8 Nov 1825, D-B*


Die Schläferin (J.H. Voß), Winter 1825/26, D-B*, private collection, Berlin

168/op.9 no.3

Der Rosenkranz (Voß), 3 March 1826, D-B*


Feldlied (Voß), S, A, T, B, 4-part mixed choir, 4 March 1826, D-B*


Der Eichwald brauset (Schiller), 4 March–6 May 1826, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


Am Grabe (Voß), 6 May 1826, D-B*, private collection, Berlin; arr. S, A, T, B, a cappella, 17 Oct 1826, D-B*


Sie liebt, mich liebt die Auserwählte (Voß), 17 May 1826, D-B*


Abendlandschaft (F. von Matthisson), 10 June 1826, D-B*


Erwachen (F. Voigts), 19 June 1826, D-B*


Waldlied (Voigts), 3 July 1826, D-B*, private collection, Berlin (dated 24 Dec 1826)


Mignon (Goethe), 12 July 1826, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1991; Rieger and Walter, 1992; Assenbaum, 1998


Geheimnis (Voigts), 12 July 1826, D-B*, private collection, Berlin


Die Äolsharfe auf dem Schlosse zu Baden/Schloß Liebeneck (F. Robert), 15 July 1826, (1839, in Rhein-Sagen und Lieder), D-B*, private collection, Berlin, D-KNmi


Der Sprosser (Selt), 24 July 1826, D-B*


An einem Herbstabende (G. Schulz), 23 Aug 1826, D-B*


Der Frühlingsabend (Voß), 29 Aug–26 Oct 1826, D-B*


Marias Klage (Voß), 14 Nov 1826, D-B*, private collection, Berlin


Nähe des Geliebten II (Goethe), 18 Nov 1826, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Sehnsucht III (Voß), 23 Nov 1826, D-B*, private collection, Berlin; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Neujahrslied (Voß), 22 December 1826, D-B*


Sehnsucht IV (Hölty), 24 Jan 1827, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Maigesang (Hölty), 4 Feb 1827, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Seufzer (Hölty), 14 Feb 1827, D-B*, private collection, Berlin; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c

196/op.9 no.1

Die Ersehnte (Hölty), 26 Feb 1827, (1850), D-B*; ed. in Rieger, 1992


Kein Blick der Hoffnung (Hölty), 4 March 1827, D-B*; ed. in Maurer, 1994


An den Mond (Hölty), 16 March 1827, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Die Schiffende (Hölty), 27 March 1827, D-B*, private collection, Berlin, GB-Ob (facs. in Maurer, A1997, p.84); first ed. Hensel, Schlesinger, 1836; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


An die Ruhe (Hölty), 30 March 1827, D-B*, (facs. in Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis); private collection, Berlin; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Sehnsucht V (Hölty), 2 May 1827, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Am Flusse (Goethe), 27 May 1827, D-B*


Sehnsucht VI (Voß) 4–22 July 1827, D-B*


Umsonst (Voß), 24 July 1827, D-B*


Was will die einsame Träne (Heine), 5 Aug 1827, D-B*

208/op.9 no.5

Der Maiabend (Voß), 30 Aug 1827, (1850), D-B*, GB-Ob (facs. Citron, E1987, p.98, Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 72); ed. in Rieger, 1992


Die Sommernacht (Klopstock), 12 Sept 1827, D-B*, private collection, Berlin; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Suleika II (Willemer), 4 Oct 1827, D-B*


Achmed an Irza (H. Stieglitz), 16 Nov 1827, D-B*


Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen (Heine), 14 Dec 1827, D-B*


Verlust (Heine), 28 Dec 1827, (1830, as Felix Mendelssohn op.9 no.10), D-B*, private collection, Berlin


Wenn ich mir in stiller Seele (Goethe), 19 Jan 1828, D-B* (facs. in Klein, B1997, p.89)


Sehnsucht VII (F.A. Märcker), 17 Feb 1828, D-B*


Abendluft (Hölty), mid-June 1828, D-B*: ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1997c


Sehnsucht VIII (Droysen), 24 June 1828, (1830 as Felix Mendelssohn op.9 no.7), D-B*, private collection, Berlin


Allnächtlich in Traume (Heine), 21 July 1828, D-B*


Heut’ in dieser Nacht (Droysen), 5 Aug 1828, D-B*

222/op.9 no. 4

Die frühen Gräber (Klopstock), 9 Oct 1828, (1850), D-B*, private collection, Berlin; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994; arr. B, va, 2 vc, lost, see Citron, E1987, p.392


Über die Berge steigt schon die Sonne (Heine), 20 Nov 1828, D-B*


Nacht II (Heine), 20 Nov 1828, D-B*, GB-Ob; version for SATB, Fall 1846, D-B


Aglae (Goethe), 30 Dec 1828, D-B*


Wonne der Wehmut (Goethe), c. 1828, D-B*


Gram (Droysen), 6 Jan 1829, D-B*


Selmar und Selma (Klopstock), 4 March 1829, D-B*


Durch zartes Mailaub blinckt die Abendröte (Voß), 26 March 1829, D-B*


Lied (Droysen), 20 May 1829, lost: see Citron, E1987, p.396


Liederkreis (Droysen), 25 May–6 June 1829, dedicated to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, D-B*, GB-Ob; (facs. of no.1 in Citron, E1987, Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, Klein, B1997, Das verborgene Band); ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995c

no.1: Lebewohl

no.2: Grüner Frühling, süße Mailuft!

no.3: Nun ist’s nicht öd in meiner Brust

no.4: O sprich, wo blieb dein heit’rer Sinn?

no.5: Im Hochland Bruder da schweifst du umher

no.6: Wiedersehn (S, A, T)


Lieder cycle (W. Hensel and Droysen), c. Augt–Sept 1829, lost or never written: see Citron, E1987, p.420


Schlafe, schlaf! (W. Hensel), 21 Sept 1829, D-B*


Zu deines Lagers Füßen (W. Hensel), Oct 1829, D-B*


Wie dunkel die Nacht, 19 Jan 1830, D-B*


Lied, G, 18 March 1830, draft, D-B*


Genesungsfeier (W. Hensel), 10/11 April 1830, D-B*


Minnelied des Grafen Peter von Provence (Tieck), 16 Nov 1830, D-B*


Frühlingslied (W. Hensel), 19 Nov 1830, D-B*


Der Schnee der ist geschmolzen (possibly W. Hensel), early 1831, D-B*


Nacht III (F. Robert), 1 Oct 1831, D-B*


O wie beseeligend gehen und kommen die Stunden (possibly W. Hensel), 21 Dec 1831, D-B*


Wiegenlied II (possibly W. Hensel), 14 Sept 1832, D-B*


Gegenwart (Goethe), 1 Aug 1833, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


In die Ferne (Hölty), 29 Aug 1833, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1991; Hensel geb. Mendelssohn ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Drei Lieder nach Heine von Mary Alexander (Heine), 16 March 1834, D-B* (facs. in Alexander, E1979, p.17); private collection, England; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995d

1. Once o’er my Dark and Troubled Life

2. I Wander through the Wood and Weep

3. What Means the Lonely Tear?


Der Pilgrim vor St Just (A.G. von Platen), 18 May 1834, D-B*


Wo sich gatten jene Schatten (Platen), 29 May 1834, D-B*


Ich ging lustig durch den grünen Wald (from Des Knaben Wunderhorn), June 1834–early 1835, D-B*


An Cidli (Klopstock), 22 May 1835, frag., D-B*


Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’ (Goethe), 22 Aug 1835, D-B*; Hensel ed. in Maurer, 1993


Wenn der Frühling kommt (Heine), 24 Aug 1835, D-B*


Wie dich die warme Luft unscherzt (Platen), 26 Feb 1836, D-B*


Gleich Merlin (Heine), 13 March 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Neue Liebe, neues Leben (Goethe), 3 May 1836, D-B*; ed. in Rieger and Walter, 1992


Das Meeresleuchten, 21 Nov 1836, D-B*


Suleika III (Willemer), 4 Dec 1836, D-B* (facs. Citron, E1897, p.200); GB-Ob Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 156); ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993


There Be None of Beauty’s Daughters (Byron), 29 Dec 1836, D-B* (facs. in Klein, B1997, p.201); ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1994

312/op.1 no.3

Warum sind denn die Rosen so blaß? (Heine), 26 Jan 1837, (1846, R1983, 1985), D-B*, GB-Ob (facs. in Citron, E1987, p.354); ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


Altes Lied (C. Brentano), 26 May 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1995e


Farewell! (Byron), 1 June 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1994

317/op.1 no.2

Wanderlied II (Goethe), Summer 1837 (1946, R1983, 1985), D-B


Bright be the Place of Thy Soul (Byron), Summer 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1994


Ach, die Augen sind es wieder (Heine), 20 Dec 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993


Fichtenbaum und Palme (Heine), 30 March 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993

331/op.9 no.6

Die Mainacht (Hölty), 24 June 1838 (1850), D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen (Heine), 7 Augt 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Das Meer erglänzte weit hinaus (Heine), 6 Sept 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995


Sehnsucht IX (Goethe), 2 Feb 1839, D-B*; ed. in Henseled. Assenbaum, 1991; Hensel geb. Mendelssohn ed. Assenbaum, 1998

343/op.7 no.4

Du bist die Ruh’ (Rückert), 4 May 1839, (1847), D-B*


Deh torna a me (L. Ariosto), 14 March 1840, D-B*


Hausgarten (Goethe), early 1840, D-B* (facs. in Weissweiler, Komponistinnen aus 500 Jahren, 198–201), D-DÜk

358/op.1 no.1

Schwanenlied (Heine), Fall 1839–Summer 1840, (1846), D-B


Der Fürst vom Berge (W. Hensel), Fall 1839–Summer 1840, D-B*


Wanderers Nachtlied II (Goethe), after 1840, D-DÜk*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993

373/op.10 no.1

Nach Süden (W. Hensel), April or May 1841, (1850), D-B* (facs. in Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 134); ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


Von dir, mein Lieb, ich scheiden muß (P. Kaufmann after R. Burns), 30 March–31 May 1841, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995

377/op.1 no.6

Gondellied (Geibel), 4 June 1841, (1846), D-B*, D-F


Anklänge, Drei Lieder (Eichendorff), 7 June 1841, D-B*; ed. in Henseled. Assenbaum, 1991; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998

1. Vöglein in den sonn’gen Tagen

2. Ach! Wie ist es doch gekommen

3. Könnt’ ich zu den Wäldern flüchten


Traurige Wege (Lenau), 28 July 1841, D-B*; ed. in Henseled. Assenbaum, 1991; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Auf dem See von Como (Goethe), 11 Aug 1841, D-B*; ed. in Henseled. Assenbaum, 1991 and 1998


Totenklage (J. Kerner), 14 Aug 1841, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995

387/op.1 no.4

Maienlied (Eichendorff), 1841 or later, (1846), autograph lost

388/op.1 no.5

Morgenständchen (Eichendorff), 1841 or later, (1846), autograph lost


Wer dich gesehn (W. or F. Hensel), 15 May 1843, private collection, Berlin


Dämmrung senkte sich von oben (Goethe), 28 Aug 1843, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993

397/op.7 no.1

Nachtwanderer (Eichendorff), 1843 or earlier, (1847), D-B*, D-DÜhh, S-sm; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994


Zauberkreis (Rückert), late 1843/early Jan 1844, D-B*


Mutter, o sing mich zur Ruh’ (F.D. Hemans), late 1843/early 1844, D-B*


Die Stille (Eichendorff), 5 Jan 1844, D-B*


Liebe in der Fremde (Eichendorff), 6 Jan 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel geb. Mendelssohn ed. Assenbaum, 1991; Hensel geb. Mendelssohn ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Im Herbst (Eichendorff), 27 Jan 1844, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993


Liederzyklus (W. Hensel), Summer 1844, lost


Traum (Eichendorff), 1844 or earlier, D-B* (facs. ed. in Hensel ed. Klein, 1997)


Das Veilchen, 23 Jan 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995; Henseled. Assenbaum, 1998

416/op.10 no.4

Im Herbste II (Geibel), 23 Jan 1846, (1850), D-B; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Es rauscht das rote Laub (Geibel), 21 March 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Erwache Knab’ erwache (W. Hensel), 16 June 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998

434/op.7 no.6

Dein ist mein Herz (Lenau), 11 July 1846, (1847), D-B*

440/op.7 no.5

Bitte (Lenau), 7 Aug 1846, (1847), D-B*


Stimme der Glocken (Lenau), 28 Aug 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998

446/op.10 no.3

Abendbild I (Lenau), 2 Sept 1846, (1850), D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998

450/op.7 no.2

Erwin (Goethe), 4 October 1846, (1847), D-B*


Ich kann wohl manchmal singen (Eichendorff), 5 Oct 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Nacht ist wie ein stilles Meer (Eichendorff), 22 Oct 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1993; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Abendbild II (Lenau), 21 Nov 1846, D-B*; ed. in Henseled. Assenbaum, 1998


Beharre (H. von Chézy), 27 Nov 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1995; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998


Kommen und Scheiden (Lenau), 27 Dec 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Paton, 1985; Hensel ed. Assenbaum, 1998

462/op.10 no.2

Vorwurf (Lenau), 1846 or earlier, (1850), autograph lost

464/op.7 no.3

Frühling (Eichendorff), 1846 or earlier, (1847), autograph lost; ed. in Hensel ed. Maurer, 1994

466/op.10 no.5

Bergeslust (Eichendorff), 13 May 1847, (1850), autograph lost, GB-Ob (facs. in Citron, E1987, p.364, and Maurer, A1997, Verzeichnis, 60)

Vocal Duets



Suleika und Hatem (Goethe), 28 April 1825, (1827 as Felix Mendelssohn, op.8), D-B*, GB-Ob, private collection, Berlin, D-F


Schäfergesang (Tieck), 29 Sept 1825, D-B*


Ich hab’ ihn gesehen (Goethe), 26 Oct 1826, D-B*


Schlafe du, schlafe du süß (Droysen), 11 April 1829, D-B*


So soll ich dich verlassen (W. Hensel), 30 Jan 1832, D-B*


In der stillen Mitternacht (Herder), S, Bar (B), 26 Feb 1835, D-B


Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast (Heine), 2 S, 20 June–22 August 1835, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991a


Der Strauß (Goethe), 2 S, Summer 1835, D-B*


Ein Hochzeitbitter (A.G. von Platen), 2 S, 7–15 Feb 1836, D-B*


März (Goethe), 2 S, pf, 25 April 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991c


April (Goethe), 2 S, pf, 25–8 April 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991c


Mai (Goethe), 2 S, 28 April 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991c


Die Mitternacht war kalt (Heine), 2 S, 1836/7, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville 1991a


Sprich, o sprich, wird Liebe mahnen, S, T, pf, 15 Sept 1837, D-B*


Im wunderschönen Monat Mai (Heine), 2S/(S, A), pf, Fall 1837, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991b


So hast du ganz und gar vergessen (Heine), 2 S, 16 Dec 1837, D-B*


Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen (Heine), S, A, pf, 1837/8, frag., autograph lost, D-B


Aus meinen Tränen sprießen (Heine), 2 S, pf, 4 Jan 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991b


Wenn ich in deine Augen sehe (Heine), 2 S, 6 June 1838, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Summerville, 1991b


Blumenlied (Hölty), 2 S/(S, A), pf, 8 Sept 1838, D-B


Verschiedene Trauer (Anastasius Grün), S, A, pf, 23–5 March 1839, D-B*


Strahlende Ostsee (A.H. Niemeyer), S, A, 20 July 1839, D-B*


Das holde Tal II (Goethe), S, T, pf, 10–11 April 1840, D-B*, S-Smf


L’Âme triste (Lamartine), S, T, pf, mid-May 1840, D-B


Mein Liebchen, wir saßen beisammen (Heine), 2 S, pf, Fall 1839–Summer 1840, D-B*


Drei Duette (Otto IV ‘mit dem Pfeil’–M. von Brandenburg), 12 Dec 1840, D-B*

1. Wiederkehrt ein lichter Mai nach der langen Winternacht

2. Winter, was hat dir getan?

3. Zeigt mir den Weg, zu meiner lieben Frauen


Der Winterwind entflieht, S, A, 31 May 1841, D-B*


Die Sennin (Lenau), S, T, pf, 11 Aug 1841, D-B*, GB-Ob

Vocal Trios



Abschied II (Heine), 2 S, T, 15 June 1835, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler and Stöhr, 1995


Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends (Heine), 20 June 1835, D-B*, GB-Ob ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler and Stöhr, 1995


Wie Feld und Au (Goethe), 2 S, T, Summer 1835, D-B*


Frühzeitiger Frühling (Goethe), 2 S, T, 7 Feb 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Draheim and Heinz, 1989a; ed. Hensel ed. Gabler and Stöhr, 1995


Winterseufzer, 2S, T, 15 Feb 1836, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler and Stöhr, 1995


Komm mit (F. von Woringen), S, A, T, pf, Aug/Sept 1837, D-B*


Sage mir, was mein Herz begehrt (Goethe), 2 S, A, Feb 1840


Waldruhe (A. Rolein), S, A, T, pf, 22 June 1841, D-B; ed. in Hensel ed. Gabler and Stöhr, 1994


Wer will mir wehren zu singen (Goethe), S, A, B, 3 Sept 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1988d

Vocal Quartets



Laß dich nur nichts nicht dauern (Paul Flemming), 29 Sept–5 Nov 1825, D-B*


Laß fahren hin (Goethe), 2 T, 2 B, Fall 1839–Summer 1840, D-B*


Dämmernd liegt der Sommerabend (Heine), S, A, T, B, Fall 1839–Summer 1840, D-B*


Unter des Laubdachs Hut (Shakespeare), 27 Jan 1841, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Draheim and Heinz, 1989b


Wenn wir durch die Dörfer ziehen, 2 T, 2 B, c. 1843, D-B*

418/op.3 no.6

Im Wald (Geibel), 9 Feb 1846, D-B*

421/op.3 no.1

Hörst du nicht die Bäume rauschen (Eichendorff), 3 May 1846, (1846), D-B*

422/op.3 no.5

Abendlich schon rauscht der Wald (Eichendorff), 7 May 1846, (1846), D-B*

430/op.3 no.3

Im Herbste III (Uhland), 14 June 1846, (1846), D-B*

432/op.3 no.4

Morgengruß I (W. Hensel), 24 June 1846, (1846), D-B*


Morgengruß II (W. Hensel), S, A, T, B, 29 June 1846 (first version)–early July (second version), D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1988b


Ariel from Faust Part I, Walpurgisnachtstraum (Goethe), S, A, T, B, 18 July 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1988b


Abend (Eichendorff), S, A, T, B, 20 July 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel ed. Blankenburg, 1988b

437/op.3 no.2

Schöne Fremde (Eichendorff), 22 July 1846, (1846), D-B*


Lust’ge Vögel (Eichendorff), 2 S, A, Bar, 14 Aug 1846, D-B*


Schilflied (Lenau), S, A, T, B, 29 Aug 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1988d


O Herbst, in linden Tagen (Eichendorff), S, A, T, B, 16 Sept 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1988d


Schon kehren die Vögel wieder ein (Eichendorff), S, A, T, B, Sept 1846, D-B*; ed. in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1988d

Secular Choral Works



Waldeinsam (W. Hensel), S, A, T, B, SATB, 6 June 1846, D-B*; ed in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1988a


Morgenwanderung (Geibel), S, A, T, B, SATB, 10 June 1846, D-B*; ed in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1988a


Schweigend sinkt die Nacht hernieder (W. Hensel), S, A, T, B, SATB, 29 July 1846, D-B*; ed in Hensel-Mendelssohn ed. Blankenburg, 1988c

Composition Exercises



6 Counterpoint Exercises, pf, C, G, F, Dec 1820, D-B*


Beginning of a fugue, pf, B♭, Jan 1821, D-B*


11 Counterpoint Exercises in minuet form, pf, D, D, g, g, D, C, C, a, C, F, F, early 1821, D-B*

Chorale Arrangements



2 chorale arrs. on ‘Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt’, pf, F, Dec 1820, D-B*


Chorale arr., pf, E♭, Dec 1820, D-B*


Chorale arr., pf, C, Dec 1820, D-B*


Chorale arr. on ‘Der Seelen Ruhe ist es, Gott’, 4-part mixed choir, A♭, Dec 1820, D-B*


Chorale arr. on ‘Dein Drohen selbst, O Gott des Heils!’, 4-part mixed choir, b, 31 Dec 1820, D-B*


Chorale arr., pf, d, early 1821, D-B*

Cadenzas, arrangements, and transcriptions

Johann Sebastian Bach



Transcr. of Cantata, Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben bwv102, before 1838, GB-Ob


Transcr. of 4 Preludes and Fugues for the Organ bwv541, 578, 566, and 549, possibly 1830s, GB-Ob


Transcr. of Cantata, Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir bwv38, before 1838, GB-Ob*


Pf arr. of Sonatina from the cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit bwv106, E♭June 1845, D-B*


Pf arr. of Aria, Drauf schließ ich mich in deine Hände from the motet Komm, Jesu, komm mein Leib ist müde bwv229, g, June 1845, D-B*


Transcr of selected voice parts of Liebster Gott, wann wird’ ich sterben bwv483 (Bach), GB-Ob

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart



Transcr. of Menuett from Don Giovanni, Act I, Finale, pf, early 1821, F, D-B*


Transcr. of Aria for soprano, Fra l’oscure ombre funeste, from Davidde penitente k469, 1837, D-B*, transposed from C to B♭ with added cadenza

Ludwig van Beethoven



Cadenza to Pf Conc. op.15, 1st movt, 11 April 1823, D-B*


Transcr. from Leonore Ov. no.2, op.72, c. 1824, D-B*


Transcr. of the Cadenza to Pf Conc. op.58, 1st movt, D-B

Franz Joseph Haydn


Transcr. of S part to Betrachtung des Todes (C.F. Gellert), D-B


Transcr. of S part to Aus dem Danklied zu Gott (Gellert), D-B


Transcr. of A part to Abendlied zu Gott (Gellert), frag., D-B

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy



Transcr., 8-part mixed choir, Mitten wir im Leben sind, op.23 no.3, c. 1840


Vocal transcr. of Athalie op.74, 1843 or later, GB-Ob




Arr. of J’ai perdu tout mon bonheur from Le Devin du village (Rousseau), S, 2 vn, va, db, f, 1 May 1821 D-B*


Instrumentation of a Handel aria, early 1829, lost


Transcr. of B part of Final chorus from Iphigenie in Aulis (Gluck), mid-1830s, GB-Ob*


Arr. of Schwäbisches Tanzlied, Jähns No. 135 (Carl Maria von Weber), 4 vv, , D-B*


A. Catalogues of works
  • P.-A. Koch: Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn: (1805–1847): Kompositionen: eine Zusammenstellung der Werke, Literatur und Schallplatten (Frankfurt, 1993)
  • H.-G. Klein: Die Kompositionen Fanny Hensels in autographen und abschriften aus dem Besitz der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz: Katalog (Tutzing, 1995)
  • A. Maurer: Thematisches Verzeichnis der klavierbegleiteten Sololieder Fanny Hensels (Kassel, 1997)
  • R. Hellwig-Unruh: Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: thematisches Verzeichnis der Kompositionen (Adliswil, 2000)
B. Collections and exhibitions
  • R. Elvers: ‘Verzeichnis der Musik-Autographen von Fanny Hensel im Mendelssohn Archiv Berlin’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.1 (Berlin, 1972), 169–74
  • R. Elvers: ‘Weitere Quellen zu den Werken von Fanny Hensel’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.2 (Berlin, 1975), 215–20
  • H.-G. Klein: ‘Autographe und Abschriften von Werken Fanny Hensels im Mendelssohn-Archiv zu Berlin’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.7 (Berlin, 1990), 343–5
  • H.-G. Klein: Die Kompositionen Fanny Hensels in Autographen und Abschriften aus dem Besitz der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Tutzing, 1995)
  • H.-G. Klein: Das verborgene Band: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und seine Schwester Fanny Hensel: Ausstellung der Musikabteilung der Staatsbibliothek zu BerlinPreussischer Kulturbesitz zum 150. Todestag der beiden Geschwister, 15. Mai bis 12. Juli 1997 (Wiesbaden, 1997)
  • H.-G. Klein: Die Mendelssohns in Italien: Ausstellung des Mendelssohns-Archivs der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Wiesbaden, 2002)
C. Bibliographies
  • J.M. Cooper: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: a Guide to Research: With an Introduction to Research Concerning Fanny Hensel (New York, 2001)
  • L. Stokes: Fanny Hensel: a Research and Information Guide (New York, forthcoming)
D. Iconography
  • C. Lowenthal-Hensel: ‘Wilhelm Hensel: Fanny und Felix im Porträt’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.10 (Berlin, 1997), 9–24
  • J. Wasserman: ‘Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Portrait Iconographies’, Music in Art, vol.33/1–2 (2008), 317–71
E. Letters
  • B. Alexander: ‘Some Unpublished Letters of Abraham Mendelssohn and Fanny Hensel’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.3 (Berlin, 1979), 9–50
  • M. Citron: ‘Fanny Hensel’s Letters to Felix Mendelssohn in the Green-Books Collection at Oxford’, Mendelssohn and Schumann: Essays on their Music and its Context, ed. J.W. Finson and R.L. Todd (Durham, 1984), 99–108
  • R. Elvers: ‘Fanny Hensel’s Briefe aus München 1839’, Ars iocundissima: Festschrift Kurt Dorfmüller zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. H. Leuchtmann and R. Münster (Tutzing, 1984), 65–8
  • M. Citron: The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn (Stuyvesant, NY, 1987)
  • E. Weissweiler: Fanny und Felix Mendelssohn: ‘Die Musik will gar nicht rutschen ohne Dich’: Briefwechsel 1821 bis 1846 (Berlin, 1997)
  • H.-G. Klein, ed.: F. Hensel: Briefe aus Rom an ihre Familie in Berlin, 1839/40 (Wiesbaden, 2002)
  • H.-G. Klein, ed.: F. Hensel: Briefe aus Paris an ihre Familie, 1835 (Wiesbaden, 2007)
  • H.-G. Klein: ‘Die Mendelssohns auf der Flucht: Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy und seine Familie 1813 in Wien’, Mendelssohn-Studien vol.15 (2007), 199–206
  • J. Appold and R. Back, eds: Felix Mendelssohn: Sämtliche Briefe, vol.1 (2008)
  • U. Wald and T. Kauba, eds: Felix Mendelsshon: Sämtliche Briefe, vol.5 (2012)
F. Facsimile reprints of documents
  • B. Borchard, ed.: F. Hensel: Das Jahr, zwölf Charakterstücke (1841) für das Fortepiano, illustrierte Reinschrift mit Zeichnungen von Wilhelm Hensel: Faksimile nach dem Autograph aus dem Besitz des Mendelssohn-Archivs der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Kassel, 2000)
  • H.-G. Klein, ed. ‘O glückliche, reiche, einzige Tage’: Fanny und Wilhelm Hensels italienische Reise; mit einem Faksimile der 18 Bildseiten aus dem ‘Reise-Album 1839-1840 (Wiesbaden, 2006)
G. Life and works
  • MGGO (M. Schwarz-Danuser)
  • V. Sirota: The Life and Works of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (diss., Boston U., 1981)
  • F. Tillard: Fanny Mendelssohn (Paris, 1992; Eng. trans., C. Naish, 1996)
  • U. Büchter-Römer: Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 2001)
  • C. Bartsch: Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Musik als Korrespondenz (Kassel, 2007)
  • P. Schleuning: Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn: Musikerin der Romantik (Vienna, 2007)
  • R.L. Todd: Fanny Hensel: the Other Mendelssohn (Oxford, 2010)
H. Memoirs, recollections, diaries
  • S. Hensel: Die Familie Mendelssohn (1729–1847) nach Briefen und Tagebüchern (Berlin, 1879; Eng. trans., C. Klingemann [Jr.], London, 1882)
  • E. Weissweiler, ed.: F. Hensel: Italienisches Tagebuch (Frankfurt, 1982)
  • H.-G. Klein and R. Elvers, eds.: F. Hensel: Tagebücher (Wiesbaden, 2002)
  • W. Dinglinger, ed.: S. Hensel: Hier fiel Mutter vom Esel: Reisen nach Italien mit den Eltern Wilhelm Hensel und Fanny, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: das Tagebuch von 1839/40 und die Zeichnungen von 1845 (Hannover, 2011)
I. Works
    (i) Instrumental
    • J.E. Toews: ‘Memory and Gender in the Remaking of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Musical Identity: the Chorale in “Das Jahr”’, MQ, vol.77 (1993), 727–48
    • C. Cai: ‘Fanny Hensel’s Songs for Pianoforte of 1836–37: Stylistic Interaction with Felix Mendelssohn’, JMR, vol.14 (1994), 55–76
    • C. Cai: ‘Texture and Gender: New Prisms for Understanding Hensel’s and Mendelssohn’s Music Piano Pieces’, Nineteenth-Century Piano Music: Essays in Performance and Analysis, ed. D. Witten (New York, 1997), 53–93
    • B. Borchard and M. Schwarz-Danuser, eds.: Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: komponieren zwischen Geselligkeitsideal und romantischer Musikästhetik (Stuttgart, 1999) [incl. C. Bartsch: ‘Das Lied ohne Worte op. 6,1 als offener Brief’, 55–72; R. Hellwig-Unruh: ‘Zur Entstehung von Fanny Hensels Streichquartett in Es-Dur (1829/34)’, 121–40; C. Thorau: ‘“Das spielende Bild des Jahres”: Fanny Hensels Klavierzyklus Das Jahr’, 73–8]
    • C. Cai: ‘Virtuoso Texture in Fanny Hensel’s Piano Music’, The Mendelssohns: their Music in History, ed. J.M. Cooper and J.D. Prandi (Oxford, 2003), 263–78
    • M. Bar-Shany: ‘The Roman Holiday of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’, Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online (2006),
    • A. Huber: Das ‘Lied ohne Worte’ als kunstbegreifendes Experiment: Eine komparatistische Studie zur Intermedialität des Instrumentalliedes 1830–1850 (Tutzing, 2006)
    • R.L. Todd: ‘Fanny Hensel’s Op. 6 No. 1 and the Art of Musical Reminiscence’, Nineteenth- Century Music Review, vol.4/2 (2007), 89–100
    • M. Wilson Kimber: ‘Fanny Hensel’s Seasons of Life: Poetic Epigrams, Vignettes, and Meaning in Das Jahr’, JMR, vol.27 (2008), 17–36
    • A. Huber: ‘“Lieder, die vom Weiten wie Klavierstücke aussehen”: Die Verwirklichung einer Utopie durch die Geschwister Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’, Mendelssohn- Interpretationen: Der unbekannte Mendelssohn: Das Liedschaffen, ed. D. Sackmann (Bern, 2011), 141–72
    • A.R. Mace [Christian]: ‘Improvisation, Elaboration, Composition: the Mendelssohns and the Classical Cadenza’, Mendelssohn Perspectives, ed. N. Grimes and A.R. Mace [Christian] (Aldershot, 2012), 223–48
    • A. Mace Christian: ‘Authorship, Attribution, and the Historical Record: Solving the Mystery of the Easter Sonata by Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy’, MQ, (forthcoming 2018)
    (ii) Vocal
    • R. Hellwig-Unruh: ‘Die “Cholerakantate” von Fanny Hensel’, Musica, vol.50 (1996), 121–3
    • G. Eberle: ‘Eroberung des Dramatischen: Fanny Hensels Hero und Leander’, Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: das Werk, ed. M. Helmig (Munich, 1997), 131–8
    • W. Gundlach: ‘Fanny Hensels geistliche Kantaten’, Forum Kirchenmusik, vol.6 (1997), 219–24
    • A. Maurer: ‘Biographische Einflüsse auf das Liedschaffen Fanny Hensel’, Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: das Werk, ed. M. Helmig (Munich, 1997), 33–41
    • W. Gundlach: ‘Die Chorlieder von Fanny Hensel: eine späte Liebe?’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.11 (1999), 105–30
    • M. Wilson Kimber: ‘Zur frühen Wirkungsgeschichte Fanny Hensels’, Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: komponieren zwischen Geselligkeitsideal und romantischer Musikästhetik, ed. B. Borchard and M. Schwarz-Danuser (Stuttgart, 1999), 248–62
    • D. Seaton: ‘Mendelssohn’s Cycles of Songs’, The Mendelssohns: their Music in History, ed. J.M. Cooper and J.D. Prandi (New York, 2003), 203–29
    • C. Fontijn: ‘Bach-Rezeption und Lutherischer Choral in der Musik von Fanny Hensel und Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’, ‘Zu groß, zu Unerreichbar’: Bach-Rezeption im Zeitalter Mendelssohns und Schumanns, ed. A. Hartinger, C. Wolff, and P. Wollny (Leipzig, 2007), 255–77
    • S. Wolitz: Fanny Hensels Chorwerke (Tutzing, 2007)
    • Y. Malin: ‘Hensel: Lyrical Expansions, Elisions, and Rhythmic Flow’, Songs in Motion: Rhythm and Meter in the German Lied (Oxford, 2010), 69–94
    • S. Rodgers: ‘Fanny Hensel’s Lied Aesthetic’, Journal of Musicological Research, vol.30/3 (2011), 175–201
    • S. Rodgers: ‘Thinking (and Singing) in Threes: Triple Hypermeter and the Songs of Fanny Hensel’, Music Theory Online, vol.17/1 (2011)
    • A. Mace Christian: ‘“Der Jüngling und das Mädchen”: Fanny Hensel, Felix Mendelssohn and the Zwölf Lieder, op. 9’, Women and the Nineteenth-Century Lied, ed. A. Kenny and S. Wollenberg (Aldershot, 2015), 63–84
    • S. Rodgers, ed.: The Songs of Fanny Hensel (Oxford, forthcoming 2020)
    (iii) Miscellaneous topics
    • A.B. Marx: Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol.4 (June 6, 1827), 179
    • J. Thomson: Harmonicon, vol.8 (1839), 99
    • K.V. von Ense: Denkwürdigkeiten und vermischte Schriften, Leipzig 1843–1859, Bd. 9 (Leipzig, 1859), 614–15
    • M. Citron: ‘Gender, Professionalism and the Musical Canon’, JM, vol.8 (1990), 102–17
    • N. Reich: ‘The Power of Class: Fanny Hensel’, Mendelssohn and his World, ed. R.L. Todd (Princeton, 1991), 86–99
    • S. Rothenberg: ‘Thus Far, but No Further: Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s Unfinished Journey’, MQ, vol.77/4 (1993), 689–708
    • R. Elvers: ‘Frühe Quellen zur Biographie Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdys’, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Kongreß-Bericht Berlin 1994, ed. C.M. Schmidt (Wiesbaden, 1997), 17–22
    • M. Helmig, ed.: Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: das Werk (Munich, 1997)
    • B. Borchard and M. Schwarz-Danuser, eds.: Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: komponieren zwischen Geselligkeitsideal und romantischer Musikästhetik (Stuttgart, 1999)
    • B. Brand and M. Helmig, eds.: Maßstab Beethoven? Komponistinnen im Schatten des Geniekults (Munich, 2001)
    • M. Wilson-Kimber: ‘The ‘Suppression’ of Fanny Mendelssohn: Rethinking Feminist Biography’, 19CM, vol.26 (2002), 113–29
    • H.-G. Klein: ‘…mit obligater Nachtigallen- und Fliederblütenbegleitung’: Fanny Hensels Sonntagsmusiken (Wiesbaden, 2005)
    • J.S. Sposato: The Price of Assimilation: Felix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition (Oxford, 2005)
    • H.-G. Klein, ed.: Die Musikveranstaltungen bei den Mendelssohns: ein ‘musikalischer Salon’?: Leipzig 2006, (Leipzig, 2006)
    • M. Helmig: ‘Die Mendelssohns auf der Flucht: Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy und seine Familie 1813 in Wien’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.15 (2007), 199–206
    • R.L. Todd: Mendelssohn Essays (New York, 2007)
    • S. Wollenberg, ed.: ‘Fanny Hensel (née Mendelssohn Bartholdy) and her Circle: Proceedings of the Bicentenary Conference, Oxford, July 2005’, 19CM, vol.4/2 (2007)
    • R.L. Todd and A.R. Mace [Christian]: ‘Mendelssohn and the Free Chorale’, American Choral Journal, vol.49/9 (March 2009), 49–69
    • A.R. Mace [Christian]: Fanny Hensel, Felix Mendelssohn, and the Formation of the ‘Mendelssohnian’ Style (diss., Duke U., 2013)
    • B. Borchard: ‘Gemeinsame Ausbildung? Verschiedene Perspektiven die musikalische Erziehung der Geschwister Fanny Hensel und Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’, Mendelssohn-Studien, Sonderband 3 (2014), 109–30
    • A. Mace Christian: ‘“Der sauersten Apfel”: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und die Familie in Berlin’, Mendelssohn-Studien, Sonderband 3 (2014), 131–42
    • L.B. Bodley: ‘In Pursuit of a Single Flame: Fanny Hensel’s “Musical Salon”’, Women and the Nineteenth-Century Lied, ed. A. Kenny and S. Wollenberg (Aldershot, 2015), 45–62
    • A. Mace Christian: ‘Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Amateur or Professional? A Closer Look at the Chronology of her Compositional Output’, Mendelssohn-Studien, vol.20 (2017), 153–73
    • B. Taylor, ed.: Rethinking Mendelssohn (Oxford, forthcoming 2019)

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