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Fanny or Felix? Symposium and Concert to Showcase a Musical Mystery
Durham, NC - Angela Mace, a Ph.D. candidate in the Duke Department of Music, has solved one of the last mysteries surrounding the work of 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn and his talented, but less well-known, sister, composer Fanny Hensel.
The mystery surrounds the Ostersonate (Easter Sonata) for piano, a lost work variously attributed to both Felix Mendelssohn and Fanny Hensel. In 2010, Mace gained access to an original manuscript of the piece, held in private ownership.
After examining the manuscript in light of supporting evidence from Hensel's diary and a bound collection of her handwritten scores in a Berlin archive, Mace determined the Ostersonate was definitely composed by Hensel, rather than Felix Mendelssohn.
She also confirmed that the piece was composed in 1828, rather than 1829 as was previously thought. (Read more about the discovery here.)
The Duke Department of Music will celebrate the rediscovery of the Easter Sonata with a symposium on Friday, Sept. 7, featuring talks by Mace, Mendelssohn scholar R. Larry Todd, Arts & Sciences Professor of Music, and Susan Youens of Notre Dame, an expert in the 19th-century German art songs known as lieder.
Following the symposium, Duke Performances will present a concert by the Claremont Trio. The program of works by Hensel and Mendelssohn includes the premiere of the properly attributed and restored Easter Sonata, performed by trio pianist Andrea Lam.
For Mace, the discovery was every graduate student's dream come true. "Finding the Easter Sonata manuscript was definitely one of the most exciting moments of my career so far," she said. "Now, I am just as excited to hear Andrea Lam bring the sonata to life once again, as the music of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel."
"We usually think of 19th -century European music as familiar enough terrain," Todd said. "Occasionally, though, a forgotten or lost composition comes to light, and the circumstances of its history prompt a reappraisal of the conventional wisdom about the century we thought we knew all too well. Such a composition is the Ostersonate.
"Musicological sleuthing allows us to rectify the misattribution of its authorship, and finally to celebrate it as a major piano composition by a prolific woman composer whose work is now, after a century and a half, gaining the attention it deserves."
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