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Fanny Hensel’s Sechs Lieder op. 9: A Brother’s Elegy Stephen Rodgers Forthcoming in Rethinking Mendelssohn, ed. Angela Mace Christian and Benedict Taylor (Oxford University Press) In the early summer of 1846, shortly after his sister had died of a sudden stroke, Felix Mendelssohn wrote a grief-stricken letter to her husband Wilhelm: If the sight of my handwriting checks your tears, put the letter away, for we have nothing left now but to weep from our inmost hearts; we have been so happy together, but a saddened life is beginning now. You made my sister very happy, dear Hensel, through her whole life, as she deserved to be. I thank you for it today, and shall do so as long as I live, and longer too I hope, not only in words, but with bitter pangs of regret, that I did not do more myself for her happiness, did not see her oftener, was not with her oftener. That would indeed have been for my own pleasure, but it pleased her too. I am still too much stunned by the blow to be able to write as I could: still I dare not leave my wife and children and come to you, knowing as I do that I can bring neither help nor comfort. Help and comfort—how different these words sound from all I have been thinking and feeling since yesterday morning. This will be a changed world for us now, but we must try and get accustomed to the change, though by the time we have got accustomed to it our lives may be over too. 1

Fanny Hensel’s Sechs Lieder op. 9: A Brother’s Elegy ... · Fanny Hensel’s Sechs Lieder op. 9: A Brother’s Elegy Stephen Rodgers Forthcoming in Rethinking Mendelssohn, ed

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  • Fanny Hensels Sechs Lieder op. 9: A Brothers Elegy

    Stephen Rodgers

    Forthcoming in Rethinking Mendelssohn,

    ed. Angela Mace Christian and Benedict Taylor (Oxford University Press)

    In the early summer of 1846, shortly after his sister had died of a sudden stroke, Felix

    Mendelssohn wrote a grief-stricken letter to her husband Wilhelm:

    If the sight of my handwriting checks your tears, put the letter away, for we have nothing

    left now but to weep from our inmost hearts; we have been so happy together, but a

    saddened life is beginning now. You made my sister very happy, dear Hensel, through

    her whole life, as she deserved to be. I thank you for it today, and shall do so as long as I

    live, and longer too I hope, not only in words, but with bitter pangs of regret, that I did

    not do more myself for her happiness, did not see her oftener, was not with her oftener.

    That would indeed have been for my own pleasure, but it pleased her too. I am still too

    much stunned by the blow to be able to write as I could: still I dare not leave my wife and

    children and come to you, knowing as I do that I can bring neither help nor comfort. Help

    and comforthow different these words sound from all I have been thinking and feeling

    since yesterday morning. This will be a changed world for us now, but we must try and

    get accustomed to the change, though by the time we have got accustomed to it our lives

    may be over too.1

  • Though consumed by sadness, Felix ultimately managed to summon the strength to travel to his

    sisters home in Berlin, in mid-September of 1847. Upon returning to Leipzig at the beginning of

    October, he brought several of her manuscripts to his principal publisher, Breitkopf & Hrtel. He

    died only a month later. It would be another three years before these works appeared in print as

    Hensels op. 8 (Vier Lieder fr das Pianoforte), op. 9 (Sechs Lieder mit Begleitung des

    Pianoforte), op. 10 (Fnf Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte), and op. 11 (Trio fr Violine,

    Violoncello und Klavier in d-Moll). Together, these works comprise some of Hensels most

    remarkable contributions to the genres of piano miniature, chamber music, and Lied.

    The story of the posthumous publication of these works, and of Felixs role in delivering

    them to his publisher in Leipzig, has been repeated often in the Mendelssohn literature. It is a

    heartrending story, not least because it reinforces the depth of the connection between the

    siblings, a connection that, as Larry Todd has shown, was both personal and musical: there are

    important links between their pieces, suggesting lines of influence that go not just from Felix to

    Fanny but also in the opposite direction.2

    Still, as clear as this story is in its general outlines, many of its details remain fuzzy. Who

    selected these pieces for publication? Was it Felix alone, as Todd, Angela Mace, and Franoise

    Tillard have suggested?3 Was it Fannys husband Wilhelm, as Marcia Citron has written?4 Or

    could it have been her close friend Robert von Keudell, a gifted pianist, philosophy student, and

    (later) diplomat, who recognized the immensity of Hensels talent and encouraged her to publish

    her music in the first place? Furthermore, why were these works chosen over the hundreds of

    other compositions Fanny wrote? These questions have only received passing attention, in part

    because there is no documentary evidence to help us settle themno letter in which Felix states

    his intentions and activities during the last week of September 1847, no annotation on any of

  • Fannys manuscripts that says chosen by Felix. The speculations about who compiled Fannys

    posthumous works and why are really just thatbest guesses based on the scant biographical

    evidence that is available.

    The siblings music, however, provides another form of evidence, which clarifies many

    of the ambiguities surrounding the posthumous publication of Fannys works. A close

    examination of these works, as well as of related works by Felix, suggests that it was in fact

    Felix who selected which pieces of his sisters would be disseminated after her death, and in

    what form. The music, in other words, tells its own story; it provides vital information in support

    of the idea that Felix was the principal actor in the selection and dissemination of his sisters

    music after her death.

    This is particularly true of Fannys Sechs Lieder op. 9, a group of six songs all drawn

    from an earlier period in her life, the 1820snotably, a period when she and Felix were sharing

    their music with one another, and when their musical styles were particularly connected.5 For

    Angela Mace, the dates of Fannys op. 9 songs alone suggest that Felix had a hand in putting this

    opus together: Felix, she says, selected his favorites of Fannys Lieder from the happiest days of

    their youth.6 Yet the evidence extends much further than that, encompassing not just the dates

    of composition but also the content of the songs themselves. Fannys op. 9 is strikingly similar to

    Felixs own op. 9, Zwlf Lieder (1830), a group of songs containing three works by Fanny,

    which Mace calls a co-authored cycle, an opus that she believes was assembled as much by

    Fanny as by Felix.7 In fact, both groups of songs are cyclic, and intimately connected: there are

    poetic and musical ideas that recur across the cycles, and even songs from Fannys op. 9 that

    seem specially chosen to bring to mind songs from Felixs op. 9. Considering these intertextual

    resonances, it is difficult not to see the Sechs Lieder as a brothers elegy to his departed sister,

  • and a sibling collaboration in its own rightindeed, a one-of-a-kind collaboration. In many

    ways, Fannys op. 9 is even more remarkable and rare than the earlier co-authored opus it

    references, and more complex than any of the other examples in which the siblings allude to each

    others music. It is a work that defies easy description. (At attempt to characterize it in a single

    sentence sounds almost absurd: the Sechs Lieder op. 9 is a cycle of Fannys songs assembled by

    Felix, which evokes an earlier cycle of his songs that was in part assembled by her, and which

    contains several songs of hers that were published under his name.) Yet for this very reason it

    demands close analysis: Fannys op. 9 is not only one of the most affecting works in her oeuvre;

    it is also an object lesson in the irreducible complexity of influence, allusion, and memory.

    Felixs op. 9

    Conventional wisdom once had it that Mendelssohn didnt write song cycles, at least not cycles

    akin to the cycles of Schubert and Schumann. In recent years, however, a number of scholars

    have put pressure on this view. While it is true that Mendelssohn never wrote extended cycles of

    songs with the same level of musical and narrative consistency as Dichterliebe or Die schne

    Mllerin, some of his song collections do nonetheless exhibit cyclic qualities: organized key

    schemes, recurring poetic images, loose poetic narratives, musical cross-references, and so on.8

    Douglass Seaton, for example, has argued that Mendelssohns output contains a number of

    phantom cyclessongs that were not grouped together in published collections but that might

    have been conceived as cycles at some stage in their composition, and songs that were grouped

    together in published collections and upon closer inspection seem to be more than just an

    assortment of tenuously related pieces.9 According to Seaton, two sets of Mendelssohns quartet

    Lieder, the three Lieder of op. 41 and the three Lieder of op. 48, are unquestionably cyclic: they

  • have symmetrical key schemes, as well as a continuity of poetic topic and poetic voice. (What

    makes these opuses phantom-like is that they have faded from view as the genre of the quartet

    Lied has declined in popularity.) Seaton then uses these clearly cyclic opuses as a kind of

    measuring stick, extracting features from them and looking for these features in other potentially

    cyclic groupings of songs.

    One such grouping is the Zwlf Lieder op. 9. Seaton cites this opus as one of several

    pieces by Mendelssohn that might invite performance as complete, multi-movement works,10

    noting that the twelve songs were grouped into two halves, titled Der Jngling and Das

    Mdchen.11 And, indeed, closer inspection reveals a number of cyclic features, even aside from

    the presence of these subtitles. Granted, musical relationships can be found wherever one looks

    for them, so not every relationship should be seen as a sign of cyclic thinking; in this case,

    however, the relationships are significant enough to suggest that the songs were arranged to give

    the set a kind of musical and poetic coherence. As Mace notes, the collection begins in A major

    and ends in A minor, and it has a large-scale tonal trajectory, moving from tonic (A major) to

    subdominant (D major) to submediant (F minor) to dominant (E major) and back to

    tonic. For some listeners, this kind of unified, monotonal pattern may be difficult to perceive

    (in the cycles of Schubert and Schumann as well, hearing these larger tonal patterns can at times

    require a certain suspension of disbelief).12 Yet even skeptics can admit that the final song, in A

    minor, creates a sense of coming full circle, and that the third and fourth songs effect a move to

    the subdominant of A. (Remember that Mendelssohns cyclic quartet Lieder likewise begin and

    end with tonic and move to the subdominant.)

    There are other musical connections as well. Todd writes that the second song,

    Gestndnis, references the opening measures of the first song, Frage, reworking its

  • questioning motive (see Examples 1 and 2 for annotated scores of both songs).13 The first

    words of song 1 (Ist es wahr?) are set to a CBD motive, with the first two notes as

    an upbeat dotted-eighthsixteenth and the third note falling on a downbeat. This motive is

    repeated at the beginning of song 2 (on the words Kennst du nicht). (Todd also points out that

    songs 3 and 4, Wartend and Im Frhling, retain the motivic kernel of songs 1 and 2,

    rearranging its pitches and altering the motive rhythmically: the first three notes of both songs

    restate the three pitches of the motive, but in a different orderDCBand both songs

    abandon the dotted-eighthsixteenth upbeat seen in the first two songs.14) The connection

    between the opening of songs 1 and 2 involves more than just this questioning motive. Both

    songs also feature what we might call an answering motive, a gesture that begins with a

    descending arpeggiated triad and is followed by one or more steps. (I have marked these

    answering motives and some variants of them in Examples 1 and 2; I count mm. 56 of

    Gestndnis as a version of this motive since it outlines a descending D-minor triad in first

    inversion.) Furthermore, the underlying shapes of the songs melodies are similar: the opening

    phrase of each song rises stepwise from ^3 to ^5 and then falls from there (down to ^2 in Frage

    and down to ^3 in Gestndnis), as the analytic overlay shows. The songs melodies, we might

    say, are constructed of the same bricks (the questioning and answering motives) and also the

    same scaffolding (the broader ascent and descent).


    Aside from these musical connections, the poems of Felixs op. 9 are topically and

    narratively related. The subtitles alone (Der Jngling and Das Mdchen) give us reason to

  • look for some sort of extra-musical narrative that binds together the twelve songs. Mace does

    just that: following Seatons idea that the songs were not meant to be performed in their

    published order but instead in some sort of alternation, resulting in a Liederspiel for two

    characters,15 she argues that in this alternating form there is a strong sense of poetic narrative:

    On a global scale, when performed in alternation , the dramatic progression of the set

    changes from loose associations of themes to a dialogue that has more dramatic

    coherence. First, there is the question can it be? that there is a love developing,

    followed by longing for an answer. The confession of love leads to the springtime

    flowering of hopes; the romance progresses, but the lovers are apparently parted. Spring

    changes to autumn, and the cold winds of loss and separationpossibly deathwither the

    budding relationship. The male protagonist departs, the female protagonist renounces her

    dependence on the world, and finally proclaims her devotion to God, before perishing

    before a picture of the Virgin Mary.16

    Personally, I hear just as much of a dramatic progression in the published order. The first half

    (Der Jngling) progresses from youthful passion to old-age resignation: from the expectancy

    of new love (Frage), to the torment and pleasure of desiring someone who seems not to desire

    you (Gestndnis), to the pain of being distant from the one you love (Wartend), to the

    fulfillment of love (Im Frhling), to the inexorable passage of time (Im Herbst), to the loss

    of youth (Scheidend). The trajectory of the second half (Das Mdchen) is likewise from

    expectancy to resignationin fact, to death: from the disturbance caused by love (Sehnsucht),

    to the recognition that change cannot be avoided (Frhlingsglaube), to the longing for a distant

  • beloved (Ferne), to the pain of a broken heart (Verlust), to the renunciation of pain and the

    desire for heavenly comfort (Entsagung), to death and the peace it brings (Die Nonne).

    No matter how we choose to view the songs of the cycle, the question remains: whose

    cycle is it? For years, scholars and performers viewed this work as principally Felixs creation

    as a work that he put together, incorporating three songs by his sister. (Some of course have used

    stronger words, arguing that in publishing his sisters songs under his name Felix was taking

    advantage of Fanny and subsuming her artistic voice within his own.17) Yet Mace has

    encouraged us to see op. 9 instead as a co-creation. She cites a letteronly published in 2009

    in which Felix, overworked and feeling pressured by his publisher, says that Fanny should begin

    selecting the Lieder for op. 9 herself:

    Concerning Schlesinger, theres no need for him to rage any further, because I

    will gladly keep my word to him, even though it is difficult for me to do; ask

    him if he is intending to publish the Lieder immediately, and in this case I can

    propose the idea of 2 Liederkrnzen, for a young man and a maiden, and give

    him six colorful pieces for each, which I ask Fanny, without any further

    reference to me, to select from my or her things completely without

    stipulations, only the accompaniment must be very light, and there should be at

    least one enjoyable, cheerful, and fast [Lied] among the selection. If he wants

    to wait, however, until I have found a little peace and can arrange everything

    prettily, which must happen soon, I believe, he would be much smarter and do

    me a favor, because I dont think that the press is in a hurry; thus I ask all of

  • you to present him with this alternative, and tell him that he would do me a

    favor if he would wait.18

    Mace concludes from this evidence that Fanny was an equal partner in the creation of op. 9:

    [T]his letter proves that Fannys Lieder were not stolen or appropriated, as some scholars

    believed before this documentary evidence was available. Thus an analysis of the opuseven

    though most of the Lieder are by Felixconsidering both musical and biographical parameters,

    will reveal just as much about Fanny as it does about Felix.19

    The same, I argue, is true of the other op. 9, the six songs of Fannys that were published

    after her death. Alas, we have no letter comparable to the letter Felix wrote about the 1830 cycle,

    no document in which Felix acknowledges that he chose these six songs of Fannys and arranged

    them in this order. But we do have the songs themselves. If an analysis of the earlier op. 9

    reveals as much about Fanny as it does about Felix, an analysis of the later op. 9 reveals as much

    about Felix as it does about Fanny.

    Fannys op. 9

    I base this claim on the presence of several poetic and musical similarities between the opuses.

    To my mind, these similarities are striking enough to seem more than accidental; when I play

    and sing certain songs from both works, toggling back and forth between those in Felixs Zwlf

    Lieder and those in Fannys Sechs Lieder, I find it hard not to conclude that the compiler of

    Fannys op. 9 was glancing backward at another, earlier op. 9, forging a musical bond between

    two groups of songs that were composed around the same time. (The mere fact that the opus

    numbers are the same is also not insignificant; in his well-known book on allusion in nineteenth-

  • century music, Christopher Reynolds points out that many composers used opus numbers as a

    way of cluing listeners to intertextual relationships.)20 If we grant this as a possibility, then I

    think we are forced to conclude that Felix was the most likely compiler, since he had such an

    intimate understanding of the cycle he and his sister co-authored. Fannys op. 9 is already a kind

    of memorial, seeing as it was published after her death, but it becomes an even more affecting

    memorial, and a deeply personal one, when heard as Felixs musical reflection on his youthful

    collaboration with his sister.

    The most general similarity is that Fannys op. 9, like Felixs, is also noticeably cyclic,

    and cyclic in similar ways, suggesting that the resemblances are more than just happenstance.

    First, the six songs of Fannys op. 9 trace a poetic narrative that is roughly analogous to the

    poetic narratives in each half of Felixs op. 9. (Table 1 provides a brief summary of each poem.

    For ease of comparison I have placed the six songs of Fannys cycle in the middle and each half

    of Felixs cycle on either side. I use male pronouns to describe the lyric personas of Der

    Jngling and Fannys op. 9, because in the poems the beloved is clearly a woman; for similar

    reasons I use feminine pronouns to describe the lyric persona of Das Mdchen.) Like the six

    songs of Der Jngling and the six of Das Mdchen, the six songs of Fannys cycle begin

    from a place of promise and anticipation and end with a sense of loss; Fannys cycle has an even

    stronger sense of narrative, because it speaks in a single voicethe voice of the lyric persona,

    who first expresses his longing for a woman (songs 13), then wistfully remembers happier

    times he experienced with her (songs 56), and ends up alone, envying the nightingales and

    doves that sing with their partners in their nests. Even more, some of the poems in the Sechs

    Lieder are so similar to poems in the Zwlf Lieder as to seem like variations on the same theme

    (see the arrows in Table 1). For example, the first poem of Fannys op. 9 (Die Ersehnte) is

  • very much like the first poem in each half of Felixs op. 9 (Frage and Sehnsucht) in that it,

    too, expresses a yearning for future bliss. The second poem of Fannys op. 9 (Ferne, about the

    pain of being far from a loved one) closely parallels the third poem in each half of Felixs op. 9

    (Wartend, about two lovers who communicate across the sea with a falcon and a horn, and the

    identically titled Ferne, also about the pain of separation). The third poem of Fannys cycle

    (Der Rosenkranz, about withering flowers and the passage of time) resembles the fifth poem in

    Felixs first half (Im Herbst, likewise about the fading of flowers and days that fly by). And

    although the final poems of both cycles (Die Mainacht in Fannys op. 9 and Die Nonne in

    Felixs op. 9) are outwardly different, since the first is about loneliness whereas the second is

    about death, they use similar imagery: in both poems the poetic persona wanders alone among

    the trees, bathed in moonlight, and weeps.


    Second, both cycles feature fairly organized key schemes that begin and end in the tonic

    and move prominently to the subdominant, the same sort of key scheme that Seaton found in

    Felixs quartet Lieder (Table 2). (Granted, as Seaton notes, not all of Felixs cyclic works adhere

    to this broad tonal model, but the fact that both op. 9 cycles do, as well as the unquestionably

    cyclic quartet Lieder, points toward Felixs possible influence.) The key scheme of the Zwlf

    Lieder is of course more complicated, owing to the length of the cycle, but even in this complex

    tonal layout the subdominant gets special emphasis: aside from the global tonic of A major, D

    major is the only key to appear twice in direct succession (and in the Sechs Lieder the

    subdominant is the only key to appear in back-to-back songs).


    Third, like the Zwlf Lieder, with its recurring questioning and answering motives

    and long-range melodic contours, Fannys cycle is also bound together by related melodic ideas.

    If anything, Fannys opus is even more cyclic than Felixs in this regard. There is a stronger

    sense of melodic consistency to her cycle, a more palpable feeling that the songs melodies are

    unified by recurring gestures. One of the most obvious of these gestures is the melisma that ends

    five of the six songs, the only exception being song 2, Ferne, which ends not with a melisma

    but with a long sustained note. (Fanny was famous for these melismatic outpourings, these

    cascades of pure vowel sound that close so many of her songs; even if we cannot be 100%

    certain that the compiler of the later op. 9 was Felix and that one of his aims was to refer

    obliquely to the earlier op. 9, there is one thing that we can be sure of: the songs of Fannys cycle

    were chosen to highlight this hallmark of her Lied aesthetic.)21

    These common cyclic elements alone might be enough to suggest that Felix assembled

    the songs of Fannys op. 9 at least in part to pay homage to the cycle they assembled together.

    Yet the connections between the cycles run even deeper than that, since there are songs from the

    Sechs Lieder that harken back to specific songs from the Zwlf Lieder. These song-specific

    connections cluster around two pairs of songs: songs 1 and 2 in the earlier op. 9 (Frage and

    Gestndnis) and songs 4 and 5 in the later op. 9 (Die frhen Grber and Der Maiabend).

    Recall that the first two songs of the Zwlf Lieder are the two that are linked by the

    questioning and answering motives, as well as by a longer-range gesture that spans the

    opening measures. These melodic ideas appear prominently in songs 4 and 5 of the Sechs Lieder.

  • Notice that song 5 (Der Maiabend) begins with a version of the questioning motive (^3^2

    ^4 on Umweht von Maiduft) and also outlines the same broad motion from ^3 up to ^5 (see

    Example 3 for an annotated score). The relationships between Der Maiabend and Gestndnis

    are particularly noticeable because in both songs this longer motive is harmonized similarly, and

    based upon a nearly identical voice-leading pattern (Example 4 provides a Schenkerian reduction

    of the opening phrase of each song). The structural melodies are in fact identical, and the

    supporting harmonies nearly so: both songs are built on the same contrapuntal skeleton,

    consisting of ^3^4^3^5^4 above a tonic pedal, and there is only one real harmonic

    difference (the second chord, which is a V7 in Gestndnis and a IV in Der Maiabend). (Its

    tempting to say that Der Maiabend borrows directly from Gestndnis, presenting an

    example of the type of borrowing that Peter Burkholder would call modeling,22 except of

    course that Fanny wrote her song before Felix wrote his: Der Maiabend was composed in

    1827, Gestndnis most likely in 1829. It would be more accurate to say that in choosing Der

    Maiabend for inclusion in his sisters posthumous cycle Felix was allowing informed listeners

    to sense a relationship between the two songs, and to see that their openings are based on the

    same abstract model.)


    The answering motive appears not in Der Maiabend but in the song that immediately

    precedes it, also in A major: Die frhen Grber (Example 5).23 Compare m. 5 of Die

    frhen Grber with mm. 78 of Gestndnis (refer to Example 2, above). Both feature melodic

    gestures with a descending triad (in both cases a diminished triad) followed by two steps:

  • DBGFE in Die frhen Grber and CAFED in

    Gestndnis. (The only differencein addition to the fact that the gesture in Die frhen

    Grber begins a half step higheris that in Fannys song the diminished triad is followed by

    two whole steps rather than by a whole step and a half step; her motive is also of course extended

    by two additional steps, falling all the way down to ^3.) In both songs, the answering motive

    later appears in shortened form: in mm. 1819 of Gestndnis we hear two compressed

    statements of the motive (CAGFE, with a step between the second

    and third notes rather than a third), and in m. 16 of Die frhen Grber we hear a version that is

    similarly compressed, and also truncated (DBAG). (To my ear, these

    shortened motives sound especially similar because they begin on the same pitch:



    I might not draw attention to these motivic relationships if the two songs did not also end

    so similarlyin each case with lengthened versions of the answering motive. At the end of

    Gestndnis (mm. 2426) the falling motive is expanded (the falling triad is followed not by a

    step but by a third) and also extended (as was the case at the beginning of Fannys song, two

    notes are appended to the motive). The result is a drawn-out melisma that spans a tenth, from E

    (^5) down to C (^3), leading to an IAC and bringing the song to a gentle close. Die

    frhen Grber ends with its own downward-drifting melisma, and its own gentle IAC. (I label

    this as a version of the answering motivedespite its obvious differences from the motive at

    the beginning of the songbecause it outlines a descending D-major triad in first

  • inversion.) Fannys closing gesture begins from a higher pointF (^6)but it lands in the same

    place as Felixs, ending with the same ^5^4^3 motion, not to mention with the same

    suspensions over a tonic pedal.

    As with the openings of Gestndnis and Der Maiabend, the endings of Gestndnis

    and Die frhen Grber sound similar enough that if we were told that Fanny wrote these songs

    after Felix, we might well conclude that she was knowingly alluding to her brothers music, that

    this is yet another example of his influence on her. In actuality, however, the situation is more

    complex and, I think, more revealing. These paired songs are a kind of case study in the siblings

    interdependency, in the tangled lines of influence that travel in many different directions and

    assume many different shapes. In choosing Die frhen Grber and Der Maiabend, and in

    pairing these two songs in this particular cycle, Felix seems to be alluding to his own music

    through his sisters musicchoosing songs of hers, which bring to mind songs of his, which she

    may well have chosen for inclusion in a cycle of theirs.

    Felix seems also to have been selecting songs for the Sechs Lieder that brought to mind

    songs of Fannysi.e., those that appeared in the Zwlf Lieder. The earlier op. 9 cycle ends with

    a minor-mode song by Fanny, Die Nonne, written in 1822, which resembles the only minor-

    mode song of Fannys cycle, Ferne, a song she composed only a year later. On first hearing,

    these songs may sound less alike than, say, Gestndnis and Die Maiabend, but closer

    inspection reveals several similarities (see Examples 6 and 7 for annotated scores of these

    songs). First, both songs are in triple meter and in a similar tempo (3/8 and Andante con moto for

    Die Nonne, 3/4 and Andante for Ferne). Their accompanimental patterns are also relateda

    steady stream of shorter note values, with simple chordal arpeggations (and, in Die Nonne, the

    occasional nonharmonic tone) and a similar contour (both accompaniments begin with upward

  • arpeggios). This, combined with the fact that the songs begin with static tonic pedals, makes

    them sound almost like Baroque-style figuration preludes (hardly surprising, considering

    Fannys intimate knowledge of Bachs Well-Tempered Clavier). Finally, as with Gestndnis

    and Der Maiabend, the songs open with the same structural melody5^#4^5^4^3 (with

    some additional melodic elaboration in Die Nonne) (see Example 8 for reductions of the

    songs openings).24


    To what end, though? What is the text-expressive significance of the musical

    relationships that link these pairs of songs? Alas, there seem to be no obvious textual connections

    between the three songs from Fannys op. 9 and the three songs from Felixs op. 9 that they

    reference; the closest poetic relationships and the closest musical relationships dont correspond

    with one another. For example, Gestndis and Der Maiabend, two of the most musically

    related songs, are not all that poetically related: the first song is about the anxiety of desiring

    someone who may not desire you; the second is about the peace and comfort of a twilit moment.

    Likewise, although the Ferne songs from each cycle are poetic mirror imagesboth about the

    pain of being separated from a loved onethey are musically dissimilar: Felixs E-major

    song has moments of poignant dissonance but is generally more calmly meditative than

    agonized, never straying from the tonic key or from easy four-bar phrases; Fannys G-minor

    song is far more pained, with uneven phrase lengths, wandering harmonies, and open-ended

    phrases (even the vocal melody fails to cadence, deferring true closure to the piano


  • This shouldnt entirely surprise us: if we accept that Felix was making a cycle out of his

    sisters Lieder that harkened back to the cycle they made together sixteen years earlierif we

    see his assembling of these songs as a creative endeavor in its own right, not to mention a form

    of memorythen we also need to accept that as with any act of creation or remembrance it will

    follow its own pathways. The lines that connect these two works are not always straight and

    clear; they are just as often curved and crisscrossed, and they vary in thickness. More important

    than the consistency of the intertextual relationships between these two opuses is their

    pervasiveness, the number and variety of ways that the works seem to be linked.

    That said, even if we cant draw straight lines between the notes and words of specific

    paired songs, there is one way in which these musical and textual relationships overlap. It is

    significant that the Sechs Lieder allude musically to the first and last songs of the Zwlf Lieder

    (Frage and Die Nonne). These poems both describe scenes in which a woman wanders in a

    moonlit garden: in Frage the lyric speaker wonders whether the woman waits by a leafy

    walkway and, like him, seeks counsel with the moon and stars; in Die Nonne the lyric speaker

    is the womana nun who wanders alone in a convent garden, contemplating the Virgin Mary

    and the loss of her beloved, and then dies. After listening to Fannys cycle and detecting vague

    reminiscences of Frage and Die Nonneechoes of the questioning and answering

    motives that emanate from the former, vestiges of the endlessly undulating accompaniment and

    chromatic touches that are so characteristic of the latterI am drawn back to Felixs cycle, and I

    cannot help but hear its opening and closing songs differently. Through the prism of Fannys op.

    9, the female figures described in Felixs framing songs look like more than just a paramour and

    a nun; they seem somehow like images of Fanny herself: the woman Felix hopes will wait for

    him in a distant garden, and the sister who has gone on to that heavenly place.

  • Conclusion

    Christopher Reynolds writes that Felix had a predilection for musical commemorations, citing

    (among other examples) an especially affecting passage from the first movement of Felixs

    String Quartet in F Minor, op. 80, which he hears as an homage to Fanny.25 According to

    Reynolds, Felix embeds into the end of the exposition a BACH citation (transposed down a half

    step so that it starts on B), which appears in a musical context nearly identical to a

    BACH motive from Fannys Sonata in C Minora work dedicated to Felix, which she wrote

    while he was in Scotland. (A note at the end of her score reads, For Felix in his absence [Fr

    Felix / In seiner Abwesenheit].) Felix composed his string quartet in the summer of 1847, around

    the same time that he penned the heartrending letter cited at the outset of this essay. Reynoldss

    argument, in essence, is that Felix could just as well have written on this quartetand on its

    BACH citation in particularFor Fanny in her absence. Thus, he writes with the BACH

    sphinx Mendelssohn alluded to an unpublished work that his sister had written form him in his

    absence nearly twenty years earlier, as if, with this private symbolthis musical Nachrufto

    respond to the dedication Fanny had penned at the end of her Sonata.26

    Op. 80 is not the only work of Felixs that seems to grapple with the shock of Fannys

    death. Another is op. 71, a group of six songs that Felix compiled in October 1847, the same

    month that he brought Fannys manuscripts to Breitkopf & Hrtel. Most of the songs were

    written before Fanny died (one comes from 1842, four from 1845, and one from September

    1847). Still, in subject matter and in tone these are songs that express a profound sense of loss:

    Seaton refers to them as songs of loss and comfort, arguing that they form a coherent set in

    terms of voicethat of the bereaved poetand emotional position;27 Cooper calls the opus a

  • bereft cycle.28 Like the F-minor string quartet, this is also a work that remembers Fannynot

    necessarily by alluding to her music, but instead by palpably conveying the pain of losing her.

    The Sechs Lieder op. 9 deserve to be added to this list of Felixs compositions that reckon

    with Fannys passingparadoxical as it may sound to number among Felixs compositions a

    group of her songs. As I have argued, however, this understudied opus requires us to rethink

    certain received ideas (about musical influence, musical commemoration, and musical

    collaboration), and after immersing myself in these two cycles I come away with a more pliable

    understanding of musical composition as well. If we construe the term composition more

    broadly, taking it to mean not just the creation of original music but also the assembling of pre-

    existing music, and if we recognize the indelible signs of Felixs hand in that process, then we

    can hear the latter op. 9 as a Nachruf no less poignant than op. 80 or op. 71. In a sense it is even

    more poignant, because it speaks with both of their voices, and because it is a joint effort like no

    otheran impossibly distant, inescapably final collaboration.

  • 1 Sebastian Hensel, The Mendelssohn Family (17291847) From Letters and Journals, vol. 2,

    2 See especially On Stylistic Affinities in the Works of Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn

    Bartholdy, in John Michael Cooper and Julie D. Prandi (eds.), The Mendelssohns: Their Music

    in History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 24562; Fanny Hensel and Musical

    Style, in Mendelssohn Essays (New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 21731; and Fanny Hensel:

    The Other Mendelssohn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), passim.

    3 Todd expresses this viewpoint most vividly: [I]t seems likely that [Felix] examined her

    manuscripts and became intimately familiar with the piano trio and other recent compositions.

    Presumably he brought with him [back to Leipzig] Fannys piano trio and other manuscripts to

    share with his principal publisher, Breitkopf & Hrtel, and to arrange for their publication, in

    partial expiation of his gilt over earlier withholding unqualified support for her need to release

    her music (The Other Mendelssohn, p. 351). See also Franoise Tillard, Fanny Mendelssohn,

    trans. Camille Naish (Portland, Ore.: Amadeus Press, 1996), p. 333, and Angela Mace, Fanny

    Hensel, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and the Formation of the Mendelssohnian Style (PhD

    diss., Duke University, 2013), pp. 28990.

    4 In her groundbreaking article on Hensels Lieder, Citron writes simply that two posthumous

    Lieder collections, Opus 9 and 10, apparently prepared by her husband, were issued in 1850

    (The Lieder of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, The Musical Quarterly 69/4 [Autumn 1983]: 575).

    5 Compared with Fannys other song collections (opp. 1, 7, and 10), op. 9 has received virtually

    no analytical attention. Some have even dismissed the opus as subpar. Rufus Hallmark, for

    example, writes, The vocal parts have a certain predictability, relieved occasionally through

    unusual melodic twists and exuberant melismas, often at the ends of songs (Crosscurrents in

  • Song: Five Distinctive Voices, in Rufus Hallmark (ed.), German Lieder in the Nineteenth

    Century [New York: Schirmer, 1996], p 193). For a superb analysis of the six songs of Fannys

    op. 1 collection, as well as the first song of her op. 7, see Yonatan Malin, Songs in Motion:

    Rhythm and Lieder in the German Lied (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 6994

    6 Mace, Fanny Hensel, pp. 28990.

    7 Angela Mace, Der Jngling und Das Mdchen: Fanny Hensel, Felix Mendelssohn, and the

    Zwlf Lieder, op. 9, in Aisling Kenny and Susan Wollenberg (eds.), Women and the Nineteenth-

    Century Lied (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 79.

    8 For a discussion of related issues in the Lieder of other composers, see especially Michael Hall,

    Schuberts Song Sets (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2003), and Inge Van Rij, Brahmss Song

    Collections (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). For a fascinating study of

    Mendelssohns cyclic instrumental works, see Benedict Taylor, Mendelssohn, Time and

    Memory: The Romantic Conception of Cyclic Form (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,


    9 Douglass Seaton, Mendelssohns Cycles of Songs, in John Michael Cooper and Julie D.

    Prandi (eds.), The Mendelssohns: Their Music in History (Oxford: Oxford University Press,

    2002), pp. 20329. For an illuminating discussion of an unpublished song cycle by Mendelssohn,

    see John Michael Cooper, Of Red Roofs and Hunting Horns: Mendelssohns Song Aesthetic,

    with an Unpublished Cycle (1830), Journal of Musicological Research 21 (2002): 30014;

    Cooper describes this unpublished cycle as Mendelssohns most explicit contribution to the

    genre of the Romantic song cycle, citing its thematic interrelationships, coherent tonal scheme,

    and poetic narrative with identifiable protagonists (pp. 3034).

    10 Seaton, Mendelssohns Cycles of Songs, p. 216

  • 11 Todd suggests that the two personae of the cycleDer Jngling and Das Mdchenmay

    represent Felix and Fanny themselves (The Other Fanny Mendessohn, pp. 142ff), an idea that

    seems even more plausible since, as Mace notes, all three of Fannys songs appear in the second

    half (Der Jngling und Das Mdchen, p. 69.

    12 For two particularly skeptical views of efforts to find unified key schemes and the like in

    Romantic song cycle, see David Ferris, Schumanns Eichendorff Liederkreis and the Genre of

    the Romantic Cycle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), and Beate Julia Perrey,

    Schumanns Dichterliebe and Early Romantic Poetics: Fragmentation of Desire (Cambridge:

    Cambridge University Press, 2002). Bertold Hoeckner discusses different perspectives on

    organicism and unity in the Romantic song cycle, with special reference to Dichterliebe, in his

    article Paths Through Dichterliebe, 19th-Century Music 30/1 (Summer 2006): 6580.

    13 See Todd, Mendelssohn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 223, and Grove Music

    Online, s.v. Mendelssohn, Felix [13: Lieder and other vocal works], by R. Larry Todd,

    accessed December 17, 2016, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/.

    14 Todd, Mendelssohn, p. 223.

    15 Seaton, Mendelssohns Cycles of Songs, pp. 217ff.

    16 Mace, Der Jngling und Das Mdchen, p. 73.

    17 For a discussion of these earlier analyses, see Marian Wilson Kimber, The Suppression of

    Fanny Hensel: Rethinking Feminist Biography, 19th-Century Music, 26/2 (Fall 2002): 113129.

    18 Mace, Der Jnling und Das Mdchen, p. 74; the translation is hers. For a version of the

    letter in the original German, see Anja Morgenstern and Uta Wald (eds.), Felix Mendelssohn

    Bartholdy: Smtliche Briefe, vol. 2 (Kassel: Brenreiter, 2009), p. 376.

    19 Mace, Der Jngling und Das Mdchen, p. 74.

  • 20 Christopher Alan Reynolds, Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century

    Music (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 144.

    21 I discuss other hallmarks of Fannys Lieder in Fanny Hensels Lied Aesthetic, Journal of

    Musicological Research 30 (2011): 175201.

    22 Peter Burkholder, All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing (New

    Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

    23 For a more detailed analysis of Die frhen Grber, see my article Fanny Hensels Lied

    Aesthetic, pp. 1836.

    24 Another possible connection between the two songs is that both end with prominent

    descending fourths in the melody: in Ferne the vocal melody ends with a motion from ^8 to ^5,

    or G down to D (mm. 1923); in Die Nonne its the piano melody that ends with this motive,

    and with the same scale degrees, A down to E in the context of A minor (mm. 2730, in the

    piano postlude). Granted, the similarity is slightcertainly not as noticeable as some of the other

    similarities between these songsbut it does give both pieces a greater sense of

    inconclusiveness. As Mace notes, the AE melodic motion at the end of Die Nonne was the

    result of a revision to the last four measuresmade eight years after the song was written, in

    preparation for the publication in op. 9that substituted this fourth motive for a more decisive

    stepwise descent from A4 to A3: the revisions, she says, temper the sombre finality of the first

    version (Der Jngling und Das Mdchen, p. 78). For more on the revisions to Die Nonne,

    see Victoria Ressmeyer Sirota, The Life and Works of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (DMA

    thesis, Boston University, 1981), pp. 195ff.

    25 Reynolds, Motives for Allusion, pp. 131ff. Reynolds is hardly the only writer to have heard

    Felixs op. 80 as a response to Fannys death; Eric Werner, for example, calls it a cry of grief

  • of the suffering creature (Mendelssohn: A New Image of the Composer and his Age, trans. Dika

    Newlin [London: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963], p. 496).

    26 Reynolds, Motives for Allusion, p. 132.

    27 Seaton, Mendelssohns Cycles of Songs, p. 221.

    28 Cooper, Of Red Roofs, p. 278.

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  • Mendelssohn, Zwlf Lieder op. 9 (Der Jngling) 1. Frage The speaker wonders if a woman pines for him as he pines of her, and if she waits for him also. 2. Gestndnis The speaker confesses his love for a woman and wonders whether she feels the same way. 3. Wartend Two lovers communicate from across the sea, using a falcon and a horn. 4. Im Frhling The speaker basks in the beauty and tranquility of spring. 5. Im Herbst The speaker ponders the passing of time, the changing of the seasons, and the awakening of longing. 6. Scheidend The speaker takes a boat away from his home, longing for the youth and love he experienced there.

    Hensel, Sechs Lieder op. 9 1. Die Ersehnte The speaker yearns for a woman, longing for a day when she will be in his arms. 2. Ferne The speaker longs for his distant homeland and his beloved. 3. Der Rosenkranz The speaker watches a maiden picking roses and fashioning a wreath from them, and thinks about how in time the roses will wither and fade. 4. Die frhen Grber The speaker wanders through a graveyard, remembering lost loved ones and happier times. 5. Der Maiabend The speaker savors a beautiful, twilit moment with a maiden, awaiting the rising of the full moon. 6. Die Mainacht The speaker wanders in a moonlit forest, alone and forlorn, and weeps.

    Mendelssohn, Zwlf Lieder op. 9 (Das Mdchen) 7. Sehnsucht The speaker experiences the stillness of nature and wishes her heart could also be still. 8. Frhlingsglaube The speaker, feeling tormented, takes comfort in the fact that everything changes. 9. Ferne The speaker wishes she could be with her distant beloved and longs for him to come home. 10. Verlust The speaker laments that only one knows the depth of her pain: the man who has broken her heart. 11. Entsagung The speaker trusts that when the world is too difficult for her, the Lord will save her. 12. Die Nonne A nun wanders alone in a convent garden, contemplating the Virgin Mary and the loss of her beloved, and then dies.

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