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Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. Felix and Fannys grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, a famous philosopher of the 18 th Century. He was a brilliant thinker

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Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn Slide 2 Felix and Fannys grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, a famous philosopher of the 18 th Century. He was a brilliant thinker and a faithful Jew. Moses was a poor, small, ugly man with a hunchback, but he had a way with words. One day he visited a merchant in Hamburg who had a lovely blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter named Fromet. Moses fell hopelessly in love with her, but Fromet was repulsed by his grotesque appearance and wouldnt even talk with him. Moses Mendelssohn Grandpa Slide 3 When it came time for him to leave, Moses gathered his courage and climbed the stairs to her room to take one last opportunity to speak with her. She was a vision of heavenly beauty, but caused him deep sadness by her refusal to look at him. After several attempts at conversation, Moses shyly asked, "Do you believe marriages are made in heaven?" "Yes, she answered, still looking at the floor. "And do you?" "Yes I do, he replied. "You see, before I was born, I asked God to show me the woman whom I would marry. Though highly irregular, I was granted one glimpse. To my astonishment, the woman had an ugly hump on her back. I pleaded with God, It is not fair that a woman be a hunchback. She will be the object of scorn and contempt. I beg you, give ME the hump and let her be well-formed and beautiful. Slide 4 Then Fromet looked up into his eyes and was stirred with compassion. She reached out and gave Moses her hand and later became his devoted wife. Moses and Fromet had 10 children. Slide 5 One of those 10 children was Abraham Mendelssohn. Abraham became a successful banker and became the father of Felix and Fanny. Abraham Mendelssohn Slide 6 Fanny was born in 1805 and Felix was born a couple years later in 1809 in Germany. Since the family was wealthy, Felix and Fanny received the finest musical training available. Mendelssohn House till 1813 Slide 7 What do we call this phenomenon? Felix (yes, we know you thought it was a girl - duh! Most young boys wore their hair long back then.) Both children were extremely talented. They could play the piano, violin, and sing with unusual ability for a very young age. Fanny Slide 8 Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, the Mendelssohn children were not taken on tour despite their remarkable talent. They were only permitted to play for family and friends. Their parents did not agree to profiting at the expense of the children. Prodigies! Who else were prodigies? More Prodigies? Slide 9 When Felix was just three years old, the French, under Napoleon, invaded Germany and captured the city of Hamburg. The Mendelssohn family packed up all they could carry and fled to Berlin in the middle of the night. Napoleon Moving On Slide 10 Berlin was a flourishing town with artists, musicians, and the best music teachers in Germany. It was the perfect place for aspiring composers. Berlin Moving On Slide 11 Although grandfather Moses Mendelssohn had been a devout Jew, in 1816, Felix and Fannys father, Abraham, converted the entire family to Christianity and changed the Jewish name Mendelssohn to Bartholdy to make better opportunities available for the children. Felix would hold fast to Christianity throughout his life, although he was never ashamed of his Jewish heritage and never used the name Bartholdy. Mendelssohn to Bartholdy? Slide 12 Felix and Fanny continued to take lessons and improve in Berlin. They both composed pieces and Felix began to play for public audiences by the age of 9. Fanny, however, was discouraged by her family to play publicly. Her parents believed her to be just as talented as Felix, but they did not want her to be humiliated in public. What About Fanny? Slide 13 The Romantic Era was still progressing slowly with womens rights. A woman was expected to marry, have children, and cook and clean. Fanny was always trying to fight this stereotype by publishing her music, but her parents didnt allow her. They loved her and they didnt want her reputation to be smeared. So Fanny published her music under her brothers name. A Womans Role Slide 14 Fanny never got the chance to play the piano for a public audience. Slide 15 But after she was married, Fanny did get the opportunity to publish some of her music under her own name. Her husband, Wilhelm Hensel, was a doctor who supported Fannys decision. They had a son named Felix Ludwig Sebastian, whom they named after Fannys 3 favorite composers. Slide 16 Meanwhile, Felix had made a name for himself throughout Europe. He traveled to England often and was welcomed by the people there. He made friends with Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert of Germany. Even though he wasnt English, he probably had the most significant impact on English music since Henry Purcell, who lived 150 years before. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Felix Slide 17 Queen Victoria was known to be a very good singer, and Felix would often accompany her on the piano as she sung. After one particular song, she told Felix that it was her favorite of all his songs. Felix was happy to admit that it was one of his sisters songs. Felix or Fanny? Slide 18 Felix and Fanny are both credited for their rediscovery of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bachs music had been forgotten for 80 years until Felix and Fanny started performing his music. The Mendelssohns discover the greatness of J.S. Bach Felix made sure he played at least 2 hours of Bachs music each day, and he would often perform Bachs music at church services. Fanny once surprised her father by memorizing an entire volume of Bachs Well Tempered Clavier and playing it for him (48 songs in all 12 major and minor keys). Slide 19 Felix and Fanny were not only brother and sister, but the best of friends. They continually wrote letters to each other throughout the years. Ironically, this close friendship is what killed Felix. Slide 20 Fanny fell ill in early 1847. Felix made plans to leave England to see her, but before he even had a chance to leave, she had already died. She was only 42. Slide 21 Felix returned home to Germany to attend the funeral and he fell into a deep depression. It came as a shattering blow to his already fragile health. He wrote in a letter, I could not think of work, or even music, without feeling the most intense emptiness and barrenness in the mind and heart". Slide 22 Felix and his wife went on vacation to Switzerland to take his mind off of his sisters death. Felix was a very good artist too, and it is here that he made many watercolor paintings, like this one, of the Swiss countryside. Slide 23 The vacation didnt help. Felix couldnt get over the grief. In a letter to a friend, he said, "Now I must gradually begin to put my life and my work together again, with the awareness that Fanny is no longer there; and it leaves such a bitter taste that I still cannot see my way clearly or find any peace." Within 6 months, after a short illness, Mendelssohn died at the age of 38. It seems that Felix died of a broken heart. Slide 24 Felix and Fanny both left an undeniable mark on the music world. They each composed several hundreds of songs and large works, many of which are still performed in orchestras and other ensembles today. This song you are listening to is a famous song by Felix called Spring Song. Slide 25 An overture is the music that is played before an opera or musical. Felix began to call pieces overtures even though they were all by themselves. This was a trend that many other composers used throughout the Romantic period, including Tchaikovsky Slide 26 Listening (click to start) Fanny Mendelssohn: Farewell to Rome Felix Mendelssohn: Wedding March from Midsummers Nights Dream