Songs, Vol. 1 Naxos 8.570981
- Composer: Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel
- Lyricists: Joseph von Eichendorff, Emanuel von Geibel, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Nikolaus Lenau, Friedrich Ruckert
- Artists: Dorothea Craxton, Babette Dorn
A gifted composer of some 500 works, mainly songs and small piano pieces, Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel has been eclipsed by the fame of her younger brother Felix Mendelssohn. Yet her sensitivity in setting the German Romantic poets she loved, principally Goethe, Heine, Geibel and von Eichendorff, warrants greater attention. Like Clara Schumann, whose songs Dorothea Craxton has also recorded for Naxos, Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel possessed a distinct and richly powerful musical voice, by turns introspective, melancholic, delicate, lilting and serene—which deserves to be heard on its own terms.
Songs, Vol. 1 Review
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, younger sister of Felix, undeniably shared in the family gift, and just as undeniably had that gift suppressed by the ways of the world she lived in. Her strongest support came not from her brother, who passed off her songs as his own on occasion, but from her husband, artist William Hensel. Mendelssohn-Hensel's songs are simpler than Felix's and have an attractive melodic aspect. There seems to be an undercurrent of tension in some of them, and performers have tried biographical approaches, sometimes pairing Fanny's songs with Felix's, to try to bring out the deeper levels of Fanny's works. German soprano Dorothea Craxton, who has also recorded music of Clara Schumann, offers a more straightforward program. Her rather small voice, which tends toward a very slight vibrato, feels idiomatic to this drawing-room repertory, but sample it to see what you think; it's not to all tastes. Craxton's program highlights Mendelssohn-Hensel's inclination toward texts by the greats of German poetry; arguably the texts she set were of higher quality than those favored by either her brother or Franz Schubert. Her favorite poet was Eichendorff, whose strongly metrical, slightly sentimental, but not trivial or unsubtle lyrics were a good match for her music. Nachtwanderer (Night Wanderer, track 7) offers an unusually good example of the restless spirit lurking in Mendelssohn-Hensel's songs, and Craxton is alert to this flavor. The Mendelssohn room of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig provided a fine sound environment for this solid disc of Mendelssohn-Hensel's songs, the first in a series. James Manheim – All Music Guide