So which Mendelssohn composer do we like best?

So which Mendelssohn composer do we like best?


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2019

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:


The near-symbiotic relationship between Mendelssohn and his older sister, examined in my forthcoming book Genius and Anxiety, was so central to both lives that Felix was felled by a stroke on hearing of Fanny’s death and died before the year was out….

It is almost impossible on record to hear them together, which is why the present release is such a gift….

Read on here.

And here.


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Yes, potentially Fanny Mendelssohn could have been as great as her brother if she was not discouraged by her times & her family. At the same time, one should be cautious of being too critical of Felix, who is now beginning to be fully appreciated after decades of being accused of being too superficial, lacking angst, true depth ,etc. Even Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was Jewish, thought that Mendelssohn, as a Jew, lacked true depth to be a great composer (at least something to that effect). He is not well enough established to be challenged by a potentially equal sister, rival, etc. On the other hand, a well established composer like Gustav Mahler should now be open to challenge (even Otto Klemperer thought he was no equal to Brahms & Bruckner).

    • Esther Cavett says:

      ==Fanny could have been as great as her brother if she was not discouraged by her times & her family.

      No, she had every encouragement from her wealthy painter husband Wilhelm Hensel who invited, amongst others, Paganini and Lizst to hear her compositions.

      I’ve never heard anything by Fanny of half the quality of her brother’s violin cto, the Italian symphony or the MSND music

    • John Borstlap says:

      There are many reasons why composers lack true depth, some engaging angst, etc. etc., and ethnic background is the least likely to be one of them. If we had only Mendelssohn’s Midsummernight’s Dream music, the violin concerto, the Italian symphony, and the Variations Sérieuses, he would still be counted among the great. That racist argument stems from Wagner, who developed it in his vicious pamflet ‘Das Judentum in der Musik’ (published twice, to make sure it would wind-up people sufficiently). He could not see how culture can be absorbed and entirely identified with, as he did himself, developing from a very superficial, derivative composer into a truly great one over a long time period.

  • Nijinsky says:

    People say that’s “Mozart’s” music is too easy for children and too difficult for adults.


    I think Fanny’s music is too easy for “great artists” to think is cute, or nice, or “talented,” but too “difficult” for them to actually do justice to. That’s because it’s not produced, it’s not about being great and creating an “effect.” You have to get inside the notes and make yourself vulnerable rather than playing the game. It’s a little bit more about being human….

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ==Felix was felled by a stroke on hearing of Fanny’s death

    Her death had also been from a stroke so there was some perhaps some propensity for it in the family

  • Harpsi says:

    …. do we like BETTER, not best. You need three or more items to use “best.”

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I hate it when pedants raise their personal peeves into invented language rules that they pompously try to impose on other people who are perfectly proficient in their native language. There is nothing wrong with Norman’s choice of words.

  • Peter says:

    Sadly, Fanny M did not reach her huge potential, whereas Felix M did.
    But we listen to the music that was written, not the music that might have been.