In the Fall 2020 semester, Professor of Music-Piano Nicholas Phillips, recruited nine of his piano students to host a virtual concert featuring the music of early Romantic composer, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel.
Mendelssohn is often forgotten as a composer in the surveys of early European classical music due to the prominence her younger brother garnered as a musician. Although equally as talented and musically adept as her male counterpart, Mendelssohn was often overlooked as a musician because of her gender.
McKenna Girdeen, a first-year BM-Piano Performance Major from Hager City, WI, played Mendelssohn’s “Lied Op. 2 No. 2, Andante con moto (B Major)” in the virtual concert. This was Girdeen’s first encounter with Mendelssohn and it quickly became a favorite piece to play.
“With this piece, the melody gets passed around between the right hand and the left hand,” says Girdeen. “The hardest part for me was trying to bring out the melody while still making it sound musical.”
Leah Will, a fourth-year BM-Piano Performance Major, also played a Mendelssohn piece in the concert recital, performing “Lied Op. 4 No. 4 ‘Il Saltarello Romano’ (A Minor).” She remarks that Mendelssohn’s music was very chromatic for an early Romantic composer, and that “her music compositional language is very unique in the way that she explores key areas and the route she takes to get to those key areas.”
Throughout the process of learning her piece, Will discovered the large impact Mendelssohn had on Western European music studied today. Mendelssohn’s work as a composer opened the door for female composers like Amy Beach and Florence Price who may not have been as recognized had it not been for the impressive body of work Mendelssohn wrote in her lifetime.
The link to this recital can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMzkns-2Rws.