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Fanny (Mendelssohn) Hensel: Die Schwalbe (1823)

Fanny (Mendelssohn) Hensel (1805-1847)

mezzo-soprano Thea Lobo

pianist Eunmi Ko

This charming song was the first of Fanny (Mendelssohn) Hensel's works to be published (and this appears to be the first recording of it). It was printed anonymously in 1825, presumably by the poet. It is unclear whether she authorized, or was even aware of, its publication.


Fanny Mendelssohn was the oldest of four children, the second-oldest being her more well-known brother Felix. Born in 1805 to a well-to-do Jewish family in Berlin, her family struggled with the question of assimilation. However, Fanny always identified with her Jewish heritage. She was considered a prodigy for her pianistic and compositional talents, even more so than her brother. Despite her undeniable passion and abilities, she was discouraged from pursuing a career in music by her brother and father for fear it would interfere with domestic expectations of a woman at the time--a limitation she struggled with the rest of her life. She fell in love with and married visual artist Wilhelm Hensel in 1829. Thankfully he encouraged and supported her musical ambitions. She wrote roughly 500 musical works, but only 50 were published in her final years after Felix gave his long-awaited blessing. She succumbed to a stroke at age 41.