The main reason I wanted to share music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel [besides the fact that I’m using a colored sketch of her portrait as my icon at the moment] is because I feel that she is unfairly ignored compared to her more renowned younger brother. Ironically, I find this piano suite, “The Year”, to be more interesting and engaging than most of Felix’s piano works [his Preludes and Fugues are fantastic, I have to admit]. Then again, part of the reason for her lower popularity [another break here to point out that you most often hear her name in conversations about female composers, not as often about “Romantic composers” or just “composers”] is because most of her music was left unpublished until after her untimely death. Otherwise, since she was a woman and it wasn’t considered lady like for women to write music at the time, she wasn’t as encouraged to compose as Felix had, and some of her early piano works were published under her brother’s name. Felix had her later songs, piano, and chamber works published in her memory. Another example of historic sexism undermining a woman’s achievement. Hensel wrote the suite when she and her family were spending a year abroad in Rome, and it acts almost like a musical diary of her time. Each month doesn’t necessarily correspond with a more “impressionistic” painting of the month, but rather a personal view of how the month felt to her. For example, July isn’t a happy sunny dance as you might expect a Romantic era composer to depict it as, but rather it is a darker piece with heavy use of tremolos in the bass. That is because Hensel was going through depression and homesickness during that month. And while the work has its darker moments, it is also full of joy and optimism, and the work ends with a short nod to the chorale from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist”, the Old Year has Passed. In this meta-musical gesture, Hensel is acknowledging that, whether it be ups or downs, life goes on, and the future will continue to have surprises for us. Overall the music is deeply indebted to Beethoven, and looks forward toward the mature works of Liszt and Schumann. If anything, it does remind me of a Schumann suite, except there are more transitions than I’d expected, and the music is so lively, so passionate, constantly moving forward at a vivid pace, and even when the slower elegiac months come in, you feel yourself gliding along.
I’m back~ And this took no time at all! I also just realized I have not shown Alex Lacamoire enough love when writing the credits at the top of my sheets and I apologize for that.
Since the score book has been released you should all do what I did and BUY IT. My copy hasn’t arrived yet and I’m dying to learn ‘History Has Its Eyes On You”. Anyway as I said, I won’t be transcribing anymore songs that are in the book. It’s less than $20 so show some love and buy it even if you’ve already learned my transcriptions.
Next up will (eventually) be “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”
As my ninth Female Composers series continues, I’d like to share the work of American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953). Considered part of the “ultra-modernist” circle (the only woman named to that group, in fact), she was particularly interested in serialism and dissonant counterpoint. Though her most famous work by far is her String Quartet 1931, today I was much more in the mood for something simpler, so I’ll share instead these piano Preludes, played here by Steffen Schleiermacher. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find these to be a tasty morsel for the soul today.
More to come as the week continues! - Melinda Beasi
Elias loses his virginity in the back of a car that smells like pencil shavings and fresh rain to a boy with chocolate curls and a cherry blossom mouth.
Elias meets Adam for the first time at the library, and immediately puts his foot in his mouth.
“I’m only waiting for my brother, I’ve read most of the books in here already,” Elias insists to the boy, the strange teenager dressed in a pale pink sweater with a pretty white bow on the collar. Elias thinks he’s doing the boy a favor at first, because no one must speak to the boy very often. He dresses very strange and looks more like a girl than a boy. Elias is doing the boy a favor, yes.
But the boy just blinks up at him with long, curling lashes that flutter without him even trying, and Elias thinks he must have a lot of friends, he’s so pretty. “Are you Gabriel’s older brother?” His voice is high and sweet, like liquorice candy and melted caramel. “The one who fought Sven Irlin in the courtyard last week?”
Elias’s chest puffs out, ready to set the record straight. “He hit me first, he’s a horrible boy. I won easily, even though he had three friends. No, it was five. No, ten! I beat them all!”
“Well, Gabriel certainly is lucky,” says the boy. “He must be very proud to have a strong brother like you.” Those lashes swoop down, shy and sweet, and Elias would’ve been flattered had he not seen the boy’s smile.