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Organized in five sections, the readings deal with a broad spectrum of topics and approaches about women, gender, and sexuality in music across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas from the twelfth century to the present. Included are such significant themes as class and sexual politics in domestic and professional music making, the sequestration of female musical performance, the lament, gender identity through performance, and women singers as empowered voices of the people.
In celebrating the diversity of women's musical voices, this eclectic collection will appeal to students, scholars, and general readers interested in music history, world music, and women's studies.
Had Madame Hensel been a poor man's daughter, she must have become known to the world by the side of Madame Schumann and Madame Pleyel, as a female pianist of the very highest class. Like her brother, she had in her composition a touch of that southern vivacity which is so rare among the Germans. More feminine than his, her playing bore a strong family resemblance to her brother's in its fire, neatness, and solidity. Like himself, too, she was as generally accomplished as she was specially gifted.
The British music critic is speaking, of course, of Fanny Hensel nee Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The "accomplished" pianist gave only one public performance: a benefit concert in 1836; the "gifted" composer lived to see publication of only forty-two out of some 400 works. Unlike her brother's music, hers was known only to a small circle and heard only at home musicales. When Fanny Hensel finally summoned up the courage to publish her work, defying the brother who disapproved of professional music making by a woman, sudden death cheated her of the satisfaction and triumph she surely would have had.
The constraints placed on Fanny Hensel were many: her gender, religion, family tradition, and prevailing intellectual beliefs all contributed to her position as a dilettante. Above all, as we learn from Chorley, the power of class was a potent force in keeping her work in the private realm.
The myths and legends about the Mendelssohns are gradually dispersing; access to heretofore unpublished letters have changed our perceptions of the family; new information about Fanny Hensers creative output has led to examination, performances, and recordings of her works; and the recent publication of her diaries has revealed much about the inner life and soul of the woman. For over one hundred years, the major source of information about the Mendelssohns had been the family biography, written by Fanny Hensel's devoted son, Sebastian Hensel, and first published in 1879. His book offers a portrait based on letters, diaries, and memories: through Sebastian's eyes, we see the entire family, proudly beginning with the grand forebear, Moses Mendelssohn, the great German-Jewish philosopher. But it is precisely because Hensel gives what he refers to as a picture of a "good German middle-class family" that we must look further for the whole story. And that is what we are beginning to uncover. We begin with a look at the Mendelssohn family.
Fanny Caecilie Hensel, the eldest child of Abraham and Lea Mendelssohn and a granddaughter of Moses Mendelssohn, was given the same education as her brother Felix, three and a half years her junior. The two studied first with their mother, and, for a short time, with Marie Bigot, while on a family trip to Paris in 1816. They were then sent to Ludwig Berger for piano lessons and eventually to Carl Friedrich Zelter for theory and composition lessons. Zelter, a composer and conductor of the Singakademie, the Berlin choral society that Fanny and Felix joined in 1820, was the most influential Berlin musician of the time. The general education the Mendelssohn children received was thorough and intense: Fanny (1805-47), Felix (1809-47), Rebecka (1811-58), and Paul (1812-74) all had private tutoring from the finest scholars in Berlin. Besides music, they studied modern and classical languages, mathematics, history, geography, as well as drawing (in which Felix was particularly gifted), and dancing. The schedule drawn up for the young Mendelssohns-which also included physical exercise-left no idle time: beginning at five in the morning, every moment in the day was accounted for. In addition to the rigorous working schedule and the intellectual stimulation from distinguished friends, relatives, and guests, Fanny attended lectures on a wide variety of subjects given by Berlin's leading scholars.
The paths of the sister and brother diverged as they reached adolescence. All were musical-Fanny and Felix exceptionally so, as Rebecka jokingly explained many years later: "My older siblings stole my artistic fame. In any other family, I would have been much praised as a musician and perhaps even have directed a small circle. But next to Felix and Fanny, I could not have succeeded in attaining any such recognition."
Although it was clear to the family that Fanny had talents equal to those of her brother Felix, she was reminded by her father of the feminine duties and responsibilities that would not permit the professional activity open to Felix. In July 1820, Abraham Mendelssohn wrote to her: "Music will perhaps become his profession while for you it can and must always be only an ornament, never the root of your being and doing. We may therefore pardon him some ambition and desire to be acknowledged in a pursuit which appears very important to him, because he feels a vocation for it.... your very joy at the praise he earns proves that you might, in his place, have merited equal approval. Remain true to these sentiments and to this line of conduct; they are feminine, and only the truly feminine graces the woman." On her twenty-third birthday, her father reminded her again: "You must prepare yourself more seriously and diligently for your real calling, the only calling for a young woman-to be a housewife."
When Abraham spoke of her future as a housewife, he envisioned, of course, a future as the mistress of a Berlin establishment befitting a member of the Berlin Jewish bourgeois aristocracy. (The Mendelssohn children were converted to Christianity in 1816 and their parents later, in 1822. Nevertheless, they were referred to as a Jewish family long after they left that faith and were subjected to anti-Semitic comments during and after their lifetimes.)
The prescribed role of the cultivated Berlin lady was familiar to Fanny Hensel. All her female relatives were educated and cultured women: grandmother, mother, aunts, and great-aunts on the maternal side were members of the very wealthy Itzig family, who used their talents to establish salons, to build libraries, to support musicians, artists, and composers. It was expected that Fanny would marry and follow the tradition of her Itzig relatives-and she did so in almost every way. We learn from her diary that she was not only interested in Mendelssohn family matters, and involved with music, literature, and art, but that she was also concerned with events in Berlin, in Germany, and the world. After a lengthy engagement, Fanny married Wilhelm Hensel (1794-1861), the Prussian court painter and professor of art, in October 1829, and remained for most of her life a devoted and obedient daughter, wife, mother-and frustrated composer. (See Fig. 1.1.)
Two aunts on her father's side, Dorothea Veit Schlegel (1764-1839) and Henriette Mendelssohn (1775-1831), daughters of Moses Mendelssohn, however, were not well-to-do. Both were involved in the Berlin literary salons in their youth, and both turned to intellectual pursuits and supported themselves by teaching and writing.
Their father, Moses Mendelssohn, had arrived in Berlin in 1743 and, as a Jew, barely gained entrance into that city. Recognized as one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, he carried on his intellectual labors only during the part of the day in which he was not engaged in his regular job, first as a bookkeeper in a textile factory, later as a partner in that enterprise. He was greatly concerned about the education of his children and took as much pride in the intellectual achievements of his eldest child, Dorothea, as in his sons. (Henrietta was only ten when he died.) But when Dorothea was eighteen, a husband was chosen for her without regard for her feelings or wishes. Dorothea remained in a loveless marriage for sixteen years and ultimately divorced her husband to live with and later marry Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), the writer and critic. Yet, even before her marriage to her second husband, Dorothea worked as his copyist, editor, and writer, and, it seems, gladly took a subordinate position. In her journal is an entry: "[One goal for me] would be to be able to earn so much by writing that Friedrich need not write for money anymore." To a mutual friend, the Berlin theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, she wrote on 14 February 1800:
I feel myself so rich in many talents and gifts that it would be wrong of me and a sin if I permitted my lack of money to depress me too much. If only good fortune would favor me so that I could continue supporting my friend for several more years, then I would certainly be secure! ... He is also working honestly and tirelessly, but how can one expect an artist to deliver a work of art each year just to be able to exist? He cannot create more.... To bring pressure on the artist to become a mere craftsman-that I cannot do. And it would not succeed anyway. What I can do lies within these limits: to create peace for him and to earn bread humbly as a craftswoman until he is able to do so. And I am honestly determined to do just that?
Her novel, Florentin, does not carry her name on the title page. Schlegel is listed as the "editor."
Henriette, the younger Mendelssohn sister, never married. She founded a renowned boarding school for girls in Paris and then worked as the governess and companion to the daughter of the wealthy French General (later Marshall) Sebastiani. After many years of teaching in Paris, she returned to Berlin in 1824, lived with the family of Lea and Abraham Mendelssohn, and died there.
Although Abraham and his family were fond, perhaps even proud, of the achievements of Dorothea and Henriette Mendelssohn, and offered them financial support when necessary, the sisters were not Fanny's role models. The Itzig connection-her mother, grandmother, and great-aunts-served that function. Lea Mendelssohn nee Salomon (1777-1842) was a granddaughter of Isaac Daniel Itzig (1793-99), the court banker and probably the wealthiest man in Berlin. Powerful and privileged, his palace was opposite the king's own. He was a "protected Jew," and unique in that his children and grandchildren were permitted to inherit land and houses in the Prussian capital, a privilege that for other Jewish families extended only to one son, if at all. Itzig was the first of a small number of Jews to receive the rights of citizenship. Of his eleven daughters (he also had five sons), we are particularly interested in four: Bella Salomon (1749-1824), the grandmother of Fanny, and three of her sisters: Sara Levy (1761-1854), Fanny von Arnstein (1758-1818), and Caecilie von Eskeles (1760-1836)-the great-aunts after whom Fanny Caecilie Mendelssohn was named. All the Itzig daughters were talented musicians and all appeared to be content with their roles as salonières, dilettantes, or patronesses. There is some controversy as to whether it was the grandmother Bella Salomon or the great-aunt Sara Levy who gave Felix Mendelssohn the handwritten score of the St. Matthew Passion in 1823, which led to the famous revival he conducted in 1829, but it could very well have been either because all the sisters were well acquainted with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach at a time when little of it was published and still less performed publicly. Sara Levy studied with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and was a friend and patron of Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach. Married to a banker chosen by her father, Madame Levy had amassed a large collection of Bach manuscripts, which she donated to the Singakademie library. "Tante Levy" was not only an early member of the chorus but was reported to have performed as harpsichord soloist (unpaid, of course) with the Singakademie instrumental ensemble.
The Baronesses Fanny von Arnstein and Caecilie von Eskeles married Viennese court bankers and settled in that city. Fanny von Arnstein, a charming, witty woman over whom duels were fought, brought the intellectual tradition of the Berlin salon to the Habsburg capital. She was a pianist and befriended Beethoven and other Viennese composers. The musical soirees she gave during the Congress of Vienna were renowned, and benefit concerts she organized led to the founding of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Her daughter, Henrietta Pereira-Arnstein (1780-1859), also a fine pianist, aided Haydn in his last years and continued the musical traditions of the Arnstein family. Lea Mendelssohn particularly admired her aunt Fanny and there was close contact with the Viennese relatives, who visited and corresponded regularly.
For most of her life, Fanny Hensel followed the pattern set by the Itzig women. She married, supervised a large home and the education of her one child, entertained family, friends, and her husband's colleagues and students, and maintained a large and lively correspondence and the private musical traditions of the Mendelssohns. Like many of the Mendelssohn family women, her intimates were her sister and other relatives, some converted Jews, others who remained Jewish. Almost all were musicians or musiclovers; many, with Fanny, participated in the choral activities of the Singakademie until 1833. In January of that year, however, Felix was rejected for the post of conductor of the Singakademie and the family left that organization.
The musical activity that engaged her energies and talents and that proved to be most rewarding was the Mendelssohn family Sonntagsmusik, the Sunday musicales, held first in her parent's mansion on Leipzigerstrasse 3 and then later in the garden house on their property, where she lived with her husband and son. These private musicales became brilliant Berlin musical affairs attended by aristocracy and bourgeois music-lovers alike.
Her Sunday musicales have often been described as musical salons similar to the Berlin literary and intellectual salons presided over by such women as Rahel Levin Varnhagen von Ense, Henriette Herz, and Sara Levy, Fanny's great-aunt. These women were educated, charming hostesses who stimulated discussions among writers, philosophers, statesmen, intellectually curious aristocrats, and well-to-do businessmen. But the Hensel musicales were of a different order. Assuming the responsibilities of music director, Madame Hensel planned the music programs, performed as a soloist and accompanist, played her own compositions, and conducted the choir made up of skilled amateurs and an orchestra of professional musicians hired from the Königstadt Theater. Her Sunday musicales introduced to Berlin audiences the music of the Bach family and Gluck.
Excerpted from Women's Voices across Musical Worlds Copyright © 2004 by Jane A. Bernstein. Excerpted by permission.
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|Introduction: On Women and Music||3|
|Pt. 1||Public Voices, Private Voices|
|Ch. 1||The Power of Class: Fanny Hensel and the Mendelssohn Family||18|
|Ch. 2||The Illusion of India's "Public" Dancers||36|
|Ch. 3||"Fighting in Frills": Women and the Prix de Rome in French Cultural Politics||60|
|Pt. 2||Cloistered Voices|
|Ch. 4||Music for the Love Feast: Hildegard of Bingen and the Song of Songs||92|
|Ch. 5||Putting Bolognese Nun Musicians in their Place||118|
|Pt. 3||Empowered Voices|
|Ch. 6||Voices of the People: Umm Kulthum||147|
|Ch. 7||"Thanks for My Weapons in Battle - My Voice and the Desire to Use It": Women and Protest Music in the Americas||166|
|Ch. 8||Tori Amos's Inner Voices||187|
|Pt. 4||Lamenting Voices|
|Ch. 9||Having Her Say: The Blues as the Black Woman's Lament||213|
|Ch. 10||Abandoned Heroines: Women's Voices in Handel's Cantatas||232|
|Pt. 5||Gendered Voices and Performance|
|Ch. 11||The Nightingale and the Partridge: Singing and Gender among Prespa Albanians||261|
|Ch. 12||Women Playing Men in Italian Opera, 1810-1835||285|
|Ch. 13||Shifting Selves: Embodied Metaphors in Nihon Boyo||308|
|List of Contributors||341|