> Fanny Mendelssohn by Francoise Tillard [LKD]: Book Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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BOOK REVIEW

FANNY MENDELSSOHN by Francoise Tillard.
Amadeus Press ISBN 0-931340-96-9

 


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This is both an interesting and infuriating book. I did not find it a book that I could not put down as the great Christa Ludwig states. Betsy Jolas must surely be way over the top when she says that this book changed her life. Gerard Conde in Le Monde speaks of Fanny as an unjustly neglected composer and inherent in that statement is the idea that she is a good composer at least.

This sort of praise is counterproductive for it seeks to make up oneís mind and this praise can therefore do more harm than good.

The musical examples quoted in the book show a very basic ability to compose relying on formulae. Anyone with a little music knowledge can do this. It is not even as good as first year Music College composition. And listening to the recordings of her music it may be charming but has nothing new to say Even if you have not heard the music before you are sure that you have.

The book also reeks of feminist sexism, one of the most insidious traits of the last 30 years or so. The facts are that very few women wanted to be composers not that they were kept down. It is the same situation with the suffragette movement in Britain a hundred years ago. Hitherto women did not want to vote or to be in politics and therefore to say that women were kept down is another sexist remark that shows that unacceptable feminist attitude that women are superior. They are not. They are better than men in some things, thatís for sure, but not in being composers! The implication is that Fanny would have been a star but for men! What absolute nonsense! Her music is not great.

And what difference does it make what she wore to a concert? What has that to do with her alleged skills as a musician?

Are we now expected to read that when Sir Adrian Boult conducted the premiere of Tippett's Second Symphony he wore odd socks? What value is that?

This book is full of such trivia.

One also detects that the writer is saying that Fanny was a better composer than her brother Felix and, in effect, charges him with being a male chauvinist pig as he refused to publish any of her works.

The book does not contain a complete list of works but there may be legitimate reasons for this. We do have a detailed family tree and endless detail some of which is nothing more than gossip. But then there are people who like this Coronation Street style. Personally, I donít.

The book also highlights the question as to how many great women composers have we? How many could stand with Beethoven or Brahms? I would love someone to tell me

The book is handsomely produced with fine pictures.

Linda Karen Dowson


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