8 MARCH 2017, 1PM

BBC Radio 3 is to broadcast the UK premiere of a major piano work previously thought to be by Felix Mendelssohn, but now proved to be the work of his sister Fanny. The Easter Sonata will be broadcast live from a lunchtime concert at the Royal College of Music on International Women’s Day (8 March), performed by Royal College of Music Alumnus and first female Leeds competition winner Sofya Gulyak. Kate Molleson will present the Radio 3 broadcast, which is part of Radio 3’s International Women’s Day programming.

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805 – 1847), the sister of better-known composer Felix, composed around five hundred musical works. Only a tiny fraction was ever published or performed during her life – although one of these, published under her brother’s name, was Queen Victoria’s favourite Mendelssohn song, ‘Italien’. Fanny also wrote choral works, and even her own wedding music.

Fanny mentioned the Easter Sonata in her journal, but it was lost for 140 years, before being discovered and recorded as a Felix Mendelssohn work in the 1970s. American Mendelssohn scholar Dr Angela Mace Christian managed to gain brief access to the original, privately-owned manuscript in 2010. By comparing the handwriting to Fanny’s, analyzing the notes and alterations, and matching the page numbers to a missing section in an album of Fanny’s music, she was able to prove that the sonata was her work. The original manuscript was since resold at auction and has disappeared into private hands.

Sheila Hayman, filmmaker, writer and direct descendent of Fanny, says: ‘The story of my ancestor Fanny Mendelssohn becomes more fascinating the more you explore it, and the still-unfinished detective story of the Easter Sonata brings it right into the present. It’s wonderful that the discovery of this lost work, its proper attribution to Fanny, and the continuing quest to locate the manuscript and produce a definitive edition, have given us a way to help bring Fanny back to public attention, give her due recognition and with luck, bring more of her unpublished music into the world.

Dr Angela Mace Christian says: ‘This is a major work, and one of huge ambition for someone aged only twenty-three. Its rediscovery and proper attribution shows Fanny’s stature as a composer in a completely new light.’

Edwina Wolstencroft, BBC Radio 3 Editor and Diversity Lead, says: ‘Radio 3 is committed to broadcasting remarkable music and culture, and celebrating high quality work, regardless of gender. As part of our International Women’s Day programming we want to give a platform and a voice to female composers who have been unjustly neglected by history. We are delighted to be able to broadcast Fanny Mendelssohn’s Easter Sonata for the first time with its rightful attribution, and hope that the live broadcast contributes towards Fanny’s overdue recognition as a musical genius.’

The Royal College of Music concert also includes a brand new work inspired by the Easter Sonata, composed by the Snowden-Sir Duo (violinist Joo Yeon Sir and guitarist Laura Snowden) and is part of a day of events celebrating Women in Music at the RCM.


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