Journal of Musicological Research, 30:175–201, 2011Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0141-1896 print/1547-7304 onlineDOI: 10.1080/01411896.2011.588641Fanny Hensel’s Lied AestheticSTEPHEN RODGERSUniversity of OregonThe bulk of research on Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel to date hasfocused primarily on either the historical or editorial; analysis ofher music, however, is rare. Turning the lens on Hensel’s songsfor solo voice is a step toward rectifying this situation. Whatdefines the Henselian Lied? What makes her songs distinctive andunmistakably her own? What, in short, was her Lied aesthetic? Anexamination of two of her songs from the late 1820s, “Verlust”(1827) and “Die frühen Gräber” (1828), uncovers three hallmarksof her approach to the Lied: an avoidance of tonic harmony, anemphasis on text painting, and the use of the piano accompaniment as commentary. The most striking of these hallmarks—theabsence of the tonic—can be traced through several songs fromthe middle of her output, including her setting of Goethe’s “Überallen Gipfeln ist Ruh” (1835). All three features are most evidentin one of her last songs, “Im Herbste” (1846). These songs reveala composer with a great sensitivity to textual nuance, a penchantfor harmonic experimentation, and a strong interpretive streak.Moreover, they suggest that far from being merely an exemplarof the “Mendelssohnian style,” Hensel was an independent artistin her own right, with a creative voice that was adventuresome,deeply expressive, and, in its own way, as pathbreaking as any inthe Romantic era.Once regarded as merely the sister of a famous brother, after more than acentury of neglect, Fanny Hensel is finally coming into her own. The pasttwenty years have seen an explosion of interest in her life and work.1 Since1997, the 150th anniversary of her and her brother’s deaths, no fewer thanThanks to the Oregon Humanities Center for providing me with a fellowship that supported research onthis article.1For consistency, throughout this article I will refer to Fanny by her married name, Hensel, ratherthan by her maiden name, Mendelssohn, even if the pieces I am discussing were composed before her1829 marriage to Wilhelm Hensel.175
176S. Rodgersfive biographies of Hensel have been published,2 as well as five collectionsof essays,3 four volumes of letters,4 an edition of her diaries,5 two thematiccatalogs,6 and even two children’s stories and an Italian novel based on herlife (aptly titled Fanny Mendelssohn: Note a margine [notes in the margins]).7Topping it all off is Larry Todd’s remarkable life-and-works study, FannyHensel: The Other Mendelssohn, published just last year.8The bulk of this research has been either historical or editorial, in partbecause her life story is so compelling that it has become the focus ofattention while her music has been shunted into the wings. Analysis ofHensel’s music, however, is rare. I hope to take a step toward rectifying thissituation by turning an analytical lens on Hensel’s songs for solo voice. Songwas her preferred mode of expression; she contributed more works to thisgenre than to any other, writing 249 songs in total, more than twice as manyas her brother and roughly as many as Schumann and Brahms. Yet for allthe recent strides in Hensel studies, her approach to songwriting remainsill-defined, and her songs remain underexplored.92Antje Olivier, Mendelssohn Schwester Fanny Hensel: Musikerin, Komponistin, Dirigentin(Düsseldorf: Droste, 1997); Sulamith Sparre, Eine Frau jenseits des Schweigens: die Komponistin FannyMendelssohn-Hensel (1805–1847) (Lich: Edition AV, 2006); and Peter Schleuning, Fanny Hensel geb.Mendelssohn: Musikerin der Romantik (Köln: Böhlau, 2007).3Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: das Werk, ed. Martina Helmig (Munich: Editiontext kritik, 1997); Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Komponieren zwischen Geselligkeitsidealund romantischer Musikästhetik, ed. Beatrix Borchard and Monika Schwarz-Danuser (Stuttgart: Metzler,1999); The Mendelssohns: Their Music in History, ed. John Michael Cooper and Julie D. Prandi (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2002); Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: ein Frauenschicksal im19. Jahrhundert, ed. Veronika Leggewie (Bell: Top Music, 2005); and Die Musikveranstaltungen bei denMendelssohns—Ein musikalischer Salon?: Die Referate des Symposions am 2. September 2006 in Leipzig,ed. Hans-Günter Klein (Leipzig: Mendelssohn-Haus, 2006).4Musik will gar nicht rutschen ohne Dich: Briefwechsel 1821 bis 1846 / Fanny und FelixMendelssohn, ed. Eva Weissweiler (Berlin: Propyläen, 1997); Fanny Hensel, Briefe aus Rom an ihreFamilie in Berlin 1839/40, ed. Hans-Günter Klein (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2002); Fanny Hensel, Briefe ausVenedig und Neapel an ihre Familie in Berlin 1839/40, ed. Hans-Günter Klein (Wiesbaden: Reichert,2004); and Fanny Hensel, Briefe aus Paris an ihre Familie 1835, ed. Hans-Günter Klein (Wiesbaden:Reichert, 2007).5Fanny Hensel: Tagebücher, ed. Hans-Günter Klein and Rudolf Elvers (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf &Härtel, 2002).6Renate Hellwig-Unruh, Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: thematisches Verzeichnis derKompositionen (Adliswil: Kunzelmann, 2000); and Annette Maurer, Thematisches Verzeichnis derklavierbegleiteten Sololieder Fanny Hensels (Kassel: Furore, 1997).7Roswitha Frölich, Wer war Fanny Hensel? Auf den Spuren von Fanny Mendelssohn (Munich:Ellermann, 1997); Gloria Kamen, Hidden Music: The Life of Fanny Mendelssohn (New York: Atheneum,1996); and Adriana Mascoli and Marcella Papeschi, Fanny Mendelssohn: Note a margine (San Cesario diLecce: Manni, 2006).8R. Larry Todd, Fanny Hensel: The Other Mendelssohn (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).9Yonatan Malin’s chapter on Hensel from his recent book Songs in Motion: Rhythm and Meter inthe German Lied (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 69–94, represents the most thorough analytical treatment of Hensel’s Lieder, focusing mainly on her Op. 1 song collection. Diether de la Motte’s“Einfall als Bereicherung der Musiksprache in Liedern von Fanny Hensel,” in Das Werk, 58–67, andVictoria Sirota’s The Life and Works of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Ph.D. diss., Boston University Schoolof Music, 1981), 186–208, offer valuable, if brief, analytical discussions of several Hensel Lieder. For
Fanny Hensel’s Lied Aesthetic177What are the hallmarks of the Henselian Lied? What makes her songsdistinctive and unmistakably her own? What was her approach to text settingand musical expression? What, in short, was Hensel’s Lied aesthetic? I usethe word aesthetic deliberately, referring not just to the stylistic resources ofher songs—the stockpile of forms, harmonies, melodies, and rhythms fromwhich she draws, which are largely the same as those of contemporaneoussong composers—but also to her deployment of those resources. It is in hercharacteristic usage of form, harmony, melody, and rhythm that her uniquecompositional voice can be most clearly discerned.Attending to Hensel’s “voice” naturally entails addressing some ofthe myths that have accreted around her music, perhaps the most common being that it is an exemplar of the “Mendelssohnian style” of herbrother.10 Admittedly, one of my aims here is to suggest that Hensel’ssongs (particularly her mature songs) are in fact quite different fromMendelssohn’s—generally more dramatic, more text-driven, and more harmonically audacious.11 But this is only one aim and hardly the mostimportant one. My main goal is to characterize her Lied aesthetic as a thingoverviews of her song output, see James Deaville, “A Multitude of Voices: The Lied at Mid Century,”in The Cambridge Companion to the Lied, ed. James Parsons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,2004), 151–53, and Jürgen Thym, “Crosscurrents in Song: Five Distinctive Voices,” in German Liederin the Nineteenth Century, ed. Rufus Hallmark (New York: Schirmer, 1996), 161–66. See also MarciaJ. Citron’s seminal essay, “The Lieder of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel,” Musical Quarterly 69/4 (1983),570–94. Other valuable analytical studies of Hensel’s music (dealing with genres other than song)include Annegret Huber, “Anmerkungen zu ‘Schreibart’ und ‘Lebensprinzip’ einiger Sonatenhauptsätzevon Fanny Hensel,” in Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Das Werk, 93–104, and Das Liedohne Worte als künstbegreifendes Experiment: Eine komparatistische Studie zur Intermedialität desInstrumentalliedes 1830–1850 (Tutzing: H. Schneider, 2006); Annette Nubbemeyer, “Die KlaviersonatenFanny Hensels: Analytische Betrachtungen,” in Komponieren zwischen Geselligkeitsideal und romantischer Musikästhetik, 90–120; Stefan Wolitz, Fanny Hensels Chorwerke (Tutzing: H. Schneider, 2007); andSusan Wollenberg, “Fanny Hensel’s Op. 8, No. 1: A Special Case of ‘multum in parvo’?,” NineteenthCentury Music Review 4/2 (2007), 101–17. Todd also offers brief analyses of Hensel’s works throughoutThe Other Mendelssohn.10Consider, for example, that in his 1984 textbook on Romantic music Leon Plantinga wrote thatHensel’s songs and piano pieces were “similar in style to her brother’s early music,” save “certain individual traits in texture and figuration” (Romantic Music: A History of Nineteenth-Century Style in WesternEurope [New York: W.W. Norton, 1984, 255]), and that in the 1995 paperback edition of the New GroveKarl-Heinz Köhler claimed that Hensel “composed in the same style as [Mendelssohn] did” (New GroveDictionary of Music and Musicians [London: Macmillan, 1980], vol. 12, 134). As recently as 2005, RichardTaruskin wrote that Hensel’s music “bears entirely favorable comparison with” her brother’s and, asproof, offered a song by each sibling—”Ferne” (Distance) and “Verlust” (Loss), which appear side byside in Mendelssohn’s Zwölf Lieder, Op. 9 (1830)—with the composers’ names omitted: “One of them isby Fanny (but which?)” (Music in the Nineteenth Century: The Oxford History of Western Music [Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2009], 185). I will explore Hensel’s “Verlust” further on.11For discussions of Mendelssohn’s song aesthetic, see John Michael Cooper, “Of Red Roofsand Hunting Horns: Mendelssohn’s Song Aesthetic, With an Unpublished Cycle (1830),” Journal ofMusicological Research 21/4 (2002), 277–317; Douglass Seaton, “The Problem of the Lyric Persona inMendelssohn’s Songs,” in Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Kongreß-Bericht Berlin 1994, ed. Christian MartinSchmidt (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1997), 167–86; and Susan Youens, “Mendelssohn’s Songs,” inThe Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn, ed. Peter Mercer-Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 2004), 189–205.
178S. Rodgersin itself, to turn an eye and an ear to the subtleties and wonders of herunique expressive language. Therefore, I will not undertake an exhaustivecomparison of her songs with her brother’s—although I do hope that myarticle may inspire others to head in that direction. If anything, Hensel willbecome more credible as an independent artist if we start with her ratherthan with her brother, and if we take her music on its own terms.To that end, what I offer is an analytical exploration of representativesongs from throughout Hensel’s lifetime, using them to tease out three hallmarks of her Lied aesthetic: an avoidance of tonic harmony, an emphasison text painting, and the use of the piano accompaniment as commentary.The chronological organization will allow readers to get a feel for the development of Hensel’s aesthetic over time. My intent is not to show that allof her songs exhibit these features; neither is it to offer a survey of herentire Lied output. Rather, I want to suggest that these features are so prevalent as to become musical fingerprints, instantly recognizable markers of herapproach to the genre. However much Hensel’s songs may resemble thoseof her brother, Schubert, Schumann, and even her north German forebears,her fingerprints are her own.THREE SIGNS OF HENSEL’S VOICEThe roots of Hensel’s Lied aesthetic lie in the north German school, theprimary advocates of which included two of her and her brother’s earlyteachers: Carl Friedrich Zelter, the doyen of the north German school,who taught the siblings composition; and Ludwig Berger, who taught thempiano. The north German aesthetic differs markedly from the more familiarRomantic aesthetic associated first and foremost with the songs of Schubertand Schumann, which is characterized by extensive text painting, the interaction of voice and accompaniment, and the composer’s subjective readingof the text. Adherents to the north German school believed that the musicof a song should generally reflect the basic tone of the poem rather thanoffer pronounced interpretations of poetic ideas; music was regarded asancillary to poetry, a vehicle for the expression of the poem’s underlyingsentiment. North German Lieder thus tended to avoid through-composedforms, demanding vocal lines, and obtrusive accompaniments—anythingthat projected the “composer’s voice” too forcefully (to borrow Edward T.Cone’s famous formulation).1212This is not to suggest that the north German school was either monolithic or simplistic. For allthat composers such as Reichardt and Zelter shared the idea that music should be ancillary to poeticexpression, their songs are in many ways as varied and different from one another as those of Schubertand Schumann. Reichardt wrote not only simple, folk-like songs but also dramatic, through-composed“declamations” such as the “Monlog des Tasso”; Zelter prized straightforward strophic forms, but alsosometimes used freer designs, as with the through-composed form of “Ratlose Liebe.”
Fanny Hensel’s Lied Aesthetic179Hensel’s setting of Wilhelm Müller’s “Die liebe Farbe” (1823), one ofthree poems she set from his collection Die schöne Müllerin, is but oneexample among many early songs that adhere to the north German aesthetic.In the poem, which Schubert would immortalize in his famous cycle written only one month after Hensel’s Müller songs, the miller laments that themill-maid has deserted him for a hunter. Hensel’s song, explicitly modeledon a song by Berger,13 is simple to the point of being quaint: Its accompaniment does little more than lightly support the melody, the tune itself is easyand folk-like, and the song shows no sign of the Romantic subjectivity ofSchubert’s setting, with its ominous death-knell accompaniment and expressive mode shifts. Hensel’s song tells the miller’s story from afar—objectively,even casually—whereas Schubert’s delves within, probing the depths of themiller’s psyche.14By the end of the 1820s Hensel begins to move beyond the principles ofZelter and Berger, using her compositional resources in new and inventiveways that reveal glimmers of what will come to define her fully developedLied aesthetic: a keen sensitivity to poetic nuance, a penchant for experimentation, and a strong interpretive streak.15 “Verlust” (1827), her settingof Heine’s “Und wüssten’s die Blumen” from his Buch der Lieder, showsthese traits in abundance. The song was published in Mendelssohn’s songcollection Zwölf Lieder, Op. 9, along with two other songs by Hensel.16Most nineteenth-century listeners, therefore, would have had no idea thatshe wrote “Verlust.”17 Even though modern editions of Op. 9 identify Hensel13The Berger song in question is “Rose, die Müllerin,” which parallels “Die liebe Farbe” in subjectmatter even though the poem was written not by Müller but by Hedwig von Stägemann. Hedwig wasthe daughter of Elisabeth von Stägemann, the organizer of the salon where the original Die schöneMüllerin Liederspiel was created. Hensel plainly acknowledged Berger’s influence, writing on her finishedmanuscript of “Die liebe Farbe,” “Herr Berger understood this better” (“Das hat Herr Berger besserverstanden”) (see Hellwig-Unruh, Thematisches Verzeichnis, 117).14For a discussion of horn call topics in Hensel’s, Berger’s, and Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerinsettings, see Angela Mace, “Hunting in the Nineteenth-Century Salon: Ludwig Berger, Fanny Mendelssohn,Franz Schubert, and ‘Die schöne Müllerin,’ ” paper presented at the spring 2008 meeting of the SoutheastChapter of the American Musicological Society, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.15It is telling that Hensel’s father cut off Felix’s instruction with Zelter in this very year, and thereforepresumably also Fanny’s, believing that more study “would only fetter him” (see Eduard Devrient, MyRecollections of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and His Letters to Me, trans. Natalia Macfarren [London,1869, repr. New York: Vienna House, 1972], 32). As Todd suggests, Fanny might have felt freer to asserther own voice once she was no longer under Zelter’s tutelage (The Other Mendelssohn, 104).16The other two Hensel songs in Op. 9 are “Sehnsucht” (no. 9) and “Die Nonne” (no. 12). Hensel’sthree songs in Mendelssohn’s Op. 8 (1826) are “Das Heimweh” (no. 2), “Italien” (no. 3), and “Suleikaund Hatem” (no. 12).17Felix famously had to confess to Queen Victoria that “Italien,” from Op. 8, was Fanny’s songand not his when the queen asked to sing the song while he was visiting Buckingham Palace in 1842.Fanny’s family and friends would of course have known that Felix included her songs in his two songcollections. Larry Todd notes that when the theorist and composer A. B. Marx—a close friend of thefamily—reviewed Op. 8 he described certain of Fanny’s songs as “feminine,” perhaps leaving subtleclues about their true origins (see The Other Mendelssohn, 105, and Berliner allgemeine musikalischeZeitung 4/23 [June 6, 1827], 178–80).
180S. Rodgersas the composer of these three songs, we do not need her name to knowthat “Verlust” is her song—pace Richard Taruskin, who has argued just theopposite: “Verlust” is so similar to Mendelssohn’s “Ferne,” which follows itin Op. 9, that without their names it is virtually impossible to guess whocomposed which piece.18 Clues are in the score, signs of her compositionalhand; three signs stand out in particular.Treatment of Tonic HarmonyThe first sign is the song’s harmonic audacity. While it may not be shotthrough with chromaticism, it is novel in its avoidance of tonic harmony.It begins on the dominant, as if in the middle of a phrase, just as thepoem begins with the word “und,” as if in the middle of a thought (seeExample 1).19 More remarkably, it also ends on the dominant (Example 2shows the end of the second strophe).20 Heine’s poem describes an abandoned lover, trapped in a world of private grief—neither the flowers, nor thenightingales, nor the stars know the depth of her pain, and nothing can offerher consolation.21 The song’s ending is a poignant metaphor for the pain thatcan never be resolved, the broken heart that can never be mended; it is asaffecting as the unresolved dominant-seventh at the end of Schumann’s “Imwunderschönen Monat Mai,” which foreshadows a broken heart to come.22Even between these dominant bookends, the tonic is barely present. In thenineteen-measure first strophe, the first true minor tonic appears in m. 17—ninety percent of the way through.23 The expected i6 on the downbeat of m.4 is transformed into a B -major triad in second inversion, when the melodymoves unexpectedly to B . The tonic at the end of m. 4 is major, not minor,functioning as the dominant of G minor. And the fleeting D-minor triad inm. 12 sounds less like a tonic than a submediant in the local key of F major.18Taruskin, Music in the Nineteenth Century, 185.La Motte makes this same point in his commentary of this song (“Einfall als Bereicherung,” 61).20Dominant endings are rare in Hensel’s songs, as they are in nineteenth-century music in general.Other examples from her Lieder include “Stimme der Glocken,” which begins in A major and ends inE major, and the second song of her Liederkreis an Felix, which begins in E major (although on thedominant) and ends with a half cadence, preparing the following song in E minor. “Fichtenbaum undPalme” nominally ends where it began, on an E -major tonic, but it sounds as though it ends off-tonic:The last page of the song so strongly tonicizes A minor that the final chord sounds like the dominant ofiv. For another song that begins on the dominant, see “Es rauscht das Rote Lamb.” Todd compares theambiguous tonality of this song to that of Schumann’s “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,” since both songshover between F minor and A major (The Other Mendelssohn, 328).21Throughout this article I will treat the personae in Hensel’s songs as female, even if the poemswere written by men. In “Verlust” Hensel changes Heine’s pronouns so that the text is presented from awoman’s perspective.22“Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” also, of course, begins off-tonic like “Verlust.”23Sirota notes this as well in her remarks about “Verlust” (The Life and Works of Fanny MendelssohnHensel, 195).19
Fanny Hensel’s Lied Aesthetic181EXAMPLE 1 Hensel, “Verlust,” first strophe (mm. 1–19).In “Verlust” the tonic represents not a point of stability but a void, a loss asprofound as the loss of the poetic persona’s beloved.Text PaintingHensel’s music responds in detail to particular words and to the nuances ofthe poem. The unexpected B on “tief” (deep) in m. 4 is elongated, emphasizing the depth of the poetic persona’s pain. The modulation to F major in
182S. RodgersEXAMPLE 2 Hensel, “Verlust,” end of second strophe (mm. 37–41).mm. 8–10 parallels the text “zu heilen meinen Schmerz” (to heal my pain); asthe poetic persona’s mood shifts, so does the music, with a “healing” moveto a major key that offers a reprieve from the pain of the opening bars. Thechromatic upper neighbors and diminished-seventh chords in m. 13—andalso the weary “flatness” of the vocal melody and bass line, which move buteffectively go nowhere for a full measure—lend added meaning to the line“wie ich so traurig und krank” (how sad and sick I am).24 And the vocalmelisma leading to the tonic cadence in m. 19—an instantly recognizable“Henselism”25 —depicts the nightingale’s “erquickender Gesang” (refreshingsong), and later, at the end of the second strophe, the very outpouring ofgrief caused by the poet’s “zerrissen” (broken) heart.Accompaniment as CommentaryFinally, the piano accompaniment does not just support the text, as is common in north German Lieder, it also comments on it, intensifying the painof the poetry. The final, fractured measures reverberate with anguish, quiteliterally echoing the poetic persona’s anguished words from the opening bar(note the A–F–E melodic motive), as if to say that her grief will never endbut only continually cycle back on itself (refer to Example 2). The piano,in short, tells us more than the melody and words do alone. It is an equalparticipant in the song, and it adds another layer of meaning to the poem.These three compositional techniques are not particular only to“Verlust.” They appear throughout Hensel’s songs and become ever morepronounced as her career progresses. To what end, though? What is theirexpressive purpose? The main purpose for Hensel, the guiding force behind24When this passage returns in the second strophe, the melody has changed: “nur” enters on theupbeat to m. 34, and “meinen Schmerz” is transposed up a sixth. These details also respond to thetext: “einer”—that is, the “one” who alone knows her pain—is accented on the downbeat, and “meinenSchmerz” is emphasized with the expressive upward leap. The music changes precisely when the poemreveals the source of her agony.25For two prototypical examples of vocal melismas before cadences see “Schwanenlied,” Op. 1, no.1 (ca. 1835–1838), and “Die Mainacht,” Op. 9, no. 6 (1838).
Fanny Hensel’s Lied Aesthetic183her experiments with harmony, text setting, and accompaniment, seemsto have been to interpret poetry through music. Far more than her northGerman contemporaries, and also more than her brother, Hensel tendedto regard a song as a “reading” of a poem—as a “poem on the poem,” toquote Joseph von Spaun’s description of Schubert’s Lieder.26 She did not justreinforce the basic idea of the text; she complicated it, even contradicted it,teasing deeper meaning from the words she set.“DIE FRÜHEN GRÄBER” (1828): A PROPHETIC EARLY SONGHensel’s setting of Klopstock’s “Die frühen Gräber” (The Early Graves), composed only a year after “Verlust,” provides a remarkable (and remarkablyearly) example of that will toward interpretation. Although her strophic songhas a spareness and a simplicity that aligns it with many of her early, Berlinstyle settings, in all other ways the song looks forward, betraying an intensityof feeling, an attention to poetic detail, and a novel treatment of voice andaccompaniment that reach well beyond the conventions of the north Germanschool.Klopstock’s poem describes a quiet evening, with the moon hoveringhigh in the night sky, providing solace to a solitary wanderer.Willkommen, o silberner Mond,Schöner, stiller Gefährt’ der Nacht!Du entfliehst? Eile nicht, bleib,Gedankenfreund!Sehet, er bleibt, das Gewölk walltenur hin.Welcome, o silver moon,Beautiful, quiet companion of the night!You flee? Don’t hurry away, stay, friend ofthought!See, it stays; only the clouds were flowingaway.Des Maies Erwachen ist nurSchöner noch, wie die Sommernacht,Wenn ihm Tau, hell wie Licht, aus derLocke träuft,Und zu dem Hügel herauf rötlich erkömmt.The awakening of May is evenLovelier than the summer night,When dew, bright as light, drips from itslocks,And rises red behind the hill.Ihr Edleren, ach, es bewächstEure Male schon ernstes Moos!O, wie glücklich war ich, als ich einst mit euchSähe sich röten den Tag, schimmerndie Nacht!You nobler beings, alas, your monumentsAre already overgrown with gloomy moss!O how happy I was, when I could once,with you,See the day redden and the night glimmer. Hensel substitutes the word “einst” (once) for Klopstock’s “noch” (still).26Otto Erich Deutsch, The Schubert Reader, trans. Eric Blom (New York: Norton, 1947), 875.
184S. RodgersWhat is most remarkable about Hensel’s setting of the text is that she placesthe vocal line and the piano not in parallel but in dialogue (see Example 3).The piano is not just an affective backdrop to the vocal line, as is commonin north German Lieder, but also a complement to it, another voice thatcommunicates with it. A rising line in the piano reaches up to D in m.3, mirroring the moon’s gradual ascent, and then falls to E . The beginning of the vocal melody mimics this falling motive, then modifies andextends it, stretching down to C as if to suggest that the first line of thepoem (“Willkommen, o silberner Mond”) is not so much an address to themoon as a response. The poetic persona, we imagine, interprets the moon’sappearance as a greeting and offers her own greeting in return. Later, thesinger again echoes the moon’s motive, this time exactly: The pitches in m.16 (D –B –A –G, on “Sehet, er bleibt”) match the accompanimental melodyin m. 4 note for note. Having lost the moon behind the clouds, she rediscovers it, and sings out to it once more. Here we see how even the slightestdetail can hint at something not explicit in the text itself. In Hensel’s readingof the poem, a soliloquy becomes a conversation, and an inanimate objectbecomes an actor, rather like the “holde Kunst” of Schubert’s “An die Musik,”which “speaks” in the bass register of the piano, although it is silent in thepoem.Hensel incorporates other, more obvious examples of text painting. Inmm. 11–15, the rate of harmonic and melodic rhythm changes with thepoetic persona’s fluctuating emotions: The harmonies move more quickly(and, incidentally, are more chromatic), and the melody is broken intoshorter, “breathless” segments in mm. 11–12, when she imagines the moonleaving her; harmony and melody literally “eilen” (hurry away) as fast asher lunar companion. Throughout the course of mm. 13–15, as she begsthe moon to stay (“bleib, Gedankenfreund!”) and the clouds dissipate, theharmonic rhythm returns to one chord per bar and the melody slows—significantly, the tonic also returns, first in the vocal arpeggiation in mm.13–14 and then in the resolution to A major in m. 15. There is also anotherHenselian melisma, which is just as descriptive as the one at the end of“Verlust,” at least in the first and third strophes: In the first strophe it falls onthe word “wallte” (flowed) and depicts the movement of the clouds; in thethird it falls on “schimmern” (glimmer) and depicts the moon’s glimmeringlight.27Finally, the accompaniment’s tone color—extremely low in register,murky, somber, mournful—reveals a depth of emotion not found in Liederof the north German school. This, too, is part and parcel of Hensel’s interestin pictorialism; the harmonies are obscured by nonchord tones, just as the27In the second strophe, the melisma falls on the word “rötlich” (reddish), perhaps evoking thereddish glow of the sun as it rises on a May morning—although it seems likely that the first strophe wasthe real impetus behind Hensel’s decision to end the song with a melisma.
Fanny Hensel’s Lied AestheticEXAMPLE 3 Hensel, “Die frühen Gräber.”185
186S. Rodgerspoetic persona’s vision is obscured by the night and the moon is obscuredby the clouds.28But the solemnity of the accompaniment also has an interpretive function. In the first two stanzas the poetic persona may be contemplative, butit is only in the third stanza that contemplation gives way to sadness—shenow addresses the “Edleren” (nobler beings) who lie in overgrown graves,and remembers a time when she saw the glimmering moon and the reddening sun with them. Her feelings of loneliness and loss are intimatedonly in the final lines of Klopstock’s poem, yet Hensel heightens them andallows them to pervade the entire song; her reading of Klopstock, withits dirge-like tempo, darkly hued accompaniment, expressive dissonances—and, notably, strophic rather than through-composed form—is suffused withsorrow from start to finish. It is as though the dead, mentioned only i
176 S. Rodgers ﬁve biographies of Hensel have been published,2 as well as ﬁve collections of essays,3 four volumes of letters,4 an edition of her diaries,5 two thematic catalogs,6 and even two children’s stories and an Italian novel based on her life (aptly titled Fanny Mendelssohn: Note a margine [notes in the margins]).7 Topping it all off is Larry Todd’s remarkable life-and-works .