A couple weeks ago I decided to swap out my little studio bookshelf for the larger bookshelves in our loft. Although our family reading books now are crammed into a smaller space, my piano scores are seeing the light of day and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve already been using old forgotten gems in lessons with students. It’s so nice to be able to easily access my music!
One of the forgotten gems I came across was this Urtext edition of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Ausgewahlte Klavierwerke, roughly translated “Selected Keyboard Works”. The book contains eleven pieces for piano, including two etudes, one nocturne, and two lieder, the genre in which Hensel excelled.
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) is a compelling composer, in my opinion. Her first pieces to be published were done so under her brother Felix’s name (these pieces are found in his Opus 8 and 9). Later she was published under her own name, and she herself understood how exceptional it was for a woman composer to be published in the early 1800’s. “And so I have decided to issue my works in print. Bote & Bock have made offers to me the likes of which have perhaps never before been given a dilettante composer of my sex…” Composing was as much a part of her life as being a wife and mother. She found the most success in her piano pieces and songs (lieder), which is understandable considering the extent of her brother Felix’s work in his Songs Without Words. I can imagine the two of them discussing the finer points of composing at family gatherings. 🙂
I have especially enjoyed playing the first Ubungsstuck (meaning Etude) in C Major and the Notturno.
The Ubungsstuck is a terrific etude to practice these skills:
- Alterations between thirds and first inversion chords in both hands
- Planing first inversion chords
- LH Octave scale passages
- Circle of fifths LH
- Chromatic chordal movement
- Double thirds
- Strong harmonic modulations
- RH C chord inversions
The Notturno is a lovely, lyrical piece in g minor featuring an arpeggiated left hand accompaniment and beautiful melody.
I have smaller hands (I celebrate the fact that I can reach a 9th on the piano), and these pieces fit very easily within the span of my hand.
I would recommend these pieces for advanced students who need to work on a specific technique such as inverted, planing chords (like the Ubungsstuck); or a student wanting to play something a little off the beaten path; or someone who would like to try a piece in the lieder genre.
I’m looking forward to playing more piano pieces by this often-overlooked composer.