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Fanny Hensel: Piano Works

Sontraud Speidel (piano) (Ars Produktion)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Fanny Hensel
Piano Works
Sontraud Speidel (piano)
Ars Produktion ARS38615   58:10 mins


Only four of these piano pieces by Fanny Hensel, née Mendelssohn, have been previously recorded. The quantity of her music still coming to light is a measure of the dedication to her art that she maintained throughout her too-few years, despite the efforts of her father (and, sadly, her brother Felix) to discourage her, as a woman, from publishing her works. Fortunately her husband, the artist Sebastian Hensel, was on her side and stood by her efforts. She continued to make music – composing, conducting and playing – until literally the day she died.

Sontraud Speidel has chosen a cross-section of Fanny Hensel’s piano music from across 25 years. The pieces range from Bach pastiches – a prelude, a gigue and a fugue – to extended slow movements, like the gorgeous Andante con moto in E major, that display the composer at her most tellingly individual. Hensel, an enormously accomplished pianist and possessed of a lyrical and adventurous soul, seems to have been a more convinced romantic than her brother, sometimes pushing out the harmonic and structural boat further and with a more personal slant than was habitual for him.

Speidel, a professor in Karlsruhe, presents attentive and studious accounts that can at times feel a little bit over-cautious. The Westöstliche Redactionswalzer (West-East Editorial Waltz) is supposedly humorous, but you might not guess this; and the Baroque pastiches lean towards the stilted and unvaried, rather like Bach playing from 50 years back. However, the repertoire is so valuable that she deserves a big thank-you for devotedly bringing it to the recording studio.


Jessica Duchen