Odious com­par­isons

BBC Music Magazine - - Letters -

Re­gard­ing her String Quar­tet in E f lat, the line ‘Fanny in­evitably in­vited di­rect com­par­i­son with Felix Men­delssohn’ ( Build­ing a Li­brary, March) is ask­ing to be queried. It’s tra­di­tional (but not un­avoid­able) to com­pare the sib­lings; she was the older, in many ways got there first, and their mu­si­cal characters are quite dif­fer­ent. His Op. 12 String Quar­tet was writ­ten aged 20 in 1829; hers took two move­ments from her own 1829 Pi­ano Sonata and then (aged 29) she added a new Ro­manze and whirl­wind Fi­nale. To say the ‘the­matic ma­te­ri­als are closely re­lated’ (to his work) tells us noth­ing of Fanny’s con­tri­bu­tion. Fer­vent emo­tional ex­pres­sion is her core qual­ity; and this quar­tet is among the first sig­nif­i­cant ex­am­ples of the genre by a woman. How long will it take un­til women are not de­fined by com­par­i­son with men? Diana Am­bache, Lon­don

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