Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of Felix, was my great-great-great-grandmother. A brilliant composer in her own right, her story has never been told on film. But unlike many brilliant but forgotten women of the past, Fanny has nine Twitter accounts, and a following amounting to a cult.
Her story is brought into the present by the discovery of the ‘Easter Sonata’, an ambitious – and incredibly difficult – work for solo piano, lost for 140 years, then rediscovered and assumed to be a masterpiece by Felix. But the young American musicologist, Angela Mace Christian, knows better – and in this film, she proves Fanny’s authorship.
The sonata comes alive in the film under the warp-speed hands of Isata Kanneh-Mason, a young virtuoso at the top of her game, who also has a celebrated younger brother, and as a Black female classical musician, is also entering a world with few role models.
Even today only 5% of music programmed in concert halls is composed by women. So Fanny’s story is alive, and unfinished. ‘The Other Mendelssohn’ is a very modern film about an extraordinary and very modern woman, who just happened to live two hundred years ago.