Feature/Music

The other Mendlessohn

9 December 2019

Mendelssohn’s moving Oratorium nach Bildern der Bibel will receive its Australian premiere in Perth this weekend. But it isn’t by the composer you are probably expecting.

Like
0
Love
0
Haha
0
Wow
0
Sad
0
Grrr
0

The oratorio was written by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel and rediscovered late last century. Ron Banks finds out why.

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, the older sister of the more famous Felix, was a prolific composer. Or should that be a prolific composer of unpublished and unperformed music?

During her short life of 41 years Hensel wrote about 460 pieces of music, mostly for piano. As a child she excelled at the piano and in composition lessons. However composition skills were not considered the sort of task fit for a married woman and her career was discouraged by her father, although her brother managed to publish some of her pieces under his own name.

Her husband, artist Wilhelm Hensel, actively encouraged his wife, putting out manuscript paper each morning and suggesting she fill the sheet with notation by the end of the day. Hensel took up the challenge, despite the lack of success with public performance. Only small groups of friends ever heard her works.

A wood engraving of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel by her husband, the artist Wilhelm Hensel.

Two years into her marriage she wrote one of her biggest works, and one that remained undiscovered until late in the twentieth century. The Oratorium nach Bildern der Bibel (Scenes from the Bible), is otherwise known as the Cholera Cantata, after the cholera epidemic swept Europe from 1829 until 1836. During the epidemic Hensel nursed her family and afterwards plunged into composing the oratorio. The three-part libretto is based on Biblical scenes that embrace a narrative of misery and despair, eventually turning to a joyful praise of God. It is written for eight-part choir, orchestra and soloists.

 

This long-neglected work will be performed by the University of Western Australia Choral Society on December 15. Its choral strength will be boosted to about 200 singers with the addition of the St Barnabas Choir and the Perth Undergraduate Choral Society.

The massed voices will perform the oratorio at Winthrop Hall under the direction of Sarah Mills- Menoque. The concert will conclude with Vivaldi’s Gloria and Christmas carols conducted by Kris Bowtell. Audiences are invited to picnic afterwards by the Winthrop Hall pond.

The UWA Choral Society’s final performance for the year comes after a successful tour of China in October, with about 80 singers performing concerts of classical and modern music in four cities. UWACS president Jan Kirkman said the concerts were enthusiastically received by the Chinese, with ecstatic reviews.

Oratorium nach Bildern der Bibel will be performed  as part of ‘Festive Celebrations’ on December 15 at Wintrhop Hall.

Pictured top: The University of Western Australia Choral Society on tour in China.

Like
0
Love
0
Haha
0
Wow
0
Sad
0
Grrr
0
Rosalind Appleby

Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

Past Articles

  • Pub show has feel-good factor

    Rosalind Appleby says Choir of Man is a winner with its mix of friendly welcome, pop ballads and sizzling showbiz.

    Like
    0
    Love
    1
    Haha
    0
    Wow
    0
    Sad
    0
    Grrr
    0
  • Coolest cavemen

    The long-anticipated world premiere of the new children’s circus show by Head First Acrobats attracted capacity crowds over the weekend. Most of the audience were under the age of ten and laughed themselves silly…

    Like
    0
    Love
    1
    Haha
    0
    Wow
    0
    Sad
    0
    Grrr
    0

Read Next

  • Love tells the story of a boy, his mum and their love luggage. Photo supplied Summer 2020 gig guide for kids
    Feature

    Summer 2020 gig guide for kids

    17 December 2019

    Summer has barely begun and we’re sweltering already. Thankfully we have the beach and festival season to help us and our children through these hot months. Read on for Seesaw’s curated list of the Fringe and Perth Festivals.

    Like
    0
    Love
    0
    Haha
    0
    Wow
    0
    Sad
    0
    Grrr
    0
    Reading time • 7 minutesKids
  • Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa and Pavan Kumar Hari. image credit Daniel J Grant.jpg Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa and Pavan Kumar Hari. image credit Daniel J Grant.jpg Cream of the crop 2019
    Feature

    Cream of the crop 2019

    13 December 2019

    Which shows were Seesaw writers’ favourites this year? What were the highlights and lowlights for the arts in WA? And which artists will our contributors be looking out for in 2020? As 2019 draws to a close, Seesaw writers reflect on the year that was and the year that will be.

    Like
    0
    Love
    1
    Haha
    0
    Wow
    0
    Sad
    0
    Grrr
    0
    Reading time • 10 minutesMusic
  • Words on song
    Feature

    Words on song

    5 December 2019

    Everyone loves a good story, especially one straight from the heart. Ara Jansen finds out why the much-loved Barefaced Stories series has become such a success at the Fremantle Arts Centre.

    Like
    0
    Love
    0
    Haha
    0
    Wow
    0
    Sad
    0
    Grrr
    0
    Reading time • 3 minutesMusic

Join the conversation

What’s in a
name?