In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, NPR music commentator Miles Hoffman did a report on musical families for Morning Edition. The light piece, lasting about seven minutes, discussed the work of a few of the best known (or “most likely to be known”) women that were connected to the now seemingly legendary men.
Among the relatives mentioned were Maria Anna Mozart (who Wolfgang called Nannerl), Fanny Mendelssohn, and Clara Schumann. I found it unfortunate that in the discussion of the Bach family the only mention of Bach’s wives was the birth of twenty children – there was no reference to the musicianship or compositions of Anna Magdalena.
Fanny Mendelssohn’s Character Piece No. 2 for Piano and Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G Minor – Allegro Moderato were both heard in part during the broadcast, which can be heard here.
The seven minutes of light conversation did briefly address some of the obstacles that Fanny Mendelssohn faced as a composer from her family and the larger society, as well as the virtuosic abilities of Maria Anna Mozart and Clara Schumann. What they did not recognize was that this was the tip of a very large iceberg…
I also find it unfortunate that these talented women continue to be recognized primarily by their connection to more famous and (unfortunately) more respected men. I personally feel that the story, which was intended to be a fluff piece for the holiday, treated the few women mentioned as oddities, refusing to recognize the tradition and talent that continues to this day. But perhaps I am taking all of this a bit too personally – have a listen for yourself!