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Stephen Rodgers
Nineteenth-Century Music Review, November 2014

MENDELSSOHN-HENSEL, F.: Lieder, Vol. 1 (Craxton, Dorn) - Opp. 1, 7, 10 8.570981
MENDELSSOHN-HENSEL, F.: Lieder, Vol. 2 (Craxton, Dorn) 8.572781

Craxton and Dorn’s performance of…Hensel’s famous Nachtwanderer, op. 7, no. 1, is one of the best I’ve heard. The tempo is suitably relaxed—neither too fast nor too slow—which enhances the nocturnalmood; Craxton sounds lovely in her lower register and knows when to hold back her vibrato for expressive purposes.

Dorothea Craxton and Babette Dorn have done a great service in bringing these works to light. One hopes that other performers will follow their lead. © 2014 Nineteenth-Century Music Review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, May 2010

‘Become more steady and collected, and prepare more earnestly and eagerly form your real calling, the only calling of a young woman—I mean the state of a housewife’. Those were the words of Abraham Mendelssohn to his daughter Fanny on her 23rd birthday. To present day readers this seems a horrible remark, but in 1828 this was an accepted attitude; Women’s Lib was far off. The following year Fanny married the painter Wilhelm Hensel and a year later she gave birth to their son Sebastian. But she never conformed completely to the role of housewife and mother. She had been lucky to get a thorough musical training, together with her brother and she had composed more than 200 pieces—mainly songs and piano works—before she married. And she continued to compose even then. She championed Bach’s music and was the one who introduced the young Charles Gounod to Bach’s keyboard works. A year before her untimely death she also published the Six Songs Op. 1. Her total oeuvre encompasses 466 titles, the last, the song Bergeslust, completed the day before she died from a stroke. Among her compositions there is also an orchestral work, an overture from 1832. I heard it a couple of years back played by the Dala Sinfonietta under Bjarte Engeset. It is a fine work, excellently crafted and expertly orchestrated. She also wrote some chamber music.

Some of her songs were published under her brother’s name, which shows that he held her in high esteem as a composer. Her discriminating choice of poetry may be one of the secrets behind her inspired settings: Heine, Goethe, Eichendorff, Geibel, Rückert and Lenau were frequently set during the 19th century, as much for the musical qualities of their verses as for their actual literary value.

The Six Songs Op. 1 had a mixed reception when they were published and though they are attractive enough I get the feeling that the inspiration flowed more bountifully in the op. 7 set. Frühling (tr. 9), bustling eagerly and with an expressive accompaniment, is a great composition and the setting of Rückert’s Du bist die Ruh has a beauty that in no way puts it in the shade of Schubert’s more well known example. Dein ist mein Herz (Lenau) is also a wholly delightful piece with an individual and crisply expressive piano part.

Among the Five Songs Op. 10 Nach Süden is a gem, jubilant and exuberant, and Bergeslust, her last composition, is also a masterpiece. The Eichendorff setting Im Herbst with its darkly poignant accompaniment also stands out, as does the strong and energetic Könnt ich zu den Wäldern flüchten. But there is a lot to admire in all these songs and I am eagerly looking forward to hearing the next volume in this series.

[Dorothea Craxton] has an excellent pianist and the recording is exceptionally fine with an ideal balance between voice and piano.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2009

She was so totally overshadowed by her famous brother that even today we know little of Fanny Mendelssohn’s output, though she was to write over five hundred works in her short life. Born four years earlier than Felix, she had received much the same musical training that was later given to her brother. Yet her family expected her to accept the woman’s role as a housewife, a life to which she acquiesced on marriage at the age of twenty-four to Wilhelm Hensel, though in private she continued to write. These songs show that she was not a clone of her brother, the influences coming more from Schubert, particularly in the piano writing. And like Schubert she looked towards the great literary names for her texts—Heine, Gothe, Eichendorff and Ruckert who are all included in this disc. Nor can the songs be sidetracked as salon music, for they are serious and very potent, though many are joyful, Voglein, in den sonn’gen Tagen (Little Bird, on sunny days), being a particularly beautiful song. I am not going to get carried away with praise, but these are songs just as worthy of our attention as many from Schubert, and it is good to note that this is the first volume of a cycle. They are performed by the German duo of Dorothea Craxton and the perceptive accompaniment of Babette Dorn.

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