Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


Lost Mendelssohn Easter Sonata Found—and it’s by Fanny, Not Felix


Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

Duke University graduate student Angela Mace discovered that the Ostersonate [Easter Sonata] formerly attributed to Felix Mendelssohn was in fact written by his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. [1]

The work had been considered lost.  It was found in the 20th century, then disappeared again.  Until recently.

Mace made the discovery after locating and examining a manuscript of the piece in a private collection.  She also determined that it had been written in 1828, and not 1829.

The piece is in Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s handwriting, and also contains stylistic elements that indicate that she is the composer. [2]

Here is a video containing a portion of the piece and a discussion.  Another brief video may be found here.

Fanny composed the music for her own wedding when her brother Felix was injured and could not produce the music in time. In fact, the recessional was composed the night before the wedding! [3]



Fanny Hensel: Morgengruss, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK (D-B) MA Ms. 174.

The above is a beautifully illustrated manuscript of Morgengruss by Fanny Hensel, courtesy of RISM, and below is a performance of a slightly different version of the pieceRISM holds a number of Hensel manuscripts, some of which have been digitized and are freely available online (look for the blue bar with an e to the right of the entry  with “Online lesen”).

And finally, here is Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Quartet in E-flat major




Image attributions: Portrait of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Morgengruss manuscript image courtesy of RISM under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

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Lost Telemann Work Found after 280 Years!


The Telemann Research Center in Magdeburg, Germany has announced that Georg Philipp Telemann’s 12 Fantasias for Viola da Gamba has been found.  Telemann had released the work to his publisher in August 1735, but it was believed that the work had not survived.

Following a tip from a French colleague, Thomas Fritzsch located a complete copy of the printed score approved for publication in a private collection.

It is stated that publication of a collection of works for viola da gamba without a bass would have been unprecedented for 1735.  The fantasias are described as a “cornucopia of musical ideas” demonstrating Telemann’s “extraordinary knowledge of the capabilities of the instrument” and his mastery of the chamber music form.

The fantasias will be presented for the first time at the Telemann Festival to be held in Magdeburg, Telemann’s home town, on 11-20 March 2016.  At the same time a CD and the long-awaited published score will be made available.


Zentrum für Telemann-Pflege und -Forschung Magdeburg


Image attribution:  Georg Philipp Telemann, watercolor by Valentin Daniel Preisler [Public domain], after a lost painting by Ludwig Michael Schneider (1750), via Wikimedia Commons.

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Bach Mystery Solved! St. John, Cantata Librettist Identified

Portrait of Christoph Birkmann by Georg Lichtensteger, 1759 via

Portrait of Christoph Birkmann by Georg Lichtensteger, 1759 via

Researcher Christine Blanken of the Bach-Archiv Leipzig has determined that Christoph Birkmann, a student associated with Bach’s choir in Leipzig, was the author of text used in some Bach cantatas and portions of the St. John Passion.

Birkmann (1703-1771) was a theology and mathematics student from Nuremberg who was in Leipzig in 1724-1727.  During that time, Birkmann states, “I diligently followed the great composer Mr. Bach and his choir, and in winter joined in with the collegia musica.”1

Blanken matched handwriting found on libretto manuscripts with writings by theologian Birkmann at the Nuremberg State Library.2 The findings were announced by the director of the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Peter Wollny.3

Blanken’s detailed, yet abbreviated, paper (in English) on Birkmann and his contributions to Bach’s cantatas can be found here.  It includes a discussion of how Birkmann’s studies of mathematics and astronomy figured into his libretti (pp 25-28).

A more extensive report will be published in the Bach-Jahrbuch 2015.


  3. [in German]


Image attribution:  Portrait of Christoph Birkmann by Georg Lichtensteger, 1759 via