Take a celebrated musical genius, some sibling rivalry, an unknown manuscript, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Sheila Hayman, and one sensational revelation and what have you got? Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn – revelatory new feature documentary starring global Decca star, Isata Kanneh-Mason.
Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March may be the best-known classical composition of all time. But Felix was not the only genius in the family. His sister, Fanny was also a brilliant composer. But Fanny was equal to any of her contemporaries, male or female; technically brilliant and boldly ground-breaking. Tragically, the resulting joy and recognition were short-lived. Less than a year later, Fanny died, and shortly afterwards Felix too. But today Fanny’s music is beginning to get the recognition it deserves.
Over a century later, in 1971, the famous pianist Eric Heidsieck was contacted by a record company and asked to produce the first recording of Mendelssohn’s Easter Sonata. It was presumed to be the work of Felix. But in an amazing plot twist, captured as it happened in this extraordinary film, it is once and for all proven definitively to be Fanny’s own piano masterpiece, written when she was only 22. Fanny’s music is brought to life by the gifted virtuoso pianist, Isata Kanneh-Mason, recipient of the 2021 Leonard Bernstein Award and 2021 best classical artist at the Global Awards. And as she discovers the Easter Sonata, the parallels between her life and Fanny’s – including the challenge of being a pioneer with few role models in classical music – become clear.
Directed by the unheralded composer’s great great great granddaughter, it is moving as it is joyous. This is the story of a very modern woman – who just happened to live 200 years ago.