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Fanny Mendelssohn was the older sister and confidante of composer Felix Mendelssohn. Their parents were prosperous German Jews who did not practice their religion. The siblings' great-aunt Baroness Fanny von Arnstein was a famous salon hostess, and their other great-aunt Sarah Levy was a skilled keyboard player. Fanny shared her brother's musical education with Carl Friedrich Zelter and showed an extraordinary talent from a very young age. She composed music and performed works from memory for her family and friends. Fanny studied the piano in Berlin and Paris, and in 1820, enrolled at the Berlin Sing-Akademie, a music school. She wrote numerous lieder and piano pieces during this period. Although her family tolerated her activities, she could not make music a career. In 1829, she married Wilhelm Hensel, court painter to the King of Prussia, with whom she had one child. She organized and occasionally performed as a pianist in concerts in Berlin. She published some of her more than 500 compositions shortly before her sudden death at age 41. Six of her songs were published under her brother Felix’s name in his two sets of Twelve Songs (Opuses 8 and 9). Fanny's private diaries later provided valuable information for her son Sebastian's biography of the Mendelssohn family published in 1879.
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