"Warum willst du and’re fragen," in
Zwölf Gedichte, Op. 37/12
(Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, )
Felix Mendelssohn and his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, sometimes published joint collections similar to this; the Zwölf Gesänge that were displayed in our Mendelssohn bicentenary exhibit in 2009 are one example. But there was a crucial difference: all twelve of those songs were attributed to Felix, and Fanny’s name appeared nowhere. Felix did not hesitate to give credit to his sister when the opportunity arose—for example, he told Queen Victoria, after she had sung one of Fanny’s songs thinking it was his!—but the Mendelssohn family believed that it would be inappropriate for a woman to publish music under her own name. Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Clara Wieck Schumann were both brilliant musicians, but their lives were very different. As Nancy Reich has pointed out, the distinction was one of social class. The Mendelssohns were a wealthy family seeking to cement their status in the upper class (in spite of lingering prejudice against their Jewish heritage), so they felt obligated to abide by an unwritten rule forbidding women of their class from pursuing music as anything more than an avocation. The Wiecks, in contrast, had no such social pretensions, and Clara was unabashedly a professional musician from an early age.