CLASSICAL MUSIC / Robert Maycock on Classical Music

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'Perhaps for him music will become a profession, while for you it will always remain but an ornament; never can and should it become the foundation of your existence. . .' This chilling letter, as we now see it, was received by Fanny Mendelssohn at the age of 14, from her father. The 'him' is brother Felix, then all of 11. A year later, she met the painter William Hensel, her future husband. Felix continued to show her his compositions for approval. Goethe, writing to him in 1825, asked to be remembered to 'your equally talented sister'. A fine pianist, she remained musically active, and suffered her fatal stroke while conducting one of her weekly choral rehearsals. She left over 400 compositions, many of which are in private hands.

As the most famous historical case of a woman composer left on the margins by subsequent generations, she has attracted a good deal of contemporary research, and more of her music is being heard. It is forcing many people to agree with Goethe. Even her Piano Trio, which the family published after her death, seems mysteriously little known considering its quality. There is a fascinating touch of sibling-like familiarity about it, yet the personality is distinct, with a sometimes freer sense of phrasing, technical facility without glibness, a more prominent dark side, and a weightier tone of voice. Diana Ambache (above), whose chamber orchestra recently gave a much-praised UK premiere to Fanny's stirring Overture, her only surviving orchestral piece, is the pianist this time as a cause close to her heart reaches the City of London Festival.

7.30pm, 18 Jul, Painters' Hall, Little Trinity Lane, EC4. Programme also includes music by Mozart with oboe, cor anglais, piano and strings (box office 071-248 4260)

(Photograph omitted)