Fanny Mendelssohn’s “Cholera Cantata,” honoring victims of 1831 Berlin epidemic

Posted on: May 19, 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, “We remember past epidemics, and are trying to figure out what we can learn from such previous outbreaks,” writes Regine Angela Thompson on Sunday (5/17) at the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy’s website. “Fanny Mendelssohn’s ‘Oratorio on Words from the Bible,’ better known as the Cholera Cantata—Musik für die Toten der Cholera Epidemie, was composed to honor victims of the cholera epidemic in Berlin of 1831. [It was] performed last year by Cappella Clausura (Boston, MA)…. A quick look at the history of the cholera pandemic and how it raged in Berlin (when Fanny was 26 years old) lets us understand the importance of her Cholera Cantata. According to an official count 1,426 people died of the cholera in Berlin out of a population of 247,500, from September 1831 to February 1832…. The cholera touched many friends and acquaintances as well as various members of the Mendelssohn family…. Today Fanny Mendelssohn is fast becoming a sought-after and frequently requested composer….. And as we deal with our own pervasive health crisis, how wonderful to be able to hear how this insightful and empathetic composer responded to the pandemic of her time.”