MERCURY STUDIOS ANNOUNCES NEW FEATURE DOCUMENTARY FANNY: THE OTHER MENDELSSOHN DIRECTED BY THE GREAT UNHERALDED COMPOSER’S DESCENDANT SHEILA HAYMAN
Film Features Decca Star Isata Kanneh-Mason Playing Fanny Mendelssohn on Queen Victoria’s Piano at Buckingham Palace
LONDON, 8 March 2023 – On International Women’s Day, Universal Music Group’s Mercury Studios announced a new feature documentary, FANNY: THE OTHER MENDELSSOHN, directed by the unheralded composer’s great great great granddaughter, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Sheila Hayman. Take a celebrated musical genius, some sibling rivalry, an unknown manuscript, a dash of sass and one sensational revelation and what have you got? Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn – revelatory new feature documentary starring global Decca star, Isata Kanneh-Mason.
Anyone who has been to a wedding has enjoyed the soaring musical genius of Felix Mendelssohn. His Wedding Marchmay 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. Yet most people have never heard of her, and even now only a few of her 450 works are published or performed. Fanny was equal to any of her contemporaries, male or female; technically brilliant and boldly ground-breaking. Yet not until she was 40 did she dare to defy Felix’s disapproval and publish her music under her own name. Tragically, the resulting joy and recognition were short-lived. Less than a year later, Fanny died, and shortly afterwards Felix too – his already poor health exacerbated by grief.
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.
As moving as it is joyous, this is the story of a very modern woman – who just happened to live 200 years ago.
Alice Webb, CEO and Co-President of Mercury Studios, comments, “Although Fanny Mendelssohn is a woman of the 19th century, her story is unbelievably modern and more relevant today than ever. Mercury is proud to shine a light on her, especially through the lens of Fanny’s great great great granddaughter, Sheila Hayman. And witnessing Isata Kanneh-Mason, one of today’s brightest new artists, interpret Fanny’s work for the screen is thrilling. I suspect FANNY: THE OTHER MENDELSSOHN will inspire whole new generations of music lovers.”
“In telling the story of an enormously gifted woman whose talents were suppressed and marginalised by a male establishment, it seemed obvious that we should work, as far as we could, with female crew,” director Sheila Hayman adds. “This decision turned out to deliver some of the most joyous, productive and harmonious shoot days of my career. As we left Buckingham Palace, exactly on schedule and having accomplished everything we set out to do in the short time we had there, the PR woman said to me: ‘We’ve never had an all female crew here before. They’re very good, aren’t they?’ To which the only answer was, ‘But of course!'”
Hayman directs FANNY: THE OTHER MENDELSSOHN, with Mercury’s Alice Webb, Marc Robinson and Steve Condie, and Annabel Hobley and Maureen Murray serving as executive producers. Sheila Hayman is the producer; Evie Franks the editor. The film was shot in locations including Berlin, New York, London, Oxford and Buckingham Palace.
About Mercury Studios
Mercury Studios is a full-service production studio originating, producing, selling, distributing, and investing in scripted, unscripted, and live content. Editorially independent, Mercury Studios is powered by Universal Music Group and represents the world’s leading catalogue of music-related content. Current and recent projects include If These Walls Could Sing, the untold story of the world-famous Abbey Road Studios, directed by celebrated British photographer and filmmaker Mary McCartney for Disney+; This Town, a six-part series for the BBC from writer, creator and executive producer Steven Knight; Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, a feature documentary from Oscar-winning director/producer Joseph Patel (Summer of Soul), adapted from Vikki Tobak’s best-selling book; “My Life as a Rolling Stone,” a four-part docuseries of intimate portraits of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts; Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl, a career documentary about the superstar that is available on Netflix; and Mars, a short film based on an original universe and characters created by Yungblud, starring Yasmin Finney, that premiered at this year’s London Film Festival. Mercury Studios’ Miles Davis: Birth of The Cool was recently honored with two Emmys for Outstanding Arts and Culture Documentary and Outstanding Sound. ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band from Texas also received a 2021 Grammy Award nomination for Best Music Film. The feature documentaries are part of the Mercury Studios library, consisting of nearly 2,000 hours of programming.