Josephine Lang

Josephine Lang was a prolific composer of songs. She was born into a deeply musical family—her father was a violinist and her mother (who first taught her piano) was an opera singer—and she showed a talent for composition at a very young age. Felix Mendelssohn gave her lessons in harmony and counterpoint when she was just a teenager, and raved about her talent, writing in a letter to his family that “she has a gift to compose songs, and to sing them, the like of which I have never heard; it is likely the most perfect musical pleasure that has yet been granted to me”; he continued to champion her compositional efforts for the rest of his life.

Fanny Hensel was equally moved by her talent, writing of her songs, “I like them so much that I play them, and play them again—I can’t tear myself away.” Lang composed more than three hundred songs, over half of which have never been published. Several of her songs have been professionally recorded, and there is a growing body of scholarship on her life and works, but considering the sheer volume of her output, we need even more studies and recordings.

Additional Resources

The foremost Josephine Lang scholars are Harald and Sharon Krebs, who have written an invaluable book, Josephine Lang: Her Life and Songs (Oxford University Press, 2007), which includes a CD with recordings of several Lang songs, performed by the authors. Sharon Krebs has also written a thorough entry on Lang on the website Musik und Gender im Internet (MUGI), and Harald Krebs has written numerous articles on Lang’s life and work.

Did you know?

Josephine Lang’s husband, Christian Reinhold Köstlin, was a poet, and she set many of his poems to music.

Video Recordings

Tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian perform six songs by Lang.

“Abschied,” op. 13, no. 1, n.d
"Den Abschied schnell genommen,” op. 15, no. 1, 1838
“Namenlos,” op. 13, no. 6, n.d.
“Im reinsten Gold,” op. 34, no. 1, 1864
“Die Blumen sind alle verblüht,” op. 34, no. 2, 1860
“Frühlingsglaube,” op. 25, no. 1, n.d.

Zivian plays on a Franz Rausch fortepiano, 1841, Vienna.

The songs were performed as part of the 7th annual Valley of the Moon Music Festival (https://valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.org/).

Accessing Scores

Josephine Lang’s published songs can be accessed via the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP). The State Library of Württemberg houses most of her manuscripts; Harald and Sharon Krebs have provided a complete list of her songs, which includes information about dates of composition, poets, and manuscript sources.

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