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.
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.