Monday 13 November 2023

‘My Songs Are My Diary’: Discovering Josephine Lang at Conway Hall

Josephine Lang
Josephine Lang
Why don't we hear more of the songs of Josephine Lang? 

Mentored by Felix Mendelssohn and supported by Clara Schumann, Josephine married a poet with whom she would write songs and unusually continued her career after marriage. And not only are there are over 300 songs, but piano pieces and more.

On Sunday 19 November 2023 there is a chance to explore Josephine Lang's song output when the Conway Hall presents ‘My Songs Are My Diary’: Discovering Josephine Lang with soprano Harriet Burns, contralto Jess Dandy and pianist Ian Tindale. Giving us a chance to hear 20 of her songs along with songs by contemporaries, plus extracts from her letters.

Josephine's father was a violinist at the Munich court, and her mother was a singer at the Court Theatre, and Josephine's brother was an actor. Josephine received music lessons from her mother, and early on it was clear that she was talented musically. 

Her godfather was the court painter, Joseph Stieler and through his contacts she was exposed to some of the greatest artists of the time. Both Felix Mendelssohn and Ferdinand Hiller took an interest in her, and Mendelssohn gave her lessons and urged her parents to let her study in Berlin, but her father refused owing to the expense.  Lacking any formal training at a conservatory, Lang was unable to get teaching posts at universities or conservatories, and she relied on private pupils. 

A happy marriage with six children slowed Josephine's rate of composition down. Her husband was Christian Reinhold Köstlin, a lawyer who wrote poetry under the name Christian Rheinhold. Unfortunately he died in 1856, and to support her family, Josephine returned to song-writing and teaching. 

‘My Songs Are My Diary’: Discovering Josephine Lang is at Conway Hall at 6.30pm on Sunday 19 November, full details from the Conway Hall website.

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