Josephine Lang (1815–1880)

Josephine Lang, ca. 1842

Josephine Lang was born into a musical family: Her father, Theobald Lang (1783-1839), was a Member of the Bavarian Court Orchestra and her mother Regina, née Hitzelberger (1788-1827), was a Royal Court Singer in Munich. From the age of five, Josephine Lang was taught the piano and debuted as an eleven-year-old in a museum concert in Munich with Variations by Herz. At that time, she also made her first attempts at composition. After the early death of her mother, aged only twelve, she had to contribute to the family income with piano and singing lessons, sometimes up to eight hours daily. In 1830, Josephine Lang met Felix Mendelssohn in Munich, who was enthusiastic about her. He taught her thorough bass and counterpoint for some time and would have liked to provide her further support and secure her training in Berlin with Carl Friedrich Zelter, Head of the local Singakademie music society until 1827, and with his sister, Fanny Hensel, but her father was against it. In 1835, Josephine Lang applied for a position as a singer at the Royal Court Church in Munich but was awarded the title of “königliche Hofsängerin [Royal Court Singer]” only in 1840. In 1842, Josephine Lang married the lawyer and poet Christian Reinhold Köstlin (1813-1856) and then lived with him in Tübingen. Over the following years, many strokes of fate kept hampering her work as a composer but also inspired her for her extensive song creations. She cared for her ill husband, who deceased early, and had to provide for her six children, some of whom ill as well, on her own by creating a livelihood with piano and singing lessons.

Ferdinand Hiller, Felix Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann were part of her circle of friends and fellow artists who also promoted her as an artist and helped her to get her works published. Josephine Lang never met Clara Schumann in person but the two exchanged letters and she admired the artist. Josephine Lang dedicated Six Songs, Op. 26, to her.

Cf. Anja Herold: Article “Lang, Josephine Caroline, verh. Köstlin”, in: Europäische Instrumentalistinnen des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. 2008. Online Encyclopaedia of the Sophie Drinker Institute, edited by Freia Hoffmann. Online at: [03.09.2020].

Cf. Sharon Krebs: Article “Josephine Lang”, in: Musikvermittlung und Genderforschung: Lexikon und multimediale Präsentationen, edited by Beatrix Borchard, Hamburg University of Music and Theatre, 2003 ff. (as at 06.09.2012). URL: [03.09.2020].

Cf. Emanuel Scobel: Article “Lang, Josephine (Caroline)”, in: Ludwig Finscher (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Persons, Vol. 10, Kassel et al., 2003, cols. 1156–1157.

(Theresa Schlegel, 2020, translated by Thomas Henninger, 2020)

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