30 Years’ Adventure Tracking the Music of Josephine Lang (1815-80)

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Event recording

What’s it about?

Josephine Lang (1815-80) was one of the most gifted, respected, prolific, and widely published song composers of the nineteenth century, yet her life and works have remained virtually unknown in our time.

Almost thirty years ago, Harald and Sharon Krebs, who live in Victoria, Canada, began researching the life and music of Josephine Lang, and giving recitals of her songs for voice and piano. In 2007 their book Josephine Lang: Her Life and Songs, including their recordings of 30 of Lang’s songs, was published by Oxford University Press. They continue to research, perform, and write about Lang.

Along the way, they have had many thrilling adventures. They will share some of these, as well as samples of Lang’s wonderful songs and some highlights of her biography.

The talk will include the following sections:

1. How did two Canadians become interested in a German woman composer?

2. A brief summary of Josephine Lang’s life.

3. What kinds of experiences are part of researching and writing a biography?

• finding where letters, manuscripts, and even autopsy reports(!) are hiding

• meeting the composer’s last living descendant

• confronting the challenges of the handwriting and spelling of the German language in the 19th century

• lecturing/performing in the composer’s house

4. What has happened since the book?

• the discovery of new lenses through which to view Lang’s music

• promoting the composer

• making her music available to others (e.g., editing and publishing her songs; arranging her songs for saxophones, etc.)

Who’s telling the story?

Harald Krebs earned his PhD in music theory at Yale University. He is a Distinguished Professor of music at the University of Victoria in Canada. He was President of the Society for Music Theory in 2011-13, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has written an award-winning book on Robert Schumann (Oxford, 1999).

His research on Josephine Lang (1815-80) led to the book Josephine Lang: Her Life and Songs (Oxford, 2007—co-authored with Sharon Krebs), as well as to two editions of songs by Lang.

Soprano Sharon Krebs regularly performs with pianist Harald Krebs in North America and abroad. She translates Lied texts for various CD projects and for the website <lieder.net>, and has contributed almost 8,000 texts and translations to the latter site. She is active as a musicologist and Germanist.

In addition to co-authoring the Josephine Lang biography with Harald Krebs, she has published a number of articles on a variety of other subjects. She is currently researching the nightingale metaphor in relation to singing.