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Josef Kenner

born: 1794
died: 1868
country: Germany

Josef Kenner, three years older than Schubert, was born and brought up in Linz. In 1811 he came to study at the Imperial College in Vienna where he met the fourteen-year-old composer as a fellow student. Schubert's three Kenner settings date from early 1815 when the composer was pressed into a life of schoolteaching and Kenner was continuing his studies to be a lawyer. Together with Josef von Spaun, Anton Stadler and Josef Holzapfel he often heard Schubert who returned to his old school to play his music for friends. Thirty years after the composer's death, Kenner described to Ferdinand Luib those extraordinary times in the freezing cold piano room of the Imperial College:

It was there that his earliest compositions were first tried out and discussed and it was there that I was surprised by the dedication of the 'Liedler', which was handed over to me. You cannot possibly imagine how humble I felt at this mark of distinction, at this dedication, and at the truly friendly way in which it was done, because you know neither my admiration for Schubert's artistic greatness nor my opinion of my own very humble merits. I did indeed know that Schubert craved merely for words which were fairly manageable and that therefore I had no reason to be in the least conceited because mine were chosen.

Conceited, perhaps not, but devoted to Schubert for the rest of his life, certainly, even if as the years wore on they had less in common. In 1816 Kenner went back to Linz to take up an appointment in government service; he kept in touch with the Schubert circle through Spaun and others, though there are no letters between composer and poet. Schubert probably saw Kenner on the occasions he visited Linz. Kenner's memoirs are particularly hard on Franz von Schober who entered Schubert's life in the autumn of 1815 and whose influence on the composer Kenner probably resented from those early times. He certainly blamed Schober for encouraging the composer into the pathways that led to his final illness. There is something of the provincial puritan in Kenner's attitude, but also the solicitude of an older boy at school protecting a younger charge. After all, that dedication of Der Liedler turned out to be the high point of Kenner's life.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989


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