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Johann Vesque von Püttlingen

born: 23 July 1803
died: 30 October 1883
country: Austria

Unlike Lachner, Vesque had an entirely Viennese career. He wrote his earlier songs under the name of Johann Hoven. People said he was claiming to be half a Beethoven, but the pseudonym is that of a family property in Alsace where the composer spent an idyllic childhood. He was a remarkably talented man—a gifted tenor, an extraordinary linguist, and one of the most successful lawyers of the period. By 1827, shortly before he met Schubert, he had already published a commentary on legal textbooks (Darstellung der Literatur des Österreichischen allgemeinen bürgerlichen Gesetzbuches) and in 1864 he wrote a defintive book on Austrian copyright. As a composer he was a pupil of Sechter and Moscheles, but it was through Vogl, his singing teacher, that the twenty-five-year-old Vesque came into contact with Schubert in the last year of the composer’s life. He was present when singer and composer tried out new songs together; his impeccably kept diaries testify to, but never exaggerate, his link with Schubert. As with his contemporary Lachner, the proximity of Schubert and conversation with him about music, must have been inspiring. Vesque dedicated his life to vocal music (300 songs and at least five operas that were produced in Vienna, also in Leipzig and Weimar). He was in personal contact with Mendelssohn and Loewe; he met Schumann in the winter of 1838/9 when the Saxon composer greatly benefited from Vesque’s kindness in Vienna. He visited Schumann in Dresden in 1846 at a time when Randhartinger was also there. He became a revered Viennese figure whose songs were seen as the link between Schubert and Loewe, and even between Schubert and Wolf. The sheer number of songs in each of Vesque’s Heine cycles might have encouraged Wolf towards the epic scale of his own single-poet collections.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006


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