1868 - 1941
Johanna Müller-Hermann was an Austrian composer and pedagogue. She began to receive music lessons at an early age, together with her two siblings. This was in keeping with the middle-class ideal of education; her father was a section head in the Austrian Ministry of Culture and Education in Vienna, and thus belonged to the upper echelons of the civil service. In accordance with the circumstances of the time, however, she was unable to pursue her musical ambitions; instead she graduated from a teacher training college and taught for several years at a public education school in Vienna.
When she married Otto Müller-Martini, a transport expert, in 1893, she was no longer required to work and continued her musical studies. This was followed by piano and violin lessons, instruction in music theory with She studied under Guido Adler, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Josef Foerster and Franz Schmidt. Her first published work, Seven Songs, was printed in 1895. Public performances of her works took place at the Vienna Musikverein and at women's composition evenings, where she also met Mathilde Kralik von Meyrswalden. In 1918 Johanna Müller-Herrmann succeeded her teacher Joseph Bohuslav Foerster as professor of music theory at the New Vienna Conservatory.
She left behind an extensive body of work: songs, chamber music, large-scale works for solos, choir and orchestra, mostly on a literary and programmatic basis. After her death, Wilhelm Furtwängler, among others, campaigned for the preservation of her work.
Müller-Hermann wrote an oratorio, Lied der Erinnerung: In Memoriam, to a text by Walt Whitman, and a symphonic fantasy on the Ibsen play Brand. Her Lied der Erinnerung: In Memoriam (1930) is a work of grand scale. It employs a large orchestra, a chorus, and solo voices. This piece follows the tradition of Arnold Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder. Müller-Hermann may have been directly acquainted with Schoenberg, as suggested by a letter she wrote to him in 1911.
Müller-Hermann was among the foremost European female composers of orchestral and chamber music in her day. Despite her contemporary fame, not much has been written about her. According to Dr Carola Darwin, "The contribution of women to Vienna's creative life at this period has been largely forgotten as the result of Nazi ideology, as well as the general destruction of the Second World War... Johanna Müller-Hermann's works deserve a much wider hearing, not only because of their intrinsic quality, but also because they were an integral part of Vienna's extraordinary creative flowering."
Biography taken from Wikipedia.
Picture courtesy of Erich Hermann.