– the wealthy and highly gifted muse to Copenhagen’s cultural elite

We do not know of many works by Emma Hartmann: the Danish composer was busy looking after her husband J.P.E. Hartmann and their ten children. And her music was usually only “thought up” by herself and then written down by her husband or good friends.

On the other hand, we know all about her background! Her childhood home is in fact one of the most well-documented of all homes in Denmark at the beginning of the 19th century. Around the time of her birth, her aunt Sophie wrote two widely-read books about life in the Copenhagen merchant’s household. Sophie’s brother – Emma’s father – was the merchant Johann Friedrich Zinn from Kvæsthusgade with a lot of money and high cultural ambitions.

Emma grew up with frequent music evenings in the family, and with visits from the composers Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) and C.E.F. Weyse, who were friends of the family.The invaluable memoirs written by her aunt include Grandmamas Bekiendelser (‘Grandma’s Stories’) from 1807 and Grandmamas Reisedagbog (‘Grandma’s Travel Diary’) from 1810, which contain descriptions of the ins and outs of their everyday life.

Reading them, we gain the impression of a warm and humorous environment. The home’s rich musical life was for example the happy result of an unhappy love affair: The aunt had fallen in love with an Irishman named John Christmas, with no hope of a future together with him. As a result, she had decided as a young girl “never to forget him, never to love anyone else” and had fallen into a depression. “My father was worried about this,” she wrote, “and thinking that music might cheer me up, he asked me to arrange a concert with the help of our music masters. When this went well, he promised that we should have one every fortnight.” 

Emma’s own infatuation had a rather better outcome: she apparently fell for J.P.E Hartmann at the age of just 15 or 16. However, the talented, two-year-older man needed to be able to support a family before there could be any talk of marriage, so when at the age of 19 he was appointed to the post of organist at the church of Garnisons Kirke, the final obstacle was removed. The couple continued to hold weekly musical soirées, at which Hans Christian Andersen himself was a regular guest. Almost all of Emma Hartmann’s own music dates from the very few years between the mid-1840s and her early death in childbirth. According to her aunt, she was highly gifted and a stimulating acquaintance – meeting her was like getting “a shot of liqueur for the spirit”, writes a friend.

Romancer og Sange Complet7Min SkatChristian Winther
Romancer og Sange Complet18MismodChristian Winther