Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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J.H. Baron: ‘Paul Emile Johns of New Orleans: Tycoon, Musician, and Friend of Chopin’, IMSCR XI: Copenhagen 1972, 246–50

A.E. Lemmon: ‘Footnotes to History: Emile Johns’, Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly, x/3 (1992), 5

A. Janta: A History of Nineteenth Century American-Polish Music (New York, 1982)


Johnsen, Hinrich [Henrik] Philip

(b probably Germany, 1717; d Stockholm, 12 Feb 1779). German or Swedish composer, harpsichordist and organist. The story in Schilling’s Universal-Lexicon (2/1840–42), that Johnsen was of English origin, lacks support. In all likelihood he was born, or at least grew up, in Holstein and may have been of German-Danish parentage. His serenata Die verkaufte Braut (1742) shows fluency in dealing with a German libretto, and the text is written in well-practised German style. In 1743 he went to Sweden as the director of the court orchestra of Adolf Fredrik of Holstein-Gottorp, the successor to the Swedish throne; this orchestra, which Johnsen conducted from 1763, was separate from the Swedish court orchestra until 1771.

In 1745 Johnsen became organist at the church of St Klara in Stockholm, and in 1753 kammarmusikus and the queen’s teacher in thoroughbass. From about the same time he became well known as an organ teacher. In 1763 he was appointed court organist, and from 1763 to 1771 was musical director of the newly arrived French theatre group, which performed comic opera and ballet. When the Swedish Royal Academy of Music was founded in 1771 he was the keeper of the archives for the first two years as well as a teacher of harmony. In his capacity as an expert on the organ he wrote a section on the instrument in A.A. Hülpher’s Historisk afhandling om musik och instrumenter (Västerås, 1773/R).

Johnsen was regarded by his contemporaries as an outstanding contrapuntist and improviser on the organ. He was also a proficient harpsichordist and was possibly one of those organists whom J.H. Roman, in a letter of the 1750s, called ‘pianists’. But his name is chiefly remembered for his collection of songs, one of the very few published in Sweden before the 19th century. It contains some charming and original compositions, stylistically reminiscent of Krause and Telemann.

Johnsen’s style can best be described as eclectic. His instrumental works are akin to those of C.P.E. Bach in their unprepared dissonances and modulations. The operas have an affinity with the music of Gluck’s dramatic style. Reaction to this stylistic diversity was mixed. A passage in G.A. Silverstolpe’s obituary of Johnsen’s disciple, J. Wikmanson, refers to Johnsen’s organ fugues: ‘If he did not distinguish himself as especially tasteful in his imagination in the few works we have by him, and often introduced strange ideas, motley forms and harsh sounds, he did however possess an originality which made up for the genius his ear and feelings sometimes seemed to lack’. A study of, for example, his masterly, sometimes faintly bizarre harpsichord sonatas, his simple organ fugues and his trio sonatas largely confirms this opinion.


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