Peter Askergren (1767−1818)

Peter Askergren, born 4 February 1767 in Sätila, Västergötland, and died in Stockholm 17 February 1818, was a violist, cellist, pianist, organist, piano teacher and composer. He was employed by the Royal Opera theatre orchestra from 1788 to 1818 and by the Royal Court Orchestra 1794−1818. In 1794 he was elected as a member to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, where he was a piano teacher at its educational institution 1814−18. He was also an organist at Katarina Church (1801−15) and Adolf Fredrik Church (1815−18).

Life

Peter (Petter according to baptismal records) Askergren’s father Jonas Askergren was an organist in Sätila, Västergötland. It is likely that he taught Peter to play organ and piano, and perhaps also the viola and cello.

By the mid 1780’s, Peter Askergren had moved to Stockholm. According to his 1788 employment contract, he was hired as a violist by Kungliga Operan (the Royal Opera) in January of that year. As an employee of the Opera, he played in the theatre orchestra (which he incidentally had been doing anyway since the end of 1787). Beginning in 1794, he began to receive a salary from the Royal Court as a violist in the Kungliga Hovkapellet (the orchestra of the Royal Opera).

In 1806, Askergren was granted an additional duty by both the theatre orchestra and the Hovkapellet when he was hired as an accompanist on the harpsichord as a so-called keyboardist. In 1812, he stopped working as a violist in the theatre orchestra. He had already been dismissed in 1807 as a violist in the Hovkapellet, but was immediately hired there as a cellist instead. The industrious Askergren thus had dual appointments in both the theatre orchestra and the Hovkapellet until 1812. However, he continued as an accompanist in both orchestras until his death in 1818. Askergren had probably been granted the royal title Kungliga förste kammarmusicus (First Musician of the Royal Chamber) when he originally joined the Hovkapellet.

As early as 1794, when he was only 27 years old, Peter Askergren was elected to the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music). It was hardly his employment as an orchestra musician that led to this mark of distinction, even if his double employment in both the theatre orchestra and the Hovkapellet during a single year was an acknowledgement in itself of his talent as a violist. It was more likely due to his concert appearances as a soloist in piano concertos and the performances of his own piano works that made an impression. Advertisements from 1792 and 1798 show that Askergren performed at six concerts during this time period. Additional advertisements first appear again in 1803, and up until 1814. He performed mostly as a piano soloist, but also as an accompanist.

At a concert in 1804, Peter Askergren was probably the first person in Sweden to give a public performance on the grand piano. He also played the viola on occasion, such as for a performance of Beethoven’s Septet in December 1805. After the founding of the Academy’s educational institution in the early 1810’s, he served as a piano teacher there from 1814 until 1818.

The versatile Askergren was also a member of the Par Bricole Order. As an organist his first employment was at Katarina Church in Stockholm 1801−1815, followed by Adolf Fredrik Church, where he served until his death. Testimony of his status as a respected church musician was provided in the eulogy given by the vicar Johan Olof Wallin at his funeral. According to Wallin, Askergren lived his life for the fine arts and was ‘crowned’ with universal acclaim. The congregation was so ‘invigorated’ by his playing that the burden of their ‘trials and tribulations on earth were lifted.’

Works

The piano appears to have been Peter Askergren’s principal instrument. Part of his routine as a church musician included arranging and composing organ music for various feast days throughout the liturgical year. Unfortunately, it seems that no evidence of these works remains. With only one exception, all of the compositions still in existence are for piano − short pieces such as polonaises and variations. The vast majority of these works were published in the bourgeois salon’s main periodical, Musikaliskt tidsfördrif. A slightly longer piece, sixteen variations on a folk melody, was published separately. Of his surviving works, only one song has been preserved. Two of Askergren’s melodies were used by the watchmaker Pehr Strand (1756−1826) in one of his music boxes. Another surviving manuscript is a polonaise for lute, but this is most likely an arrangement of a work originally written for piano.

Veslemøy Heintz © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander

Bibliography

Edholm, Dag: S:ta Cecilias tjänare: om kyrkomusikens utövare i Stockholm under fem århundraden, Sköndal: Edward Vincents orgelstiftelse, 2002.
Jonsson, Leif & Anna Ivarsdotter-Johnson (eds): Musiken i Sverige, vol. 2, Frihetstiden och gustaviansk tid, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993.
Karle, Gunhild: Kungl. Hovkapellet i Stockholm och dess musiker 1772−1818, Uppsala: G. Karle, 2000.
Nisser, Carl: Svensk instrumentalkomposition 1770-1830, Stockholm: Gothia, 1943.
Nyström, Pia & Anne-Marie Elmquist: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien: matrikel 1771−1995, Stockholm: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien, 1996.
Wallin, Joh. Olof: Tal vid Kgl. Förste Kammar-Musikus m.m. Herr Peter Askergrens Begrafning i Adolf Fredriks Kyrka d. 24 Febr. 1818, Stockholm: Grahn, 1818.
Vretblad, Patrik: Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700-talet, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1918.

Sources

Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Skara stifts- och landsbibliotek, Stockholms stadsarkiv.

Summary list of works

Piano works (variations and dance pieces), 1 song.

Collected works

Works for piano
Sexton wariationer för clavér eller forte piano öfver en svensk national melodie (‘Götherna fordomdags drucko ur horn’).
Andante with variations.
Fransysk aria, with variations for piano. 
Thema con Variatione.
Polonoise F major.
Polonesse.
Rondo.
Andante grazioso.

Lute
Polonoise A major (arr.?).

Songs
Sorgen (‘I mörkrets tunga kalla Dimma’). 


Works by Peter Askergren

There are no works by the composer registered