Per Brant was born in Esterna in the region of Roslagen in 1714 and died in Stockholm on 9 August 1767. He was a violinist, chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra, a teacher and a composer. After language studies in Uppsala he moved to Stockholm in 1727 where he became involved in the Royal Court Orchestra beginning in 1728. In 1735 he became a regular member, then in 1738 its concertmaster, chief conductor in 1745 and first chief conductor in 1758. He was a Master of Ceremonies in the Free Masons. Brant had a comprehensive music career, primarily as an orchestra leader as well as a music teacher.
Per Brant was born in Roslagen where, according to the baptismal records for the Esterna congregation, he was christened as Petrus on 27 December 1714. Relatively little is known about his childhood, however in a curriculum vitae from 1760 Brant wrote that he was engaged in studies at the ‘the Kongliga Academien (Royal Academy) in Upsala […] in the German, French and Italian languages’ before moving with his parents to Stockholm in 1727. It was hoped that his studies would lead to employment as a civil servant. That did not end up being the case and instead he was engaged as ‘Extra-Ordinarius (temporary worker)’ at the Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) – without pay. His income came from note copying and later in 1733, as a secretary for the Russian envoy, Michail Bestuzjev-Rjumin.
At the Hovkapellet
It was not until 1737 that Brant received a permanent job as a hovkapellist (member of the Hovkapellet) with full pay – 400 silver daler coins – after having been employed in a temporary position for two years with half-pay. One year later Brant was appointed concertmaster, a title that had not previously been used. In 1745 he was appointed hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra/Hovkapellet) and from 1758 until his death, he was förste hovkapellmästare (first chief conductor). As a musician, according to witnesses at the time, Per Brant was no virtuoso and did not distinguish himself as a soloist. However, he had a penetrating tone and a ‘well-defined’ bowing technique, and was known for his skill at ‘steering an orchestra’.
According to Per Brant himself, he had begun arranging private concerts with an orchestra composed of both amateur musicians and those from the Hovkapellet as early as 1728. This is probably an exaggeration and it was more likely that Johan Helmich Roman, the Hovkapellet’s musical leader, was behind these concerts. It is, however, likely that the barely fifteen-year old Brant helped his teacher and mentor with the concert arrangements. Several public concerts were given in Stockholm during the 1730s and Brant took part in the ‘Musical Academy’ which arranged subscription concerts during 1738−39. He is believed to have taken over responsibility for these concert activities beginning in 1740, up until the death of Queen Ulrika Eleonora in November 1741. During the year of mourning in 1742 no concerts were played and although there had long been advanced planning for a new concert series beginning in 1743, it was forbidden for unknown reasons.
The lack of competent native musicians inspired Roman to present plans for a ‘seminarium musicum’. Brant had, like Roman, many private students and often complained about the lack of trained musicians; in order to present a concert, one was totally dependent upon using amateur musicians to reinforce the Hovkapellet. Brant turned Roman’s music education ideas into a more concrete plan in 1744 in a memorial to the director of the Hovkapellet, Carl Gustav Düben, who gave his support to the proposal. The idea was to finance the training with lottery funds, however the request that was sent to the Kunglig Majestät (the King in Council) was rejected and the plan for an educational institution could not be realized. Professional and amateur musicians therefore had to, as they had done previously, either educate themselves privately or seek training abroad.
Per Brant was a prolific writer. There are a number of written complaints from Brant’s hand to the Kunglig Majestät – most often they focused on his extensive activity and how unfairly he had been treated, chiefly in terms of his salary. Several letters are preserved (including thank-you letters) in which he asks for money from his Free Mason lodge brothers, which he joined in 1751, serving as Master of Ceremonies. Brant had no lack of stylistic talent and his writings are therefore often eloquent – albeit somewhat boastful. He also wrote poetry and seems, according to Swedish musicologist Ingmar Bengtsson, to have felt ‘at home with the era’s technical conventions of verse composition’.
Per Brant had a hard time managing his finances during his working life, this despite a high salary from the Royal household and income from side jobs as a copyist, teacher and musician. In order to pay his debtors he was forced to sell his home. Even so, his debt continued to increase during the 1760s. It all came to a tragic end: only four days before his death he was forced to file a personal bankruptcy petition to the Municipal Court.
There are no contemporary sources naming any compositions written by Brant. His name is found on a few works written in his hand, but one should remember that Brant was a popular note copyist, therefore it is difficult to know if it is a question of an original work, an arrangement or a transcript.
Ingmar Bengtsson has found nineteen compositions that are thought to be linked to Per Brant’s name: seven instrumental works and twelve vocal works. Among the instrumental works there are three symphonies and one flute sonata. The vocal works consist mainly of solo songs with figured bass, however there is also a cantata and the music for a pastoral play by Olof von Dalin.
After a careful analysis of the sources for various works, Bengtsson has concluded that only one solo song, ‘Hon på blomsterbädden’ is an original composition by Brant. The sources for the rest of the works are incomplete, unclear or contradictory. Of the three symphonies connected to Brant’s name it has now been determined that the one in B-flat major was written by Antonio Brioschi. Bengtsson calls the symphony in G major ‘an amateurish work’, while the D minor symphony is ‘solid’ with ‘artistic qualities’. There is no conclusive evidence that Brant is the author of any of them. The flute sonata, however, which has some similarities to Roman’s style, could have been written by one of Roman’s students, and considering that the words ‘Dell Sgnr Brant Svedeze’ are written on it, it is possible that we have a work by Brant.
The provenance of the vocal music appears to be as equally uncertain as the instrumental pieces, however Bengtsson points out that both the text and the music to the New Year’s cantata, Kom Svea-Land, Cantata vid nyåret 1754 – a tribute to the royal couple – may well be written by Brant. The music to Dalin’s pastoral is a compilation that Brant, as the orchestra leader, likely partially put together and arranged – among others there are several references to works by George Frideric Handel in the symphony.
Velsemøy Heintz © 2016
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson
Bengtsson, Ingmar: ‘I. Anteckningar om Per Brant: Härkomst och levnadsförhållanden’, in: Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 45, 1963.
−−−: ‘I. Anteckningar om Per Brant: Härkomst och levnadsförhållanden – ett tillägg’; ‘II. Människan och musikern’, in: Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 47, 1965.
−−−: ‘III. Var Brant tonsättare?’, in: Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 48, 1966.
Frimureriska tonsättare och frimurerisk musik, Uppsala: Forskningslogen Carl Friedrich Eckleff, 2006, p. 283.
Helenius-Öberg, Eva: Johan Helmich Roman: Liv och verk genom samtida ögon: Dokumentens vittnesbörd, Stockholm: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien, 1994.
Jonsson, Leif & Anna Ivarsdotter-Johnson (eds): Musiken i Sverige, vol. 2, Frihetstiden och gustaviansk tid 1720−1810, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993.
Karle, Gunhild: Kungl. hovmusiken i Stockholm och dess utövare 1697−1771, Uppsala: G. Karle, 2002.
Norlind, Tobias: ‘Per Brant‘, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 6, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1926.
Norlind, Tobias & Emil Trobäck: Kungl. Hovkapellets historia: minnesskrift, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1926.
Nyblom, Holger: ‘Per Brant och frihetstidens musikliv’, Svenskt tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 3, 1921.
Walin, Stig: Beiträge zur Geschichte der schwedischen Sinfonik: Studien aus dem Musikleben des 18. und des beginnenden 19. Jahrhunderts, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1941.
−−−: Kungl. Svenska musikaliska akademien: Förhistoria, första stadgar och instiftande: En studie i det musikaliska bildningsväsendets historia i Sverige, Uppsala: Uppsala universitet, 1945.
Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket
Summary list of works
Song (Hon på blomsterbädden). The rest with unclear source information.
Only one solo song, Hon på blomsterbädden, is a confirmed original composition. With regards to the other works it is unclear if they are original works, arrangements or copies
Musiquen till Comedien på Drottningholm 1752 i Bosquéen. [Music for Olof Dalin’s pastoral play that was performed for the King’s return from Finland.]
Sinfonia G major.
Sinfonia D minor.
Instrumental movement A minor.
Andante A major for two violins and b.c.
Trio in B-flat minor for two violins to a minuet in B-flat major by F. Uttini
Sonata for flute and b.c.
Aria (‘Atland, hvarför har du klagat’) for soprano, 2 flutes, string orchestra.
Cantat vid Ny-Året 1754 (‘Kom Svea-land och låt dit frögdeqväde höras’) for soprano, bass, choir and orchestra.
Songs for one voice and b.c.
Du hala lycka, hvad är åt.
Hon på en blomsterbädd.
Kan äran i ett sinne trifwas.
Men jag vil sjunga om tin makt.
Skal jag dölja i mitt bröst.
Skapa i mig, Gud, ett rent hierta.
Tu store makt som alt kan styra.