Eduard Brendler (1800−1831)

Frans Fredric Eduard Brendler, born in Dresden on 4 November 1800 and died on 16 August 1831 in Stockholm, was for a short period during the 1820s the most promising composer in Stockholm’s post-Gustavian music scene. After debuting with a series of piano pieces and songs, he had his breakthrough in 1830 with the oratorio, Spastaras död. In 1831 Brendler began composing the opera Ryno, however, his untimely death interrupted work on the piece that was then completed by Prince Oscar. Brendler was elected as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1831.

Early years in Stockholm and Visby

Frans Fredric Eduard Brendler was the son of flautist and member of the Kungliga Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) Johann Franz Brendler and Henriette Stölzel. The family moved to Stockholm in 1802 when his father was employed by the Hovkapellet.The father frequently performed as a soloist in various concerts and enjoyed a considerable reputation as a musician. Johann Franz Brendler’s death in 1807 left his widow and son in poverty, and at the three concerts given by the Hovkapellet for the benefit of Brendler and his mother the ten year-old Eduard took part as a flute soloist. He had received his flute training from his father, however there is no evidence that he received any theoretical education. Instead he studied commerce and after his mother’s death in 1817 he was employed as a clerk for the assistant judge Jacob Dubbe on the island of Gotland, moving there the same year.

Eduard Brendler was soon connected to the music life of the town of Visby and was involved in concerts presented by the Musikaliska sällskapet (the Musical Society). There he met the five year younger Jacob Niclas Ahlström and together they gave concerts in which they played à quatre mains (piano four hands), as well as flute and piano. It seems that the young Brendler made a strong impression and in a review in the newspaper, Gotlands läns Tidningar, one can read that with ‘the force of the holy fire, that burned from within him […] he sought his kindred spirits, who, with open arms, always received the waiting, brilliant guest into their musical social gathering.’

Successes within the royal aristocracy and beginnings as a composer

In 1823 Brendler left Gotland and returned to Stockholm where he joined the orchestra of the Harmoniska sällskapet (the Harmonic Society) as a flautist. The following year he was named an honorary member of the society. Within the context of the concerts that the Harmoniska sällskapet arranged, Brendler met Prince Oscar and other members of the royal aristocracy. The Prince and Brendler became close friends and it is likely that it was this contact that led to him having a large number of students, not only from the aristocracy but also from Stockholm’s bourgeoisie. Among these students were Emelie Holmberg (a notable composer during the 1830s and 1840s), the sisters Maria and Klara Benedicks and Maria Charlotta Lindeberg. Brendler was also affiliated with Ulrik Koskull’s Sällskapet för sångövningar (Society for singing practice) where several of his works for chorus from his opera, Ryno, would be tested. In 1830 Brendler was voted into the Par Bricole, becoming the society’s choral administrator.

Brendler’s compositions all stem from the last four years of his life. The earliest is Serenade for wind ensemble, a work that is found in a concept score (a detailed sketch) that is dated August 1827. Additionally there are songs set to the poetry of Stagnelius in Stagneliussångerna;Serenade’, ‘Flickan och jägaren’ and ‘Necken’, all from 1828. Brendler had his debut that same year at one of the Hovkapellet’s concerts with the work, Introduction and variations on the trio, ‘Låt oss i mörka lunden gå’ for three bassoons and orchestra – unfortunately the manuscript has been lost. In 1829 he got a job with the Djurgårdsteatern to arrange music from Carl Michael Bellman’s Fredmans sånger och epistlar for Carl Fredric Dahlgren’s farce of Ulla Winblads födelsedag eller Paris’ dom.

A promising breakthrough

During the years 1830−1831, Brendler generated a rich creative output. His best-known work, a Stagnelius song, ’Amanda’ for voice and piano, was published and performed in an orchestral version at one of the Hovkapellet’s concerts in May of 1831. Three books of piano pieces were published under the title, Flores, and in April 1830 the oratorio, Spastaras död, to the text of Bengt Lidner, was performed. The Lidner work was an overwhelming success: the composer and music critic, Wilhelm Bauck, spoke of a ‘brilliant comprehension of the glowing poem […] the excellent instrumentation which, in unison with the work’s other merits are minted into a real master work’.

During his time, Brendler was perceived as a person of great promise within Sweden’s music scene. At the end of the year, he completed a new oratorio, Edmund och Clara, this time using a text by Olof Ulrik Torsslow. The work was presented at the beginning of January 1831. However, it was not received with as much enthusiasm as Spastaras död; according to the reviewer in the journal, Heimdal, one would have ‘wanted a more generous interspersion of his musical paintings, than was the case now’. Even so, the musical dexterity in Edmund och Clara is more detailed, the phrases more developed and not as rhapsodic as in Spastaras död. In the main theme one can also discern a bit of leitmotiv à la Louis Spohr in Brendler’s thought process.

Unfinished opera plans

It was in May 1830, just after the first performance of Spastaras död, that an opera text for Brendler is mentioned. Bernhard von Beskow (Crown Prince Oscar’s secretary), says in a letter to Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom that ‘I have been instructed to, in all haste, write two operas, the topic of which should be Swedish, for two young promising composers: namely Franz Berwald […] and Brendler who set the music to Lidner’s Spastara’. We don’t know for sure who gave Beskow the commission to write an opera for Brendler. In Berwald’s case, he had specifically ordered a text by Beskow, but the order for an opera text for Brendler came from elsewhere. It is not unlikely that Prince Oscar initiated the commission, considering his close friendship with Brendler. We do know, however, that Beskow began his text to the opera Ryno eller Den vandrande riddaren on 24 May 1830 and completed the work on 4 June, according to the notes on the title page of the manuscript.

This manuscript was delivered to Brendler in July 1830 and the performance of the opera was planned for the autumn of 1831, as a rededication of the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera) after being repaired. Bauck and Erik Åkerberg described Brendler’s work methods when composing as not particularly effective. He chose the music numbers he felt like at the moment and left the more complicated ones for a later time – and since he was more inclined to ‘talk and enjoy himself’, while at the same time being a valued social companion, the work went altogether too slowly.

A concert with Brendler’s works was set for 30 April 1831, when, among other pieces, numbers from Ryno would be performed. At that point in time large parts of the first act, two numbers from the second act and one number from the third act existed. The finales of all three acts and two larger ensemble pieces were missing. Three pieces from the opera were then chosen for the concert as well as reprises of Spastaras död and the Divertissement for bassoon and orchestra. The concert was a significant success for Brendler, however it included the only music from the opera that he would ever hear; three and a half months later he was gone.

Posthumous opera premiere

Eduard Brendler’s death on 16 August 1831 came unexpectedly, ‘after only four days of illness’ according to the obituary in the journal Heimdall. Then came the question of who would complete the work with Ryno. It was clear, however, that the work would not be left to its fate since Bernhard von Beskow had already been appointed as head director of the Kungliga Teatern in January 1831. During the years 1832−1833, the work on finishing the opera continued. Involved in the project were Prince Oscar, Adolf Fredrik Lindblad (the Prince’s composition teacher) and Johan Fredrik Berwald, hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra/Hovkapellet).

Using the pseudonym ‘A Music Lover’, Prince Oscar took on the task, under Lindblad’s guidance, of finishing the composition of the first act’s finale, half of the second act, and the majority of the third act – after which Berwald orchestrated the Prince’s music as well as a few of Brendler’s numbers. Brendler had left behind quite a few sketches that Oscar chose not to follow, rather composing his own music. The Prince’s musical expression leaned more toward Viennese classical style and early romantic style in the spirit of Beethoven, while Brendler’s composition style followed the spirit of Spohr’s music. The premier on 16 May 1834 was a magnificent performance, but in spite of this it only received reviews in two newspapers. During the next four years Ryno played twenty times in all, which was quite a significant number for a new Swedish opera.

Style and significance

Eduard Brendler’s music studies were limited to studying scores and attending opera performances and concerts. We don’t know which works he studied, but in a letter written by Lindblad to his friend, Felix Mendelssohn, he mentions Brendler as ‘a prematurely deceased composer with the style of Spohr’. And it is precisely Spohr who is Brendler’s source of inspiration, for it is more about the mannerisms, about an imitation of Spohr’s style, than about a deeper accordance about musical aesthetics between the two composers. ‘In a Spohr-ian manner’ (Spohrsche Manier) was a concept in the music world of the early 1800s that was used to describe, among other things, how one creates tensions, ornamentation and modulation in music. It was mainly Spohr’s harmonization, tonal and melodic structures, along with free gestural forms that inspired Brendler. These stylistic characteristics are represented in two operas that were part of the Kungliga Teatern’s repertoire during Brendler’s time: Jessonda (1826) and Zemir und Azor (1829).

If Spohr’s stamp is purely gestural, it is still Carl Maria von Weber who left the clearest imprint regarding dramatic music. This includes Friskytten and Preciosa, both of which were performed in Stockholm during the 1820s. A valuable source on Brendler’s different influences is Bernhard von Beskow’s feuilleton (entertainment section) in Journalen no. 132−134 from 1834, in which Beskow not only discusses the individual numbers and their stylistic characteristics, but also leaves first-hand information about the opera’s background.

There is no doubt that Eduard Brendler gave a highly personal impression, which, with his graceful charm and his tender sentimentality, hit home with his contemporary audience. After his death there was a lot of speculation over what he could have done with his talent. Much of his music gives the impression of having been captured in a single inspirational moment and written down; with any further reworking of the material he was not impressive. During his life he was, however, seen as a prelude to something great, or in Wilhelm Bauck’s words in his Sjelfbiografisk skizz: ‘Brendler was a meteor, who came – and just as quickly disappeared; he was not a mere talent, he was a genius, in precisely the understanding of the highest meaning of the word; even more – he was, along with Wikmanson, the finest musical genius our country has had’.

Anders Wiklund © 2016
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Bibliography

Anrep-Nordin, Birger: Musikaliska Sällskapet i Visby 1815−1915, Visby, 1916.
Bauck, Wilhelm: Sjelfbiografisk skizz. 1872, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1878.
Beskow, Bernhard von: Levnadsminnen, Stockholm, 1928.
−−−: B. v. Beskows och J.E. Rydqvists brevväxling, vol. 2, Stockholm, 1946−49.
−−−: Feuilleton. Ryno, eller Den wandrande Riddaren, play in 3 acts. Libretto by Bernh. von Beskow, Music by E. Brendler & a music lover’, Journalen, no. 132134, Stockholm, 1834. [Published under the pseudonym ‘–I’.]
Norlind, Tobias: ‘Frans Fredric Eduard Brendler’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 6, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1926.
Rydqvist, J.E.: [Review], in: Heimdall, no. 3, 1831, p. 12.
−−−: [Obituary for Brendler], Heimdall, no. 34, 1831, p. 136.
Sparr, Kenneth: ‘Gitarren i Sverige till 1800-talets mitt’, Gitarr och luta, 1991, vol. 24, no. 1, 1991, pp. 3−11.
Wiklund, Anders: Eduard Brendlers opera Ryno: källkritik, analys, edition, diss. in musicology, Göteborgs universitet, 1991.
Åkerberg, Erik: Musiklifvet inom Par Bricole 1779−1890, Stockholm, 1910.

Summary list of works

Opera (Ryno), 2 oratorios (Spastaras död, Edmund och Clara), theatre music (Ulla Winblads födelsedag eller Paris’ dom), solo concertos (2 concertos for bassoon and piano), chamber music (Seranade for wind ensemble), music for piano, songs (Amanda, Necken and more).

Collected works

Opera
Ryno, play with songs in 3 acts (B. v. Beskow), 1830−33. Completed by Prince Oscar. Première Stockholm, 1834.

Oratorios
Spastaras död (B. Lidner), 1830. Première  Stockholm, 1830.
Edmund och Clara (O.U. Torsslow), 1830. Première Stockholm, 1831.

Dramatic music
Ulla Winblads födelsedag eller Paris’ dom (C.F. Dahlgren), 1829. Première Stockholm, 1829.

Concerti
Divertissement pour le basson op. 6, 1829.
Introduction and variations on the trio ‘Låt oss i mörka lunden gå’, 3 bassoons and orchestra, 1828. Première Stockholm 1828. Music lost.

Chamber music
Serenade for Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 French horns, 2 Bassoons and Bass Trumpet, 1827. Concept score.

Piano
Flores, collection des compositions faciles pour le pianoforte, vol. 1−3, 1830−31.
Sinfonie for piano four hands, movement 1. Autograph in MTB. Printed in: J.M. Roséns Nordmannaharpan, 1831. Orchestration by A.W. Åström, 1866, manuscript in MTB.
Adagio & Allegro for piano 4 hands. Printed in: Svensk sång, 1901.

Songs
Amanda (‘I blomman i solen Amanda jag ser’, E.J. Stagnelius), 1828.
Flickan och jägaren (‘Mamma har sagt’, E.J. Stagnelius), 1828.
Har du den glömt den första gång (A. Grafström)
Impromtu vid Trollhättan (‘Fjällarnas harpa’, D. Dunckel), 1829.
Necken (‘Quällens guldmoln fästet kransa’, E.J. Stagnelius), 1828.
Serenad (‘Dagen förlåter de mörknade zoner’, E.J. Stagnelius), 1828.
Snillet (‘Till vida oceanen tågar’). Tryckt i Musikaliskt Weckoblad, p. 89.
Skördeqvinnan (‘På grönskande ren’, after F.Kind), 1828.