Ferdinand Fröding (1826−1881)

Gustaf Ferdinand Fröding was born on 12 August 1826 in Karlstad and died on 9 February 1881 in Kristinehamn. He was a military man, factory managing director, singer and amateur composer. He was the father of poet Gustaf Fröding. Ferdinand Fröding was a central figure in the cultural and social life in the region of Värmland during the 1850s. In the 1870s he was distinguished as a composer and thinker within the Free Church awakening movement. He composed for solo voice and for vocal ensemble.

Life

Background, family and education

Ferdinand Fröding was born in Karlstad on 12 August 1826 as the son of the iron foundry proprietor Jan Fröding and Gustava Branzell. His artistic aptitude has been described as an inheritance from his mother who was educated in literature and music. Through her, Fröding, as well as his son, the future poet Gustaf, could count a large part of Värmland’s cultural elite as their relatives, including author and composer Erik Gustaf Geijer and poet Esaias Tegnér.

Fröding graduated with his Bachelor’s degree from Hillska skolan in Stockholm and undertook several extended trips abroad for educational purposes. He is said to have been extensively erudite. Besides taking singing lessons in Paris, nothing more is known about his music education. After finishing his studies, Fröding began a military career advancing to lieutenant. Upon the death of his father in 1858, he was appointed managing director for his family’s business.

His artistic interests were stimulated by his marriage with Emilia Agardh (1827−1887), daughter of Carl Olof Agardh, a professor in Lund who later became Bishop of Karlstad. Emilia had an extensive education in and an aptitude for literature, but also possessed skills in piano playing, singing and dancing.

Even during his school years, Fröding excelled as a celebrated member of the community. Within the rich social life that flourished during the 1850s in the mansions of Värmland, in military circles, and in the city’s salons, he became an appreciated character. He appeared as a singer, poet, composer and actor, embodying, in a sense, the image of the Värmland ‘cavalier’. What he composed during this period is unknown, however it is likely that the operetta Krinolinhataren was already a work in progress at this time. It was a comedy about contemporary women’s fashion that, according to the family, Fröding destroyed.

Alongside this positive exterior however, Fröding showed early signs of depression, including neurotic elements that would deepen in the coming years. This has been identified as a contributing factor in his being forced off the family company’s board of directors in 1860, and he was never again professionally active. The situation was further complicated as, at the same time, his wife Emilie suffered from mental illness at the time of their son Gustaf’s birth.

Advent of the song collections

Ferdinand Fröding’s artistic interests appear to have only been temporarily hampered by these circumstances. During the course of a couple of years, he published two song collections, given out by the Abr. Hirsch publishing house, each with four songs, Fyra sånger vid pianoforte (Four songs at the piano) in 1863 under the pseudonym ‘Martinus’, and Sånger vid pianoforte (Songs at the piano) in 1865, under his actual name. These collections from the 1860s were followed in the 1870s by six more solo songs presented in various publications. The texts were written by authors who were quite popular at the time, including Elias Sehlstedt, Thekla Knös and F.A. Dahlgren.

Since his youth, Fröding had shown an interest in religious matters and after the family’s move to Kristinehamn in 1867, at that time a centre for the religious awakening, his interest deepened. Fröding scholars have interpreted the effects of religiosity on his psyche in various ways, however it seems that his literary and musical interests were stimulated by it. He published articles with religious reflections, and in 1874 his most extensive musical work was printed, Tjugotre tre- och fyrstämmiga andliga sånger (Twenty three spiritual songs with three and four parts), for which Fröding and his wife authored some of the texts. The collection includes love songs, morning and evening meditations, songs to accompany Christian holidays, summer songs and patriotic songs. They were likely intended to be used during religious services as well as at home.

Despite personal setbacks, family tragedies and illness, Ferdinand Fröding cultivated his great interest in music throughout his life. That he would have had aspirations of making a career of music, as some Fröding researchers suggest, is doubtful. However, it seems quite likely that his musical activities may have influenced the artistic development of his son, Gustaf Fröding.

Works

According to family history, Ferdinand Fröding’s composing was extensive, but a large number of works − such as Krinolinhataren − were destroyed by him. Those compositions that are known today consist exclusively of vocal works: songs for voice and piano and for vocal ensemble.  

Fröding belongs to a category of amateur composers from the 1800s who were active in the country side. His compositions, well suited for amateur music making, likely reflect a literary and musical ideal that flourished during that period in bourgeois environments outside of the larger cities. The choice of texts shows a soft spot for the sentimental and idyllic, which is also a suitable description of the music’s expression.

The solo songs can be characterised as lyrical ballads, in which the melody is central. A strophic reprise form dominates. The piano has short preludes, interludes, and postludes, but generally it has a function of pure accompaniment. The harmony includes secondary dominants relatively often. Modulations are rare however, leading mainly to the relative key. Despite this simplicity, the songs exhibit a good technical structure and show that Fröding had obtained a skilled knowledge, not only in piano and song, but also in music theory. Stylistically, the songs are grounded within the dominant stream in Sweden at the time, namely the German classical romantic traditions, while influences from Swedish folk songs brought certain indigenous stylistic elements.

Most of these above-named characteristics can also describe the three and four-part religious songs. The structure is homophonic; the melody is located in the highest part and the remaining parts follow throughout, note by note. The melodies are folk-like, and even if certain melodic and harmonic aspects are connected to an older hymnal repertoire the music is rather founded on the songs of the Free Church movement of the time.

Dan Olsson © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Bibliography

Bergsten, Staffan: Gustaf Fröding, Stockholm: Natur och kultur, 1999.
'Fröding, släkt från Värmland', in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 16, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1964−66.
Fröding och musiken, Ingvald Rosenblad (ed.), Karlstad: Gustaf Fröding-sällskapet, 1974, pp. 84−85.
Helmer, Axel: Svensk solosång 1850-1890, vol. 1. En genrehistorisk studie, diss. in musicology, Uppsala University, 1972, pp. 69f. and other places.
Lindström, Harry: Frödings i hem och bönhus, Stockholm: Gummesson, 1960.
Olsson, Henry: Fröding − ett diktarporträtt, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1967.

Sources

Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.

Summary list of works

Works for voice and piano, works for vocal ensemble.

Collected works

Songs for one voice and piano
Four songs at the pianoforte Af Martinus. Stockholm: Hirsch (1186), 1863. 1. Den yttersta dagen (J.O. Wallin), 2. Flickan vid forsen (E. Sehlstedt), 3. Vallflickan (Th. Knös), 4. Nordanvindens sång för böljan (F.A. Dahlgren).
Four songs at the pianoforte, 2nd Book. 1st Book under the Pseudonym Martinus. Stockholm: Hirsch (1290), 1865. 1. Månskens-stycke, 2. Linnéa (J. Nybom), 3. Mossrosen (F.M. Franzén), 4. I det gröna (E. Sehlstedt).
Om aftonen, in: Förr och nu, 1871, p. 4.
Fången, in: Förr och nu, 1874, p. 261f.
Julvisa (J.L. Runeberg), in: Förr och nu, 1874, p. 693f.
Saeterjentens vise ('Words from N.B.T.'), in: Förr och nu, 1876, p. 209.
Blomman, in: Sjung 3, 1878, p. 35.

Vocal ensemble
Hvi suckar det så tungt uti skogen (B.E. Malmström), för tre mansröster (tenor 1 and 2, bass) a cappella. In: Bonniers månadshäften, 1910, Eight book, p. 589 (probably autograph).
Twenty-three spiritual songs for three and four parts by Ferd. Fröding. Stockholm: P. Palmqvist AB, 1874. Trios: 1. Guds lof (tenor 1 and 2, bas), 2. Morning meditations (tenor 1 and 2, bass) 3. Evening meditations (tenor 1 and 2, bass), 4. Hos Jesus (tenor 1 and 2, bass), 5. Messie ankomst och rike (tenor 1 and 2, bass), 6. Hur lycklig är den (tenor 1 and 2, bass), 7. Nådens år (tenor 1 and 2, bass), 8. I vårens tid (alto, tenor, baritone), 9. Påskafröjd (soprano, tenor, baritone), 10. Min vän (soprano, tenor, baritone), 11. Sommaren (soprano, alto, bass), 12. Morgonbön (soprano, alto, baritone). Kvartetter (soprano, alto, tenor, bass): 13. Ledstjärnan till Betlehem, 14. Messie ankomst och rike, 15. Lofsång, 16. Herrens kristi himmelsfärd, 17. Med honom, 18. Vårt land, 19. Det himmelska Kanaan, 20. Berget må vika, 21. Sommarvisa, 22. Det svaga lammets bön, 23. Barnaro.


Works by Ferdinand Fröding

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 1