August Körling (1842−1919)

Sven August Körling was born in Misterhult, County of Kalmar, on 14 April 1842 and died in Ystad on 21 October 1929. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Stockholm, from 1855 onwards. In 1866 he began working as a music teacher and organist in Ystad, where he helped bring about an upturn in musical activity through the formation of a music society and, together with Salomon Smith, an orchestral society. He wrote solo songs and choral compositions, as well as a number of instrumental works, mainly for small forces.

Childhood an student years

August Körling was the son of Sven Magnus Körling, organist of Misterhult, and his wife Anna Lotta (née Persdotter). The basic music education received from his father was so successful that August was admitted to Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Stockholm when he was only 13. In 1858 he took his organist and church singer diploma, with top marks in all subjects. Three years later he qualified as a music teacher, studies for which included composition under the tuition of Ludvig Norman. After this he probably returned to his hometown. In Kristdala in July 1864 he married Sophia Lovisa Dahlberg, the daughter of Nils Dahlberg, a merchant, and his wife Greta Carolina (née Nilsdotter). A son, John Felix August, was born to them late that same year.

Church musician and music teacher in Ystad

In December 1865 August Körling was appointed organist and cantor of St Mary’s Church, Ystad, a post which he combined with that of music teacher at the town’s grammar school. Ystad remained his home for the rest of his life. He retired from his teaching post in 1907 and as organist of St Mary’s in 1911.

During his second year in Ystad (1867), August Körling, together with the apothecary Gustaf Smith, formed a music society whose thirty active members met twice weekly in order to ‘promote, to the best of their ability, both their own musical education and enjoyment and other people’s’. Under Körling’s direction they rehearsed for soirées arranged for invited ‘passive members’. These occasions featured vocal and instrumental works, mostly part songs for mixed voices with piano accompaniment, but also chamber music. The repertoire included, for example, music by Niels W. Gade, Felix Mendelssohn, A. F. Lindblad, August Söderman and Halfdan Kjerulf, not forgetting Körling himself.

The Music Society’s soirées had been going for about ten years when Körling, together with Gustaf Smith’s son Salomon, who had been a violin pupil of his, formed the Ystad Orchestral Society. This orchestra was made up of military musicians and amateurs, some 20 players in all. It gave 10 or 12 subscription concerts annually in the courthouse auditorium, but also 3 or 4 major concerts of classical and romantic works arranged by Körling to suit the forces available. Public interest declined in the early years of the 20th century, and the orchestra fell into desuetude, but audiences were still forthcoming for the chamber music soirées which Smith organised and Körling took part in. Together, between 1908 and 1910, they organised widely publicised summer festivals of chamber music by contemporary Swedish composers who also took part in the performances. At this time Körling was also still active as director of the Harmoni male voice choir, founded in 1906. He relinquished this post in 1913 and died in Ystad six years later, in 1919.

In 1888 Körling became a member of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music), and in 1894 he was invested with the Litteris et Artibus order. His sons Felix and Sven followed in their father’s footsteps, making signal contributions to music activities in Halmstad and Gothenburg respectively.


Körling began composing as a conservatory student and already at that time showed signs of promise. In Ystad he promptly seized opportunities of writing music for the music society he helped found in 1867. The society’s first five-yearly report mentions a performance of two works by Körling ‘Fjäriln’ and ‘Rosen’, but no works with these titles have been traceable. Autograph compositions are extant from the 1870s, e.g. Festival March (at the festival in honour of Judge Sylwan in 1873), for piano four hands, and Three Songs for solo voice and piano, to words by C. D. af Wirsén and A. M. Lidforss. Ten or so years later, his piano compositions began appearing in print more and more frequently. An article in the music journal Svensk Musiktidning for February 1899 refers to him as ‘occupying a prominent position among contemporary Swedish composers’. Both his solo songs and his songs for male voice quartet were commended. Of the latter, special mention is accorded the ballad Sten Sture (for male voice choir and baritone solo), which Körling had won a prize with. The same journal quotes Körling’s teacher Ludvig Norman describing Körling’s style as distinguished by ‘caressing, singable melody, beautiful harmonies, confidence of expression and clarity of presentation, together with the indescribable euphony which is the work’s crowning glory’.

Two latter-day critics of Körling’s vocal compositions, Axel Helmer and Lennart Hedwall, highlight the cultivated vocal music technique following on from Mendelssohn’s lied output. Helmer, however, who has made a relatively exhaustive study of Körling’s solo songs, finds them ‘somewhat conformative’. Hedwall dwells instead on the mellifluous piano writing of the songs and the Nordic freshness of the choral works, with their ‘echoes of popular tradition’. He also finds a ‘palpable, personal atmosphere’ in Körling’s compositions, indicative of ‘a gentle, at times dreamy and unfailingly positive temperament’.

Singer Jussi Björling paid a number of visits to Ystad as a young man in the 1920s. One person who helped further his career was Körling’s musical sparring partner Salomon Smith, and it was probably in this connection that Björling adopted a couple of songs by August Körling, namely ‘Hvita rosor’ and ‘Aftonstämning’, which are included in several anthology recordings of his. Other Swedish tenors − Nicolai Gedda, for example − also made these songs part of their repertoires. Several other solo songs by Körling, such as ‘Aprilvisa’, ‘En speleman’ and ‘Sagorna’, are also included in the current repertoire of 19th century Swedish romantic songs. Some of Körling’s choral works, such as Håtunaleken (for solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra) and Sten Sture (solo voices and male voice choir) also have their place in the repertoire.

Boel Lindberg © 2015
Trans. Roger Tanner


August Körling, in Svensk Musiktidning, annual vol. 10, no. 4, 1890, pp. 25−27.
Aldenbjörk, Herbert:
'Musikens stad': August Körling och Salomon Smith i Ystads musikliv, bachelor's thesis,, Institutionen för musikvetenskap, Lund universitet, 1993.
Aldenbjörk, Herbert: 'Ystad som musikmiljö under några sekler', in Per-Erik Sjösten (ed.) Musik i Ystad, Ystad: Ystads fornminnesförening, 1998, pp. 44−69.
Cronhamn, Jöns Peter: 'Fortsättning på berättelsen om musikaliska föreningar i Sverge och Norge', Kongl. Musikaliska Akademiens Handlingar 1867, Stockholm, 1869, p. 43.
Hedwall, Lennart: August Körling, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 22, 1977−79.
Helmer, Axel: Svensk solosång 1850−1890. En genrehistorisk studie, diss. Stockholm, 1972.
Koch, Christina: Sjung med oss, Pappa! Om Felix Körling och Körlingska notsamlingen på Kungliga Biblioteket, in Arkiven sjunger − nedslag i svensk musikhistoria, Årsbok för Riksarkivet och Landsarkivet, 2011, Stockholm, pp. 196−211.
Nilsson, Kjell B.: August Körling och Ystads musiksällskap, thesis in musicology, 60 credits, Stockholm: Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för musikvetenskap, 1992.
Norman, Ludvig: Musikaliska uppsatser och kritiker: 1880−1885, Stockholm: Gehrmans, 1888.
Morin, Gösta: Körling, in Svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 4, 1948, pp. 396−397.
Nilsson, Kjell 
B.: August Körling och Ystads musiksällskap, thesis in musicology, 60 credtis, Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för musikvetenskap, 1992.
Norman, Ludvig: Musikaliska uppsatser och kritiker, Stockholm, 1888, pp. 173−77, 184−85.
Percy, Gösta
: Körling in Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 4, 1977, p. 238.
Sjöqvist, Gunnar: Kammarmusikföreningen som bytte namn, Salomon Smiths hemsida, 2008.
Swensson, Gunnar (ed.): Ystads historia. Del 3: 1863−1914, Ystad, 1954.


The Royal Library, Copenhagen: August Körling: Svenske Folkevisor. 29 sheets, Swedish text, autograph (ink); For one voice with piano. (Ma ms 4759, mu 9705.2800).

The Music and Theatre Library of Sweden, Stockholm August Körling: Autographs and printed works.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Music archive. F7a JP Cronhamn's questionnaire to music societies in Sweden and Norwaye (1873−74)/Messages from Ystad music society [through August Körling].

The Royal Swedish Academy of Music archive. F7b:1 Kommittén för musiklivets höjande [letters from different people/places who answered the questionnaire 7 May 1909/ August Körling, 10 September 1809].

The Royal Library, Stockholm.
Körling score collection.

Summary list of works

Vocal composition with orchestra (Håtunaleken), piano music, songs (Hvita rosor, Aftonstämning, Aprilvisa, En speleman, Sagorna), choral works (Sten Sture, etc.).

Collected works

The list only includes printed works.

Instrumental works
Hvita rosor, for light orchestra [2 vl I, vl II, vl obl., vla, vlc, cb, fl, fag, sl I-II, obo, cor, tr, trb, perc,org] 1 conductor part (clavier) + 16 parts. Arr. by Hanns Bingang, København: Wilhelm Hansen, n.d.
Pastorale, for trumpet/tuba and organ. Arr. by Bengt Belfrage, Stockholm: Scandinavian music interest, n.d.
Pastorale, for horn and organ. Arr by. Bengt Belfrage, Stockholm: Scandinavian music interest, n.d.

Organ solo

Helgdagsfrid. In Nordiskt orgelalbum, vol 1. Stockholm, 1903.

Piano solo

Dur och moll, character pieces forr piano. 1. Erinring, 2. A la minuetto, 3. Idyll, 4. Intermezzo, 5. Causerie intime, 6. Illusion, 7. Serenad, 8. Melody in folktone. Stockholm, 1901.
Minnesblad, eight piano pieces. 1. Prelude, 2. Bort!, 3. Vårstämning, 4. Dance rhythms, 5. Morgonhälsning, 6. Humoresk, 7. 'Det var en gång', 8. På vandring. Stockholm, 1902.
Polonaise. In Musik för piano af svenska tonsättare, Stockholm, 1898.
Ungdomsminnen. In Album för piano af svenska tonsättare, Stockholm, 1892.

Vocal works
Kantat Håtunaleken, ballad for soli, mixed choir and orchestra (A. Åkerblom). Stockholm: Musikaliska konstföreningen, 1896.

Mixed choir

Han är uppstånden (1933, publ. with the title Påskhymn in Musiktidningen 1900), 1900.
O du saliga. Stockholm, 1933.
Vi prisa dig. Stockholm, 1933.

Male choir

Älska ditt land (D. Fallström). Stockholm, 1907.
Bort! (G. Nyblom). Stockholm, 1886.
Carina (K.A. Melin). Stockholm, 1902.
Det finns en gosse och han är min (A. T. Gellerstedt). Stockholm, 1886.
Dryckesvisa (C.R. Nyblom). Stockholm, 1886.
Guld och gröna skogar (Tor Hedberg). Stockholm, 1902.
Herkules (A. Törnblom). Stockholm, 1899.
Hvad liknar du, fagra flicka? (D. Klockhoff). Stockholm, 1886.
Hvita rosor för manskör. Score + 4 parts; Danish text, København: Wilhelm Hansen, n.d.
I vårens tid (after F.M. von Bodenstedt). Stockholm, 1886.
Klinga vallalur (E. N. Söderberg). Stockholm, 1907.
Kommer du ej snart (L. Sandell-Berg). Stockholm, 1893.
Min vilotimma ljuder (F. M. Franzén; Swedish psalm 444 in 1937 year's psalm book), Funeral motet. Stockholm, 1915.
Motet ('Du som härligt ställde', J. O. Wallin). Stockholm: Gehrman, 1908.
På minnesdagen (H. Edgren). Stockholm, 1886.
På vakt (K. A. Melin). Stockholm, 1907.
Pilgrimerna. Stockholm, 1886.
Saga på kämpens hög (Z. Topelius). Stockholm, 1889.
Salige äro de döde, funeral motet. Stockholm, 1915.
Sten Sture, with baritone solo (E. Bäckström). Stockholm: Gehrmans, 1889.
Stenbocks gossar (D. Fallström). Stockholm, 1905.
Styrbjörn Starke (K.G. Ossian-Nilsson). Stockholm, 1913.
Sverges fana. Stockholm, 1923.
Tre lustiga riddare for male choir a cappella. København: Wilhelm Hansen, n.d.
Var svensk ('Klippans son'). Stockholm, 1886.
Vårluft (Z. Topelius). Stockholm, 1907.
Viola (G.L. Östergren). Stockholm, 1904.

One voice with piano

Aftonstämning (Daniel Fallström). Stockholm 1893 (Gehrmans, new ed. 1967). [Also for orchestra, arr. by John Fernström n.d., resp. Stig Rybrant, 1966, unprinted.]
Aprilvisa (H.A. Ring). Stockholm, 1894.
Four songs for bass baritone. 1. Behagen (J.L. Runeberg), 2. Drömlif (G.L. Östergren), 3. 'När stjärnehären blänker' (C.D. af Wirsén), 4. 'Ein Blick des Augs hat mich erfreut' (F.M. von Bodenstedt). Stockholm/København: Julius Bagge, Wilhelm Hansen; Gehrmans (1942?), 1885.
Four songs (to Arvid). 1. Sången (J. Tegengren), 2. Lindagulls krona (B. Gripenberg), 3. O tala ej (O. Benzow), 4. Lyckan (K.-E. Forsslund). København/ Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget u.å.
De möttes i sin ungdoms vår (efter T. Moore). København, n.d.
Der wunder Ritter (H. Heine). København, u.å.
Du spörger, hvem hun ligner (Bergsöe). København: Wilhelm Hansen, n.d.
En dröm är lifvet (K. A. Melin). Stockholm, 1899.
Ett har jag begärt av Herran (E. Evers), with organ or piano. Stockholm, 1924.
Fågelsång (G. E. Schött). Stockholm, 1894.
Fjerran på enslig stig (D. Dallström). Stockholm, 1888.
Flyg ej undan! (J. L. Runeberg). Stockholm: Julius Bagge, 1888.
Flyg, fjäril (T. Lindh). Stockholm, 1894.
Fyll till randen! (T. Lindh). Stockholm, 1895.
Hvad mig till dig så mäktigt drog (M. Bern). København, Wilhelm Hansen, 1888.
Hvita rosor (K.A. Melin). København & Leipzig: Wilhelm Hansen, 1894. [1894, also for orchestra, arr. by S. Waldimir 1947, unprinted.]
Kamrat (D. Klockhoff), Stockholm, 1893.
Körling-album. 1. Sångarkonst, 2. Aprilvisa, 3. Gud vet det, hvar han vankar, 4. Fågelsång, 5. Slumra, bölja blå, 6. Fröjd och qval, 7. Din bild; Fjerran på enslig stig, 8. 'Vackra lilla flicka', 9. Snart synker Solen. Stockholm, 1894.
Midsommar (E. Fredin). Stockholm: Carl Gehrman, 1895.
Sagorna (E. Bäckström). Stockholm, 1883.
Sångarkonst (M. Sterner). Stockholm, 1894.
Sjömansflickan (T. Lindh). Stockholm, 1894.
Slöja av rödan sky vill jag ha. In Svensk sång, annual vol. 1. Stockholm, 1900.
Slumra, bölja blå (G.L. Östergren). Stockholm, 1888.
Snart synker solen (Bergsöe). Stockholm: Gehrmans, 1894; 1912.
Thu nicht so spröde, schönes Kind [Du fagra barn, så hård ej var] (F. M. von Bodenstedt). København: Wilhelm Hansen, 1888.
Three poems by T. Lindh. 1. Fröjd och qval, 2. Hvi dröjer du?, 3. Din bild. Stockholm, 1883.
Three new songs. 1. Den heliga natten (C. D. af Wirsén), 2. En dag har gått (O. Levertin), 3. En speleman (K.-E. Forsslund. Även för orkester, arr. by J Fernström n.d. resp. L Hedwall 1966, unprinted). Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist, 1898.
Three songs to words by D. Klockhoff. 1. Vackra lilla flicka, 2. Gud vet det, hvar han vanka, 3. När våren står i blom. Stockholm: Carl Gehrman, 1883.
Trädgårdsmästaren (efter Mörike). Stockholm, 1890.
Two songs, John Forsell tillägnade (H. Nyblom). 1. O du, som torkar sorgens tår, 2. Hjaertesuk. Stockholm, 1930.
Two songs to poems by K. Hamsun. 1. Efter avskeden, 2. Alle borte. Stockholm, n.d.
Våga, vinn!. Stockholm, 1899.
Vogt på dit Øje (H. Drachmann). København: Wilhelm Hansen, 1888.

Works by August Körling

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

Number of works: 24