Karin Lönegren was born in Norrköping on 22 June 1871 and died in Stockholm on 20 February 1963. In the late 1880’s she moved with her family to Stockholm, where after studies with Richard Andersson and Franz Neruda she worked as a piano teacher and composer. Most of her compositions are works for piano, in addition to songs with piano accompaniment.
Karin Lönegren was raised in an upper class environment. Her father Gustaf Lönegren (1828−1907) was a member of Parliament and became the Director General of Customs in 1888. Her brother Ernst (1862−1937) became the Bishop of the Diocese of Härnösand in 1909. Karin Lönegren never got married, instead sharing a home with her sister. Together they supported themselves as teachers.
According to her own records, Karin Lönegren studied with Richard Andersson and Franz Neruda. Andersson, who was both a pianist and composer, founded his own music school in 1886 and quickly gained an excellent reputation. Beginning in the early 1860’s, Franz Neruda was employed as a cellist in the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen. From 1892 he was conductor of the music society there and from 1891 to 1915 he was the conductor of the Stockholm Music Society, which gave frequent concerts, often with large choral works on the program. In the 1890’s Neruda was also active as a piano teacher in Stockholm. Although Lönegren herself makes no mention of when her studies with Andersson and Neruda took place, it can be reasonably deduced that it was during the 1890’s, recently after she had arrived in Stockholm, and while both Andersson and Neruda taught there.
Very little is known about Karin Lönegren’s teaching activities. It is known that for a period she taught the Princesses Astrid (born 1905, Queen of Belgium in 1925) and Ingrid (born in 1910, Queen of Denmark in 1935), but information is missing as to whether or not she had other students too. Newspaper advertisements reveal that she participated in society life as well as at concerts, where she performed her own piano pieces. Through her teaching work, social contacts and compositional activities she ought to have held a prominent position in Stockholm music life. Her compositions were played regularly on the radio, particularly during the 1930’s and 40’s. To a lesser degree her works have been performed until current times.
Most of Karin Lönegren’s compositions consist of songs and piano works. Her collection of Swedish folk songs from 1922 presents 60 famous folk songs (‘Till Österland vill jag fara’, ‘Om sommaren sköna’, ‘Uti vår hage’ and others) with piano accompaniment that she composed. The songs are generally short and the piano serves primarily a supporting role.
One of her more elaborate songs is ‘Stämningʼ, with a lyrical text concerning a loving couple written by an anonymous author. The song’s intensity builds up progressively, climaxing in the middle of the piece by means of expansive harmonies. One of her most famous songs, with many performances of mention, is ‘Hur var det väl’ with lyrics by Astrid Gullstrand (1874−1952), who wrote numerous poems and lyrics, especially during the 1910’s and 20’s, including the poem ‘Mor, lilla mor’, which was most widespread in the form set to music. The text is a declaration of love to a person held dear, with the musical composition focusing on the melody, and with a supportive piano accompaniment. Even here the basic harmony is supplemented by romantically coloured chords.
In her Fyra lyriska stycken for piano (1908) Karin Lönegren follows late 19th century romantic piano traditions with short character pieces (Barcarolle, Andante, Berceuse and Gavotte). Here, her teacher Richard Andersson was of influence by way of his numerous piano pieces within this genre. Berceuse, which is also available in a version for violin and piano, is one of Lönegren’s most widespread works. In the collection Nytt pianoalbum. Samling omtyckta stycken för piano, released by Abraham Lundquist’s publishing house, it is placed alongside the works of significant contemporary composers and pianists such as William Svedbom, Hugo Alfvén and Karl Wohlfahrt. The connection to the Romantic piano tradition is also evident in her Tre fantasistycken for piano from 1911. Here the piano parts are technically difficult, including constantly running scales and broken chords in addition to octave spans within the treble and bass lines. The style is expressive, with a great variation of dynamics and delivery. Chromaticism, tensions, added tone chords and digressions to comparably distant keys are abundant. These pieces make high demands on the performer, not least when it comes to technique, reflecting the level of Lönegren’s own piano playing. It is known that she performed her own works at concerts. One can only assume that she utilised her own compositions in her teaching, although no evidence of this has been found.
Karin Hallgren © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Berggren, Jan: ‘Gustaf W L Lönegren’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 24, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1982−84.
Lindhjem, Anna: Kvinnelige komponister i Skandinavien, 2nd edition, Gressvik: Faglitteraert forlag, 2011. [Reprinted from the 1st edition from 1931.]
Wikmark, Gunnar: ‘Ernst F Lönegren’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 24, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1982−84.
Summary list of works
Chamber music (Berceuse for violin and piano), piano music (lyrical pieces, fantasies), songs (Hur var det väl, Stämning, 60 Swedish folk songs, children’s songs).
Violin and piano
Four Lyrical Pieces for piano, 1908. 1. Barcarolle, 2. Andante, 3. Berceuse, 4. Gavotte.
Swedish Folk Melodies in arrangement for piano. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1922.
Three Fantasy Pieces for piano, 1911. 1. Allegretto con moto, 2. Allegretto, 3. Allegro appassionato.
Voice and piano
Songs at the piano. Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist, 1913?. 1. Stämning, 2. En dröm är lifvet,
Hur var det väl (Astrid Gullstrand).
Tankar, Er makt är så stor (H. S-r.). Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1924.
Glänsande, vita snö (Anna H. Preinitz). Printed in Vita bandets sångbok, 1915, p. 55.
Nallebjörnen är min vän och andra visor (M. Moberg, and others). Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1945.