Wilhelm Lundgren was born in Stockholm on 4 November 1872 and died in Knivsta on 3 July 1940. Nicknamed ‘Paganini’, he was known not only as a brilliant violinist, but also as a skilled music teacher, conductor and music critic in Uppsala in the early twentieth century. Although he spent more energy on these activities rather than on writing music, he was a skilled composer.
Childhood and education
Wilhelm Lundgren was born and grew up in Stockholm. His father, Johan Vilhelm Lundgren, was a sea captain. His mother, Mathilda Charlotta (née Söderbäck), was an accomplished pianist and taught him music. At age 14 he was accepted to the Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) where he studied violin under Fridolf Book while also attending high school.
In 1890 he began studying medicine at Uppsala University but soon went on to study languages, which he had a great talent for, although he never completed an academic degree. He gave language lessons and worked for several years during the second half of the 1890’s as a tutor in the Baltic countries and Russia. Around 1900, he purportedly also worked with experimental phonetic research at the university.
Violinist, critic and pedagogue
In the 1890’s Wilhelm Lundgren decided to make music his livelihood. He was already a highly qualified member of the Akademiska kapellet (Academic Orchestra) in Uppsala - as evidenced by his nickname ‘Paganini’, often abbreviated ‘Pag’, which would follow him for the rest of his life. During his best years as a violinist he was described as having infallible technique with a capacity for vivid interpretation.
In 1899 Lundgren commenced what would turn out to be a long career as a music critic for the newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning. He probably started giving violin and piano lessons at the same time. As a critic he was ruthlessly candid, and was informed relatively early on with knowledge and positive appraisal of the new music by composers such as Johannes Brahms, César Franck and Carl Nielsen. As both music critic and teacher, he made good use of his versatility. He was a talented and dedicated educator, expanding the scope of his lessons with his knowledge of the humanities and anatomy. His talent for music pedagogy additionally expressed itself in his Musikaliskt reallexikon (dictionary of music) that was published in 1924.
Prominent positions in Uppsala’s music life
In 1902 Wilhelm Lundgren became head of the Sällskapet för kammarmusik (Society for Chamber Music) in Uppsala, and a few years later, concertmaster of the Akademiska kapellet, of which he had in fact already been the leader of for several years when the director musices, Ivar Hedenblad, became incapacitated. When Hedenblad died in the summer of 1909, Lundgren took over his tasks completely, thus becoming a central figure in the city’s music life. He led the Allmänna sången choir, a responsibility which he retained until 1919, and he was the acting director musices until the post was officially available in the autumn of 1910. During the 1909-10 academic year Lundgren also led the Orphei Drängar male choir, in addition to giving lectures in music history and music theory and attending to chamber music rehearsals. In 1910 he was one of the candidates nominated to the position of director musices, but despite wide support, the election was won by the composer Hugo Alfvén. The relation between the two may not have been cordial, judging by the hostile words Alfvén wrote about Lundgren in his memoirs.
Socially, Lundgren was, despite exhibiting a certain astuteness and irony, popular for his stalwart expertise and convivial talents. He appears to have been a sensitive man, closely tied to his mother. He called himself ‘manic depressive’ in a letter, writing that he was hiding his loneliness under a cheerful student jargon. During the 1920s, his health began to fail, and he spent periods at a hospital for problems with his heart and lungs. In 1926 he had to leave his work at Upsala Nya Tidning for health reasons, and his final years were spent at the Vrå nursing home in Knivsta.
Wilhelm Lundgren’s first dated composition is from 1902. His versatility as an artist resulted in that he never fully dedicated himself to writing music despite having an innate talent, but during the autumns of 1910 and 1911 he was able, thanks to a Wennerberg scholarship, to continue his composition studies in Berlin with the renowned teacher Paul Juon.
Lundgren’s music production was quite small, and only a few of his works were published, but his music does not lack artistic qualities. A significant proportion consists of occasional works written for his musician friends at the university and the SHT order society. Presumably, he also composed cantatas for the SHT. His early works, songs and violin pieces have a salon character combined with at times imaginative harmonies. His later works are inwardly expressive and contrapuntally artistic, in a style with elements from both Brahms and Franck. Lundgren wrote two works consisting of several movements: a cello sonata (of which the piano part is unfortunately partially lost) and a piano trio. Additional works include one orchestral work, a short Scherzo.
Anders Edling © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Publications by the composer
Musikaliskt reallexikon, Uppsala 1924.
'Studentglädje omkring sekelskiftet: "Fuktklubbens" annaler, ett stycke uppsaliensisk nöjeskultur', in: Ergo, no. 1, 1924, pp. 67−69.
Alfvén, Hugo: Tempo furioso, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1948.
H D-x: 'Wilhelm Lundgren', [newspaper] Upsala, 4/7 1940.
Hambraeus, Axel: 'När Pag övertog Hedenblads taktpinne', Upsala Nya Tidning, 16/4 1959.
Planting, Gunvor: 'Wilhelm Lundgren', in: Svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 5, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1949.
Svensson, Sven E: 'Wilhelm Lundgren död', Upsala Nya Tidning, 4/7 1940.
Svensson, Sven E: 'Wilhelm Lundgren − ett 75-årsminne', Upsala Nya Tidning, 5/11 1947.
Summary list of works
Orchestral music (scherzo), chamber music (piano trio, pieces for various chamber music formats), piano and organ music, eight songs with piano (8 songs).
Scherzando for violin and piano.
Sonata for cello and piano.
Two pieces for cello and piano.
En glad Gille, for trumpet or horn and piano.
Two pieces for violin, viola and piano.
Trio for violin, cello and piano.
Fugue a 2 soggetti, for string quartet.
En liten kvartettsats, for string quartet.
Valse à la Viennoise.
Two songs, 1. Blomman (Bernhard Elis Malmström), 2. Visa (Heinrich Heine).
Klockan (Bo Bergman). With obligato viola part.
När kväll i själens himmel skymmer (Vilhelm Ekelund).
Punschlied (Friedrich Schiller).
Solen sjönk röd (Olof Thunman).
Vårmorgon (Gustaf Fröding).
Du sorgsna stjärna (after Lord Byron).