Violinist and composer Christian Friedrich Müller was born on 29 December 1752 in Rheinberg, Prussia, and died in Stockholm on 21 December 1827. After employment with the court orchestra of Prince Henry of Prussia, he traveled to Copenhagen in 1779, where he met the singer and actress Caroline Walter. In 1780 they traveled to Stockholm, where Christian Friedrich was hired to be the second concertmaster at the Royal Opera. In 1783 he was awarded the title Kunglig kammarmusicus (royal chamber musician) and in 1787, principal concertmaster. He wrote mainly works for the violin, but also incidental and orchestral music. Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1788.
From Prussia to Scandinavia
Nothing is known about Christian Friedrich Müller’s family background or upbringing. His violin teacher was most likely M. Solomon, and it was through his teachings that Müller concentrated on his adagiospel (adagio style of playing), by which he earned his fame as a violin virtuoso. In the 1770’s, Müller was employed as a violinist in the Royal Court Orchestra of Prince Henry of Prussia (Friedrich Heinrich Ludwig von Preußen). In 1778 he departed Berlin to travel on tour with the singer Gertrude Mara, who was also employed by the prince.
In 1779, Müller arrived in Copenhagen and gave two concerts. There he met the singer and actress Caroline Frederikke (Carolina Fredrika) Walter − a turning point for them both. However, the association between the two was not appreciated by the Danish court, leading to Müller's banishment from the country. Caroline was already married at the time, although her husband had departed Denmark in 1775. When he returned, they do not appear to have resumed their life together, and thus in the spring of 1780 Caroline managed to get a divorce. By this time Müller was already in Sweden, where he was soon followed by Caroline, and in May they were married in Gothenburg. Patrik Alströmer arranged all the paperwork for the marriage and even sent a letter of recommendation for employment to the opera administration in Stockholm.
Employment in Stockholm
The couple traveled to the capital, where in June 1780 they gave a concert for the court. Christian Friedrich Müller immediately joined the Opera orchestra as second concertmaster, whereas Caroline had to wait until 1781 to be employed on the royal stage. Caroline’s first role was as Alceste in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera of the same name. She was a hit and became something of a royal favourite.
In 1782 the couple’s finances hit rock bottom. Chased by creditors, they fled first to Christiania, then on to Hamburg, and finally London. There they were called to a meeting with the Swedish ambassador, who offered them a very well-paid, ten-year contract if they returned to Stockholm. King Gustav III was behind this offer, not wishing to be without his dramatic soprano. The King also promised to finance the couple’s journey home. They accepted the contract, and when they returned to Stockholm Müller was appointed to be Kunglig kammarmusicus (royal chamber musician) and Carolina as first actrice.
Christian Friedrich Müller, who had been promoted to the position of concertmaster and music director of the opera orchestra in 1787 − was demoted from his post in 1807. King Gustav IV Adolf, having already begun in 1803 to show a negative attitude toward the theatre, decided in 1806 that the Opera would close and the staff be laid off. After the 1809 coup, King Charles XIII reopened the Opera and both Christian Friedrich Müller and his wife were rehired.
Müller took an active part in Stockholm's concert life. At his 1780 Stockholm debut, he was a soloist in one of his own violin concertos and played several of his own violin sonatas. Other works by Müller that were performed at the concerts included his string quartets and his duos for violin and viola or bass. He also performed together with his wife, accompanying her arias on obbligato violin. Müller also conducted the Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) at a number of concerts. These were often benefit concerts in support of the Freemason’s Orphanage or the Seraphim Hospital and others. Together with hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra) Johann Christian Friedrich Haeffner, Müller conducted Haydn’s Creation and Mozart’s Requiem on several occasions. Müller was responsible for the orchestra and Haeffner conducted the choir and soloists.
Müller retired from the Hovkapellet in 1817. Whereas his wife continued as a teacher at the Opera, Müller faded into the shadows. He died in Stockholm in 1827.
Relatively few of Christian Friedrich Müller’s works remain preserved today. Those that do reflect his undertakings as a violinist and member of the Hovkapellet: violin compositions and theatre music. Müller wrote solo sonatas for the violin, but he wrote primarily duets in which the violin is accompanied by either viola or bass. There is also a collection of six string quartets entitled ‘Sonatas for violin with accompaniment of violin, viola and bass’. It was the first violin that took centre stage − the other instruments had only supporting roles. Müller most likely composed his works for the violin to be performed mainly by himself, highlighting his extraordinary talent as a violinist.
Müller's most important work is undoubtedly his music to Drottning Christina, a heroic verse drama with song and dance, and text by King Gustav III, adapted by Johan Henrik Kellgren. It was premiered at Gripsholm Castle in 1785 and was later played at both Drottningholm Palace and the Royal Opera in Stockholm. In addition, Müller contributed music to the play Eremiten (1798) and the musical comedy Masquerade. He also composed Epilog till operan Atis (1784).
According to two sources, Müller also wrote a flute concerto (now lost), but it is more probable that this work was composed by his contemporary, August Eberhard Müller. Several works with relatively high opus numbers have also been attributed to Christian Friedrich Müller, but at least two of these, Grand ouverture triomphale (op. 107) and Cantatus Generalis Populi (op. 120), were composed by Carl Friedrich Müller. There is also some doubt as to whether the three piano compositions attributed to Müller by several sources were also really composed by him: Divertissement (op. 33), Potpourri (op. 35) and Variations (op. 38). The latter two were published in Hamburg in the 1820’s and were dedicated to various members of the German royalty.
Veslemøy Heintz © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Beijer, Agne: Drottningholms slottsteater på Lovisa Ulrikas o Gustaf III:s tid, Stockholm 1981, p. 304, 313f.
Dahlgren, Fredrik August: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms theatrar 1737−1863 och Kongl. theatrarnes personal 1773−1863 med flera anteckningar, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1866.
Jonsson, Leif & Anna Ivarsdotter-Johnson (eds): Musiken i Sverige: frihetstiden och gustaviansk tid, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993.
Karle, Gunhild: Kungl. Hovkapellet i Stockholm och dess musiker 1772−1818, Uppsala: G. Karle, 2000.
Moberg, Carl Allan: ‘Konserter i Stockholm för hundra år sedan’, in: Ur nutidens musikliv, vol. 5, 1924.
Moberg, Carl Allan: ‘Konserter i Stockholm för hundra år sedan’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 7, 1925.
Neiiendam, Klaus: Caroline Walter: personlighed og skuespilkunst, København: Nyt nordisk forlag Arnold Busck, 1983.
Neiiendamm, Klaus: ‘Christian Friedrich Müller’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 26, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1987−89.
Nisser, Carl, Svensk instrumentalkomposition 1770−1830, Stockholm: Gothia, 1943.
Nyström, Pia & Elmquist, Ann-Marie: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien: matrikel 1771−1995, Stockholm: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien, 1996.
Vretblad, Patrik, Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700−talet, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1918.
Västerås stadsbibliotek (avd. Stiftsbiblioteket), Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Skara stifts- och landsbibliotek, Karlshamns museum.
Summary list of works
Music to 3 dramas (Drottning Christina, Eremiten, Masqueraden), two works for chorus and orchestra (Epilogue to the Opera Atis, Serafimermusik), works for solo instruments and orchestra (2 concertos for violin and orchestra [lost], Polonoise concertante for violin and orchestra ), chamber music (6 string quartets, six duets for violin and viola, 10 sonatas for violin and bass, two duets for two violins, etc.), piano works.
Drottning Christina, heroic drama.
(Contributions to the pieces.)
Menuet for the coronation in Norrköping.
Solo instrument and orchestra
2 violin concertos [lost].
Polonoise concertante with obliggato violin.
Choir and orchestra
Epilogue to the opera Atis.
Serafimermusik [for the Royal Order of the Seraphim].
Six duets for violin and viola, op. 1.
Six sonatas for violin and bass, op. 2.
Three sonatas for violin and bass, op. 3.
Two duets for two violins (G major, C major).
Sonata for violin and bass (C minor).
Six string quartets (D minor, A major, G minor, C minor, G major, C major).
Works for wind instruments
Sonata, G minor.
Sonata no. 1 and no. 2.
Polacca maestoso, C major.
Solo, C minor [no title].
Rondo, A-flat major.
O du som verldars millioner.