Baron Casten Folke Salomon von Otter, born in Kristianstad 23 May 1876 and died in Stockholm 5 December 1938, was a military officer, government official, composer and musician. Throughout his career, he held a number of administrative and managerial positions within the military establishment. As a member of the Mazer Quartet Society, he was provided with an outlet for his musical pursuits: the violin, piano and composing string quartets.
After completing his secondary school education in Kristianstad in 1894, Salomon von Otter applied as a volunteer to the Svea livgarde (Svea Life Guards infantry regiment) later that year. This was followed by an extensive and sterling career in the military, during which he acquired many titles, mostly in demanding positions within administration and management. He ended his tenure as a lieutenant colonel in the commissariat department in 1926, and his position as head of the technical audit department of the Kungliga arméförvaltning (the Royal Swedish Army Material Administration) in 1931. He also studied at Uppsala University, graduating with a two-year degree in law and national economics in 1909. From 1927 he was an auditor for the Svenska samfundet för musikforskning (the Swedish Society for Musicology).
Salomon von Otter’s father, Bror Salomon von Otter (1832−1910), was also a military officer, government official, and a senior Freemason in Skåne County. He probably exerted some influence over his son being initiated into the Order as early as 1897 − and it is worth noting how unusual it was for a 21-year-old to be accepted as a member to the Masonic lodge. It was also quite exceptional that the young Salomon von Otter was able to reach the 10th degree in 1917, after only 20 years as a Freemason, particularly since he had never held any official role, with the exception of 1916−17, when he was a secretary for the Freemason’s archives and libraries. In addition, he was also a member of the Order of St. John in Sweden.
Salomon von Otter married Alice Johanna Amalia Taube (1878−1969) on 1 June 1899; they had two children: Erland and Dagmar. In an obituary in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (9 December 1938) he is described as a modest and much beloved personality with warm religiosity, who died after a ‘long period of failing health.’
Since during his lifetime Salomon von Otter’s profession consisted of numerous time-consuming duties, he was only capable of devoting himself to his passion of performing and composing music during his spare time. Music was dear to his heart, and it gave him solace throughout several years of recurring illness. Since there is no mention of proper musical training in the historical records, one can only assume that he was self-taught in terms of both music performance and composition. However, he does appear in an amateur context as a composer, violinist and pianist.
In 1897, when he was only 21 years old, Salomon von Otter was elected as a member of the prestigious Mazer Quartet Society, to which he belonged for the next 41 years. His last string quartet, in G major (1938), was dedicated to the Society. From 1923 he was the chairman of the board, and later the treasurer there. His wife Alice von Otter was never able to be a member herself, since she died several years before women were accepted as full members. However, she was an affiliate member from 1933 until the end of her life.
In the Mazer archives, Salomon von Otter appears as a performing musician 44 times. He performed as a violinist for the first time on 4 February 1897 in Haydn’s D minor Quartet, Op. 42 (Hob. III 43), and for the last time in Mozart’s String Quintet no. 3 in C major (K. 515) on 24 February 1933. As a pianist, he played Haydn’s Piano Trio in D major (Hob. XV: 24) on 17 April 1903. Over the years, he played mostly second violin, along with such prominent chamber musicians as Charles Barkel (to whom von Otter dedicated his Elegie for violin and piano), Sven Kjellström, Gösta Björk, Folke Bramme and Gunnar Norrby.
Salomon von Otter’s musical output includes several compositions for string quartet, although most ought to be viewed as preliminary works, lacking a polished, final design. Only his String Quartet no. 2 in B-flat major has been discovered to be in complete finished form, including individual string parts, which were made available before a performance of the Mazer Quartet Society on 9 May 1930.
Von Otter had created his first work by the end of the 1800’s, but his composing then lay largely neglected until the 1930’s, when he wrote a number of new works.
Very few of his works have been published, but among them is the song ‘En bön’, set to his own lyrics, published by Edition Carelius. The poem has a very distinct Masonic subtext, which even today’s Freemasons can easily identify with. It has been thought that the songs to his own lyrics ‘all expressed his sensitive, warm and sentimental disposition’ (the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet).
Stig Jacobsson © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Frimureriska tonsättare och frimurerisk musik: ett uppslagsverk, Uppsala: Forskningslogen Carl Friedrich Eckleff, 2006.
Hedin, Einar: Mazerska kvartettsällskapet 1849−1949: Minnesskrift/på uppdrag av sällskapets styrelse utarbetad, Stockholm: Mazerska kvartettsällskapet, 1949.
Salomon von Otters archive (autographs, copies and printed music) at the Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.
Mazerska kvartettsällskapet's archive.
Frimurarnas archive and library.
Summary list of works
Orchestral works (Elegie etc.), chamber music (4 string quartets, works for violin and piano, etc.), piano works (Bröllopsmarsch etc.), songs with piano accompaniment, vocal music (a cantata).
Bröllops-Marsch, for wind orchestra, 1899. [See also Piano music.]
Elegie for orchestra, 1898. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, Emil Carelius.
Meditation for string orchestra, flute and clarinet, 1937.
Andante quasi lento, for violin and piano, 1935.
Barcarole for violin and piano.
Elegie for violin and piano, 1935. Printed 1936. Dedication: ‘Till min vän Charles Barkel’.
Sessan dansar, menuet G major for violin and piano, ‘Dedicated to HRH Princess Margaretha’.
String quartet A minor, 1900.
String quartet no. 2 B-flat major, ‘En kvartettstudie under intrycket av minnen från Haydns, Mozarts och Schuberts hemland’, 1923.
String quartet G minor [three movements], 1933, rev. 1937.
String quartet no. 4 G major, 1938.
Largo, F-sharp minor/F-sharp major, for string quartet.
Wedding march, 1899. [See also Orchestra.]
Larghetto B minor.
Souvenir de la jeunesse, 1898. [‘Orig. for string orch.’]
Tillegnan (‘När jag går dig förbi’), for piano with text placed below.
(The composer has written the texts himself)
Cantata ‘Jag tror!’ for solo baritone, men's choir, string orchestra and organ, 1931.
‘Ensam jag vandrar här...’ for voice and piano.
Jag älskar dig (‘En afton jag gick med min älskade bort till skogen’), for voice and piano.
Till min ros i rosengården (‘När jag går dig förbi’), for voice and piano, 1935.
Till min vän/Vänskapens band (‘Sänd mig din tanke’), for voice and piano, 1931/33.
En bön (‘O giv mig ett hjärta så gott som guld’) for voice and piano. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, Emil Carelius, 1933.