Carl (Karl) Israel Sandström was born in Linköping on 14 November 1824 and died in Gothenburg on 20 November 1880. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1851 to 1853. He became a music teacher in Gothenburg in 1853 and also began working as an organist as well as director of several choirs (Bildningscirkelns sångkör, Göta Par Bricole and for Amatörernas sångförening). He was also a music critic. Israel Sandström composed mainly choral works and solo songs.
Israel Sandström was active in the development of Gothenburg’s music scene during the 1850s and 1860s, especially regarding vocal music. The literary publication Svea folkkalender wrote in 1882 that he ‘raised singing in Gothenburg to a position never before attained’. As a part of this involvement he composed − first and foremost songs and choral works for both male choir and school choir.
Childhood and academic years
Carl Israel Sandström was born in Linköping on 14 November 1824. He was the son of Nils Peter Sandström, organist and klockare (church teacher and leader of song), and his wife, Kristina Maria (née Rosengren). He had a younger brother, Gustaf Sandström (1826−1875), who also had a career in music − he became an opera singer and worked for a long time at the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera).
Israel Sandström completed his education in Linköping and Uppsala. Although no sources describe his early music training, one may assume that their father taught both him and his brother. With the aid of music, Sandström was soon launched into professional life. In 1848 at the age of 24 he was hired as an actor and music director by the Johan Petter Roos’ theatre group, and in 1850 he joined the Oscar Andersson’s theatre group. In these contexts he also arranged music for current productions, apparently without further music training. However, in 1851 he began his formal music education at the Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Stockholm, completing his degree as Director of Music two years later. Sandström played keyboard instruments and viola.
In Gothenburg’s music scene
Directly after his studies, Israel Sandström obtained a job as a singing teacher at Gothenburg’s secondary school. The initiative to move to Gothenburg was crucial in his life. He would come to live in that city for the rest of his life, engaging himself in diverse activities within the vibrant music scene there. Sandström’s strong connection to Gothenburg was also due to meeting his future wife Augusta Fogelgren (1835−1900) soon after moving there. They married in 1854.
His job as a music teacher at the secondary school was not full time. In 1854 he also became the substitute organist in Christinæ parish and in 1860 he was appointed as the regular organist. Sandström was a singing teacher at Gothenburg’s college starting in 1858 and in 1867 he was hired for the same position at the New Elementary College for Girls. In addition he worked for shorter periods as a singing teacher at other schools in the town. For a period of time he also had his own singing institute.
Alongside his work as a teacher, Israel Sandström worked intensively as music director for a number of choirs and ensembles. He led, among others, Sångens vänner (friends of song) and Amatörernas sångförening (the amateurs’ singing society) which was founded in 1863. As choir director, among other duties, Sandström was also deeply involved with the Göta Par Bricole. The compositions and arrangements he did for this group were gathered in the publications Bellmanianer i det gröna: sceniskt och musikaliskt arrangement af En Brikollist (1863) and Taflor ur Fredmans epistlar och sånger (1878). Furthermore, he was initiated into the Freemasons in 1855 as a member of the St John’s lodge ‘Salomon à Trois Serrures’ of western Sweden. For this engagement Sandström composed a ceremonial song for tenor, bass, male choir, piano and violin, to a text by Anders Fredrik Landtbom. He also wrote songs and choral pieces for male choir for use in the lodge. In Östgötars minne from 1902 (a biographical publication about students at Uppsala University) Israel Sandström is described, typically, as a ‘popular social companion’.
Both versatile and industrious, Sandström also managed time as a music critic for the newspaper Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning. Music historian Anders Carlsson, who wrote about Gothenburg’s music scene during the second half of the 19th century, said of Sandström the critic that he ‘always had a positive attitude, even though he occasionally became fired up’. Toward the end of his time as a critic, Sandström ‘lost his illusions and a bit of grumpiness was sometimes noticeable’.
Israel Sandström was voted into the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in 1864. Ten years later he received the award Litteris et artibus. He died in Gothenburg on 20 November 1880 after several years of ill health.
Israel Sandström composed almost exclusively within the contexts that he was engaged in as a musician or music director − much like other composers of the time. However, those works that have been preserved are likely only part of his actual creative output. Most of his extant compositions are published works − many unpublished works have probably been lost. Over the course of his career, there have surely been other works written for occasional events.
Sandström’s experience as an actor and theatre musician at the outset of his career can be seen in his incidental music for theatre, both original compositions and arrangements. It was presumably a rich learning experience to take part in for a prospective composer.
Other types of works predominately consist of songs and choral pieces. He wrote the songs mainly for use in the various aspects of social life that Sandström took part in. His most well known composition is undoubtedly the song ‘Min lilla vrå bland bergen’, with a text by Johan Anders Wadman with whom Sandström was friends in Göta Par Bricole. Works for male choir were composed most often for those choirs that Sandström directed. In addition, as a singing teacher he had the opportunity to also compose for school choirs.
Stylistically Anders Carlsson says that Sandström was ‘firmly anchored in Viennese classicism and early romanticism’, which was also his starting point as a composer. His compositions are well crafted though not original. They surely functioned excellently for the intended ensembles.
It is difficult to say much about the spread of Israel Sandström’s music. His published compositions probably reached a great deal outside of the composer’s own circles. Nevertheless, today, it is quite far between performances of his work.
Gunnar Ternhag © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson
Publications by the composer
Polko, Elise: Musikaliska sagor, fantasier och skizzer, trans. Israel Sandström, Göteborg, 1860.
Bellmanianer i det gröna: sceniskt och musikaliskt arrangement af En Brikollist [= Israel Sandström], Stockholm, 1863.
Melodier till Svenska psalmboken, rytmiskt behandlade och för det vanligaste röstomfånget inrättade af Israel Sandström. För enstämmig sång och med fyrstämmigt beledsagande af orgel, pianoforte eller harmonium, Stockholm: F.&G. Beijers förlag, 1877.
Melodier till Svenska psalmboken, rytmiskt behandlade och för det vanligaste röstomfånget inrättade af Israel Sandström. För sång ensamt. Stockholm: F.&G. Beijers förlag, 1877.
Bellman, Carl Michael: Taflor ur Fredmans epistlar och sånger, af P-n, musiken arrangerad af Israel Sandström, Gothenburg, 1878.
Carlsson, Anders: Handel och Bacchus eller Händel och Bach? Det borgerliga musiklivet och dess orkesterbildningar i köpmannastaden Göteborg under andra hälften av 1800-talet, diss., Göteborgs universitet, 1996, pp. 123−126.
Frimureriska tonsättare och frimuerisk musik. Ett uppslagsverk, Uppsala, 2006, pp. 303−304.
Hedberg, Frans: Fyra år vid landsorts-theatern: anteckningar i berättelseform af Palle Block, Stockholm, 1857−58.
"Israel Sandström", in: Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts- Tidning, 22 Nov. 1880.
"Israel Sandström", in: Göteborgs-Posten, 22 Nov. 1880.
"Karl Israel Sandström", in: Svea folkkalender, 1882, pp. 211−214.
Odén, Klas Gustav: Östgötars minne. Biografiska anteckningar om studerande Östgötar i Uppsala 1595−1900, Stockholm, 1902.
Wulff, Fredrik: Skolminnen (1855−1866), Gothenburg, 1918.
Göteborgs universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket
Summary list of works
Songs for choir (mainly male choir), solo songs (Min lilla vrå bland bergen and others).
Ett skämt eller Flickan och soldaten, comedy with song, translation with original vaudevilles by Frans Hedberg, music arranged by Israel Sandström, 1853.
Bellmanianer i det gröna, stage and musical arrangement in one act by 'a Bricollist' (= Israel Sandström), 1863.
För sent! Comedy in 1 act by J Philipsson, music by Israel Sandström, 1855.
Ensam du är ej, polka after a favourite melody by Afzelius, composed for pianoforte by Israel Sandström. Gothenburg: C.F. Arvidsson, 1857.
F. Abt: Till vapen. March arranged for pianoforte by Israel Sandström.
Voice and piano
Four songs at the piano, composed by Israel Sandström and dedicated to lieutenant Mr Hjalmar Geijer. Gothenburg: C.F. Arvidsson, 1853. 1. Solrosen, 2. Eden, 3. Visa, 4. Den ensamma tåren.
Världarnas konung som tronar med ära (C.O. Bredberg). Song to the inaugeration of the new building of Gothenburg's secaondary school on 23 September 1862 [acc. to Fredberg: Det gamla Göteborg, vol. 2, 1921−22, p. 199].
Min lilla vrå bland bergen ('Jag vet en vrå emellan bergen', Johan Anders Wadman). Song for one voice with piano acc. or four male voices. Stockholm: Abr. Lundqvist, 1866.
Djurskyddssång (Amanda Berggren). Stockholm: Sveriges allmänna djurskyddsförening, 1940.
Choruses for male voices, composed by Israel Sandström. 1−2. Stockholm: Abr. Lundqvist, 1863.
1. Körer för mansröster, komponerade och HKH Hertigen af Östergötland Oscar Fredrik i underdånighet tillägnade af Israel Sandström. 1. Ur Svenska flottans minnen: a) Östersjön ('Du blånande haf', Oscar Fredrik [also for male choir and orchestra]), b) Flaggan opp ('Hissa flaggan, ärad utaf verlden', Oscar Fredrik), c) Vår flagga ('Blått är stål i bergens kammar', Frans Hedberg).
2. Körer för mansröster, komponerade och Grosshandlaren James J:son Dickson vördsamt tillegnade af Israel Sandström. 1. Min tro, min kärlek och mitt hopp, 2. Westergötland, 3. Min lilla vrå bland bergen (Johan Anders Wadman), 4. Bellmanssång 'Aldrig en iris' (arranged).
Kring sångarfanan. Four part songs arranged for school youths by Israel Sandström. 1–4.
Högtidssång [for the Freemason lodge Salomon à Trois Serrures] for tenor, bass, male choir, piano and violin to text by Anders Fredrik Landtbom.