Carl Axel Strindberg (1845−1927)

Carl Axel Strindberg was born on 17 June 1845 in Stockholm and died there on 27 January 1927. He was the elder brother of author August Strindberg. He worked all his life as an insurance clerk, musician (cellist, mainly) and composer, then under the pseudonym Cassius. Between 1887 and 1896 he was chief conductor of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, for which he arranged and composed an amount of incidental music, not least to plays by his brother. Strindberg also wrote many songs, chamber music, piano pieces and vocal music.

The Strindberg family

In later years, Carl Axel Strindberg penned the following words of resignation: ‘It is very tragic, being the brother of a great man. It makes oneself so utterly small.’ In many respects he was overshadowed by his younger brother August Strindberg, but he is deserving of attention for his own sake.

Carl Axel Strindberg was born in Stockholm in 1845. Eleonora Norling, his mother, was housekeeper to his father, Carl Oscar Strindberg, who was much older. The family were very musical, and from an early age Carl Axel wanted to make music his profession. He entered the cello class at Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music), but after just a few terms his father compelled him to leave. He was to study algebra and shorthand with a view to a career in clerkship! He was consequently forced to divide his whole life between notes and numbers.

Clerk and conductor

In 1873 Carl Axel Strindberg married Charlotte Johansson, and they had a daughter, Ragnhild. Ten years later, a lot happened. His father died and Strindberg himself joined the Nordstjernan insurance company, at the same time becoming cellist in the Dramaten (the Royal Dramatic Theatre) orchestra, which required him also to serve with Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) if needed. He now began studying composition and started writing music under the pseudonym of Cassius. He composed, for the first time, a piece for his brother − a piano overture to Lycko-Pers resa. One of his more personal compositions was a setting of Bernhard Elis Malmström’s poem ‘Angelika’.

In 1887 Strindberg was promoted to chief conductor of the Dramaten orchestra. His workload grew. Combining these duties at Dramaten with his Nordstjernan job was a great strain. Initially the Dramaten ensemble consisted of seven strings, but a flute and a clarinet were added. They had a very mixed repertoire. Strindberg was also required to arrange a great deal of music for the existing forces. This was hard work, but he went on composing, e.g. with two works for string quartet and a fantasy for cello and piano.

In 1895 the theatre produced Regina von Emmeritz by Zacharias Topelius. But Strindberg went down with influenza and he had to for the premiere performance cede the baton to a member of the orchestra. This prompted an anonymous correspondent, in a letter to the editor of the newspaper Social-Demokraten, to write that Cassius ‘can hardly be termed more than a well-to-do amateur’, having let a young flute player take over his (less-well-paid) job elsewhere. Strindberg was deeply hurt by this, and perhaps above all by the disclosure of his having no formal qualifications. It was a replay of his father’s aversion 30 years earlier, and it led to his resignation as chief conductor of the Dramaten orchestra.  

This, however, gave him time for writing more music, e.g. Luftsegling, about the parachutist Rolla’s disastrous balloon ascent on the outskirts of Stockholm. In addition, he played with other ensembles. One commitment of a quite different kind was his participation in his brother August’s ‘Beethoven dinners’ in the author’s home. On these occasions Carl Axel played together with, among others, the violinist Tor Aulin − Beethoven, of course, but Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms as well. These evenings continued until August’s death in 1912, though relations between the brothers were strained at times, not least following a section of August’s En blå bok which Carl Axel took personally.

Death and a new life

Carl Axel Strindberg suffered a heavy blow in 1901 with the death of his beloved daughter Ragnhild in childbed. He then wrote an elegy,  ‘Grusad lycka’, for cello and piano. His wife Charlotta followed their daughter to the grave two years later. But there was a rebirth in store. In 1905 Strindberg married Elise Foss, 31 years his junior, to whom he had been introduced by her parents. Despite the difference in their ages, the marriage was a very happy one, and in 1910 a son, Axel, was born to them.

In 1913 Strindberg retired from Nordstjernan after 30 years’ service, and could now devote himself entirely to music. He wrote to composer Wilhelm Stenhammar, asking for a place in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, but was turned down for age reasons. However, he got a position as cello teacher at Sydsvenska Musikkonservatoriet (South Swedish music conservatory) in Lund. During the Great War he played, as supernumerary cellist, in the Hovkapellet’s first symphony concert, under Armas Järnefelt. Strindberg was taken on by Blancheteatern, which among other things was to put on his short one-act opera I Luthers barndomshem, based on his brother’s play Näktergalen i Wittenberg, but other heirs vetoed the proposition, and the premiere was put off for over a year. That was when Carl Axel Strindberg wrote about it being ‘very tragic, being the brother of a great man’.

For a couple of years after the war, Strindberg played at the Götiska Teatern cinema in the Södermalm district of Stockholm, together with John Hylbom, who later became leader of Konsertföreningen, and Louis Condé, a well-known singing teacher. Cinema music could be of very good quality. Carl Axel Strindberg’s beloved wife Elisa died in 1926, predeceasing him by only a month. His friends from Götiska Teatern played at the funeral.

Stefan Bohman © 2014
Trans. Roger Tanner

Bibliography

Heesch, Florian: Strindberg in der Oper. August Strindbergs Opernpoetik und die Rezeption seiner Texte in der Opernproduktion bis 1930, diss. in musicology, Göteborgs universitet, 2006, pp. 115−140.
Hellqvist, Per-Anders
: En sjungande August, Stockholm: Reimer, 1997.
Rörby, Margareta: 'Men lyssna, hör! Musik! Från ert eget hus min fru', in: Erik Näslund et al. (eds), Kungliga Dramatiska teatern 1788−1988: Jubileumsföreställning i fyra akter, Höganäs: Bra böcker, 1988.
Strindberg, Axel: Arvet från Strinne. Ett familjeöde, Hedemora: Gidlund, 1989.
Söderström, Göran: Strindberg: Ett liv, Stockholm: Lind & Co., 2013.
Tjerneld, Andreas: Strindberg, släkt, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 33, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 2007−11.

Summary list of works

Incidental music for the theatre, orchestral compositions, chamber music (works for string quartet, a cello sonata etc.), piano pieces (2 piano sonatas, short pieces), songs, vocal music.

Collected works

The list of works is based on Musik- och teaterbiblioteket’s records of Carl Axel Strindberg’s archive, but is somewhat simplified and most of all ordered according to work types. For more information on autographs, score and parts, please see the Swedish version of this page. For a complete list of work, please see the library’s compilation.

Stage music

[Gustaf Adolf] ... till Gustaf Adolf, drama in five acts by August Strindberg, music composed and instrumented… in 1903.
Abu Casems Tofflor, fairy play in five acts by August Strindberg.
Näktergalen i Wittenberg, 1917−1918.
Triumph March from "Kärlekens triumf", dramatic legend in two acts by G. Giacosa (trans. from Italian by Helmer Key) for orchestra, 1890.
Funeral music to "Clavigo" by Göthe [sic], for flute, 2 flutes, 2 violins, organ harmonium, 1888.
Wedding March from the comedy ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, for 2 violins, cello and clarinet.
I Luthers barndomshem, 1492 by August Strindberg, arrangement for piano, 2 violins and cello, March 1916.
I Luthers barndomshem, prelude from August Strindberg’s drama Näktergalen i Wittenberg, music dramatic situation in one act.
Overture to Gustaf Adolf, drama by August Strindberg.

Piano

2 Mazurkas for piano. Mazurka no. 1 B minor op.1 b, Mazurka no. 2 C minor.
Andante Cantabile ‘Vårens älskling’ for piano op. 1b.
Wedding march march from the comedy ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, arrangement for piano. Elkan & Schildknecht.
Calle, polka for piano, 1894.
Charlotta, polka op. 1 a, 1875 for piano.
Elegi F minor; resignation for piano, fantasy for piano, 1899.
Festival March G major from the fairy play ‘Talismanen’ by Ludvig Fulda, arrangement for piano and 4 hands, 1896.
Prelude to Kronbruden, drama by August Strindberg for piano, November 1906.
Ett litet Silfverbröllops divertissement for piano. To Oskar and Maria Strindberg!, 16 December 1901.
Gök-Polka, 1884.
Hymn to Våren D major, arr. for pianoforte, 1888.
I Luthers barndomshem by August Strindberg (‘Första Akten till "Näktergalen i Wittenberg", drama in five acts’), 1904−1905.
I Luthers barndomshem, first act to ‘Näktergalen i Wittenberg’, drama in five acts by August Strindberg, music dramatic situation in one act, potpourri for piano [with deliberated text], Aug. 1916.
Luftsegling, tone painting, orchestral study, arrangement for piano à quatre mains, 1890.
Minuet for pianoforte, 1893.
Näktergalen i Wittenberg, drama in five acts by August Strindberg for piano, Sept. 1916.
Oriental march from the Indian drama ‘Vasantasena’, arrangement for piano. Elkan & Schildknecht
Oriental march from the Indian drama ‘Vasantasena’, arrangement for piano and 4 hands, 1893.
Overture in B major, compositional attempt for piano, 1882.
Overture to the fairy play Lycko-Pers Resa by August Strindberg for piano, 1882.
Sonata no. 1 for piano: Allegro moderato; Andante cantabile; Minuet; Rondo.
Sonata no. 2 C minor for piano, December 1899: Allegro moderato.
‘The Taming of the Shrew’ comedy by Shakespeare, wedding march for piano, Dec. 1888.
Thême varié op. 2 for piano, 1881.
Waltz ... for piano, dedicated to Elisabeth Strindberg.
Tempo di Valse, salon piece for piano.
Vindarnes klagan, fantasy for piano, 1909.

Voice(s) and piano
4 song for one voice and piano by Cassius (= Carl Axel Strindberg). Published by Julius Bagge. 1. Vårluft ( Occa = Oscar Strindberg), 2. Sommarstycke (‘Sommarmorgon, tidig timma’, V: E. Öhman) 3. Höstliga vindar (Björn) 4. Den första snön (‘Det var så märkt kring fält och dal’ Zacharias Topelius).
Aftenstemning (‘Er Du i verden vide’, H.C. Andersen) for song with piano, 1920.
Ahasverus (‘Ahasverus, upp och vandra!’, August Strindberg) for one voice with piano.
Den högsta lycka, song for one voice with piano (Johan Börjesson), 1892.
Den tysta kraften (‘En klippa reste djerf’, Frans Hedberg), song with piano accompaniment, 1886.
Esplanadsystemet (‘Der gamla kåkar stodo’, August Strindberg), duet for tenor and baritone [and piano], 1886.
Esplanadsystemet (‘Der gamla kåkar stodo’, August Strindberg), song with piano accompaniment, May 1886. A minor/C major.
Fête champêtre from ‘Sömngångarnätter’ (August Strindberg), song with piano, 1887. I. (‘Soliga bilder från gångna dag’), II. (‘Mellan flodens vassklädda stränder’).
Four songs for one voice with piano. 1. Vårluft (‘Nu grönskar det åter’, Occa = Oscar Strindberg), 2. Sommarstycke (‘Sommarmorgon!’, V.E. Öman), 3. Höstliga vindar susa (Björn) F minor, 4. Den första snön (‘Det var så mörkt’, Z. Topelius). Published by Julius Bagge.
Göken (‘När ängarne börja att blomma’, August Strindberg), Song in folk tone. Elkan & Schildknecht, no. 1136, 1887.
Höstsolen (‘Förgängelse naturens kinder målar’, Erik Johan Stagnelius) for voice and piano, 1923.
Kuplett (‘Öfverallt i landet’) to ‘En spik i nyckelhålet’, comedy in one act by Eug. Grunge & L. Thiboust for voice and piano, 1891. Lundström.
Kuplett (‘I Stockholm känner hvar gesäll’) for voice and piano, 1894.
Two poems of peace by Johan Lindström Saxon, 1909. 1. Hell Sverge! (‘För mig är hela jorden’), 2. Hvar är mitt fosterland, Längtan (‘Hvart jag längtar?’), song for one voice with piano, 1905.
Lördagsqväll (‘Vinden hvilar’, August Strindberg), for one voice with piano.
Maj på heden (‘Solen lyser på lärkväg’, August Strindberg), for one voice with piano, 1913.
Melodrama ‘Brödrarikena’ (‘Två sköna länder’, A. Andersson), for piano and recitation, 1897.
Poem (‘Mig vistandet i djupa grottors sköt’, Stagnelius) for voice and piano.
Olika vapen (‘Don Almagro de Vieña’, August Strindberg), song with piano, 1886.
På Kämpahögarna (‘Som tidens vagn’, J.M. Omberg), for piano with deliberated text.
Romance to the monologue ‘Vid Vaggan’ (‘En blomstervas i lunden stod’, Legouvé) in C minor for one voice and piano, 1889.
3 songs in folk tone for one voice and piano, 1890. 1. Sanningens perla (‘Der satt en engel’, Z. Topelius), 2. (‘Väx ej för verldens villa’, Z. Topelius), 3. Flit består (‘En fjäril stolt’).
Rosen i Verldsfurstens park (‘Se blomman!’, E.J. Stagnelius) D major, song for one voice with piano, 1887.
Three poems by August Strindberg for one voice with piano. 1. Vargarna tjuta (‘Vargarna tjuta på Skansen’), 2. Vargarna tjuta II, 3. Ahasverus (‘Ahasverus, upp och vandra’), 4. Vid dagens slut (‘Högst upp under takens list’).
Six poems by August Strindberg for one voice with piano.
Suckarnes Mystère (‘Menska vill du lifvets vishet lära’, E.J. Stagnelius), for piano with deliberated text, Sept. 1916.
From Angelika (‘Säg mig du doftande vind’, B.E. Malmström) D-flat major, song for one voice with piano, November 1886.
Romance to the tale ‘Odlad frukt’ (‘Wid Mont-Noires’) from ‘Svenska Öden och Äfventyr’, song for baritone with piano, 1885.
Beethoven (‘Högt ofvan skyn’), Poème de Leopold Lippmanson , melodrama or song [and piano] C major, 1918.
From Liljor i Saron by E.J. Stagnelius, two songs for one voice with piano, 1891. 1. Fångarne (‘Vid Babylons floder’), 2. Ordet (‘Det gifs ett Ord’).
Vargarna tjuta, poem by August Strindberg for one voice with piano. I. (‘Vargarna tjuta på Skansen’), II. (‘Vinden vilar, stillhet råder’). No. 2 incomplete.
Vid dagens slut (‘Högst upp under takets list’, August Strindberg), for voice and piano, 1918.
Våren (‘Ur drifvans bländande hvita bädd’, Occa (= Oscar Strindberg) in D major, song for one voice with piano, 27 May 1888.
Vårens glädje (‘Nu slutad är den långa vinterns dvala’, Occa) in D major, for one voice with piano, 1890.

Song with several instruments
Angelika, elegy by Bernhard Elis Malmström, for one voice with orchestral accompaniment, instrumented in 1891.

Male quartet/-choir
Den tysta kraften (‘En klippa reste djerf’, Frans Hedberg), quartet for male voices.
Esplanadsystemet (‘Der gamla kåkar stodo’, August Strindberg) F-sharp minor/A major, quartet for male voices.
Glans och bröd (‘En stråle flög’, Edv. Evers), quartet for male voices, 1888.
Glömska (‘Det hviskar i dal’, Sigrid Brink) quartet for male voices.
Sokrates (‘Till höjden af det ljus’) from ‘Ode öfver själens styrka’ by G.F. Gyllenborg, for male quartet or choir.
Svensk proletär-marseljäs (‘Till kamp till seger’, J.M.E.), for male choir, December 1886.
Two songs for male choir. 1. Riddare-Visa (‘Stolts Jungfrun hon gångar’) C major, 2. Falskhet och trohet (‘Falskhet mig som elden bränner’).

Chamber music

Fantasy for violin quartet, July 1899.
Fantasy for violoncello and piano, July 1899.
Elegy in F minor and and resignation for violin and piano.
Hymn till Våren in D major, for violoncello with piano accompaniment.
Hymn till Våren, song for one voice with piano ("Occa" = Oscar Strindberg). Arrangement for flute and piano quartet no. 2 for 2 violins, alto and violoncello.
Sonata for piano and violoncello, 1899. Allegro moderat, Hymn till Våren, Menuett, Rondo.
Violin quartet no. 1, 1899.

Orchestra

Fantasy ‘Grusad lycka’ for orchestra.
Resignation, 1907.
Wedding March from the comedy The Taming of the Shrew for orchestra, December 1888.

Autograph collections with mixed work types

Please see the corresponding section on the Swedish page.