Anton Andersen (1845−1926)


Anton Jörgen Andersen, born in Kristiansand on 10 October 1845 and died in Stockholm on 9 September 1926, was a cellist and composer who worked mainly in Stockholm. He studied composition with Johan Lindegren and cello performance with Andreas Gehrmann at the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1866 to 1868. He worked as a teacher at the conservatory from 1876 to 1911, advancing to rank of professor in 1912. He was a cellist in the Royal Court Orchestra between 1871 and 1905 and was a long-time member of the Aulin Quartet.

(Svenskt Porträttarkiv)

A successful career as a cellist

Anton Jörgen Andersen was born in Kristiansand in the southern-most part of Norway on 10 October 1845 and was the son of master gardener John Andersen and Karen Andrea Gundersen. His broad music education began with the organist and violinist Ferdinand Rojahn. He later continued in Sweden taking composition studies with Johan Lindegren and cello lessons with Andreas Gehrmann at the Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music). While still young, Andersen’s cello career advanced quickly with employment at Norwegian theatres in both Trondheim (1864) and Christiania (later renamed Oslo) in 1865, as well as being employed by the Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) in Stockholm in 1871.

Andersen was appointed as a teacher of both cello and double bass at the Musikkonservatoriet in 1876, only a few years after he had fully completed his own studies, which is proof of the acknowledgement that Andersen had already received as a performing musician. In addition to these commitments, Andersen was a member of the popular Aulin Quartet for several years. The group was founded by Tor Aulin who was of great importance in the establishment of a classical quartet repertoire in Sweden. With all of these obligations, it was remarkable that Andersen also had time to compose a number of more extensive works.

Andersen was married in 1868 to Maria Augusta Vilhelmina Anstrin (1842−1910). They had two daughters, Astrid and Ingrid Maria, who both went on to work as pianists.

A large symphonic production

Andersen’s compositions were mostly ensemble and orchestral works (often in unusual or extensive formats), songs and works for his own instrument, the cello.  No fewer than six symphonies are mentioned by contemporary sources and at least four of those were performed during his own lifetime: the Symphony in E-flat major was performed in 1888 by an orchestra composed of 100 musicians in the large hall of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (Royal Swedish Academy of Music), and led by Andersen himself; another symphonic work was performed in 1884, likely his Symphony in B minor. Stockholm audiences also heard two symphonies in D major in 1891 and in 1906, and the latter of the two works had additionally been published in 1903 in a version for two pianos.

A contemporary critic wrote in the journal Svensk Musiktidning that one could hear some of Bruckner, as well as ‘many beautiful ideas’ in Andersen’s symphonies, and as composer and author Lennart Hedwall noted in the publication Den svenska symfonin (the Swedish symphony) the symphonies seem to have been well accepted. That they have not found a place in the standing symphony repertoire is, according to Hedwall, ‘because they lack substantial content and are not stylistically convincing’. Hedwall is most favourable toward the first symphony in B minor in which he sees a ‘lively’ structure and ‘skilfully combined’ elaborative sections. He was also enthusiastic about the third symphony in D major, performed in 1891. He highlights the balance in ‘both the form and instrumentation’ and adds that in many ways, the work can ‘measure up to the B minor symphony and is also, from the musicianship’s perspective, more full of life than the maiden work'.

In addition to those symphonies, one can add Élégie Sinfonique for no fewer than nineteen cellos and four double basses, which garnered a great deal of interest at the Swedish music festival in Stuttgart in 1913.

A renowned composer with a penchant for darker tone qualities

The work that brought Andersen the greatest amount of recognition among Swedish composers was his Concert piece for five violins and three double basses which was performed at Första svenska musikfesten (the first Swedish music festival) in 1906 and was generally spoken of in positive terms. Andersen’s participation in this nationalistic event shows his total integration into the circle of Sweden composers, which is rather remarkable given the fact that the political separation of his homeland, Norway, from Sweden had only recently come about. The concerto piece is just one among several ensemble works that displays Andersen’s love for combining several cellos and double basses (aside from the larger elegy). At least five more works develop this special instrumental combination; of these, the most often mentioned is the Adagio, which besides three cellos and one double bass also includes two horns. Andersen taught double bass at the Musikkonservatoriet and so his interest in the instrument was natural, but it also appears that he was generally attracted to the deeper tonal textures. The tonal focus in Andersen’s instrumental opus lies quite clearly with instruments that have a darker tonal register, and he also arranged a large number of songs for male quartet.

Andersen’s ensemble chamber music works in a smaller form are dominated by pieces written for cello and piano, as well as songs. The most extensive work written for his own instrument is a cello sonata, published by the Musikaliska konstföreningen (the Swedish Art Music Society) in 1876. It is a lyrical piece, inspired by Brahms’s chamber music with folkloric themes, and contains references to Bach, as well as an intensively melancholic second movement.

Among his vocal works, besides the aforementioned arrangements for male quartet, are songs for mixed choir as well as a number of pieces for solo voice. These sometimes include lute or guitar accompaniment in place of the more usual piano accompaniment. Several of the songs for solo voice have texts in Norwegian, and it was the well known author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s opus, Digte og Sange, that most often inspired Andersen. ‘Over de höje fjælde’, ‘Venevil’ and ‘Dulgt kærlighed’ are examples of songs based on Bjørnson’s texts.

Andersen ended his career in the Hovkapellet in 1905, retired in 1911 from the Musikkonservatoriet and earned the title of professor in 1912. Already in 1882 he received his membership in the Musikaliska akademien.

Gabrielle Kaufman © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson


Andersen, Rune J: Anton Jörgen Andersen, in Store norske leksikon.
Anton Andersen, in Svensk musiktidning, no. 1, 1907, p. 1.
Den första svenska musikfestens program, in Svensk Musiktidning, no. 11, 1906, p. 83.
Lärareombyte vid Musikkonservatoriet, in Svensk Musiktidning, no. 2, 1912, p. 10.
Teater och Musik, in Idun, no. 9, 1888, p. 61.
Castegren, Nils: Franz Berwalds kompositionselever vid Musikkonservatoriet 1867−1868, in Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, 1974, pp. 19−30.
Hedwall, Lennart: Den svenska symfonin, Stockholm: AWE/Geber, 1983, pp. 179−183.
Norlind, Tobias: Svensk musikhistoria, Stockholm: Wahlström och Widstrand, 1918, pp. 311−312.
Tegen, Martin: Instrumentalmusiken, Orkesterverken, in Leif Jonsson (ed.), Musiken i Sverige, Stockholm: Fischer, 1992, pp. 435−436.
Vretblad, Patrik: Anton Andersen, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 1, 1918, pp. 664.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek

Summary list of works

6 symphonies, works for ensemble (Élégie Sinfonique, Konsertstycke, 4 adagios, and more), chamber music (cello sonata, small pieces for cello and piano etc.), songs and other vocal music.

Collected works

Orchestral works
Adagio and Scherzo for orchestra.
Symphony in B minor, ca 1884.
Symphony in E-flat major, 1888.
Symphony in D major for large orchestra, 1891. [Version for two pianos, published by Musikaliska konstföreningen 1903.]
Symphony in G major.
Symphony »Hardanger» for large orchestra and mixed choir.

Chamber music
Adagio cantabile for 3 violoncellos.
Adagio for 3 violoncellos, 2 horns and double bass.
Adagio for 4 violoncellod and 2 double basses.
Adagio [A major] for 4 violoncellos and 4 double basses.
Allegro moderato for violin, cello and piano.
Andantino religioso.
Élégie sinfonique [B minor] for 19 violoncellos and 3 double basses.
Fantasy piece, Vårstämning for 10 violoncellos and 3 double basses.
Concert piece for 5 violoncellos and 4 double basses.
Norwegian rapsody for violoncello and piano.
Serenade for 4 violoncellos or 4 double basses.
Sonata in D minor, for violoncello and piano. Published by Musikaliska konstföreningen 1877.
Strin quartet (incomplete?).

Voice and piano/lute
Den hvide, röde rose for voice and piano (B. Bjørnson).
Dulgt kaerlighed for voice and piano (B. Bjørnson).
Elegi for soprano, cello and piano.
Ingerid Sletten for voice and piano (B.Bjørnson).
Synnöve Solbakken for voice and piano (B. Bjørnson).
Two songs to lute/piano. 1. Tunga droppar, 2. Kosimaja.
Var min vän, for voice and lute/guitar.
Digte og sange af Björnstjerne Björnson, for voice and piano. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1880. 1. Over de höje fjælde ('Undrer mig på, hvad jeg får att se'), 2. Venevil ('Hun Venevil hopped på lette fod sin kaerest' imod').

Mixed choirr
Når du vil på fjeldesti (B. Bjørnson) fo mixed choir.
Digterens vise (Henrik Ibsen) for mixed choir.

Male quartet/choir
Adagio (Bo Bergman).
Dalmarsch (Erik Axel Karlfeldt).
En fin vise.
Herr Olof.
Här dansar Fridolin (Erik Axel Karlfeldt).
I valet och kvalet.
Intet är som väntans tider (Erik Axel Karlfeldt).
Sagan om Rosalind (Erik Axel Karlfeldt).
Sorgebudet (Gustaf Fröding).
Säf, säf, susa (Gustaf Fröding).
Under fanan.
Vallarelåt (Gustaf Fröding).

Works by Anton Andersen

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 24