Birger Anrep-Nordin (1888−1946)


Birger Anrep-Nordin was born in Skara on 21 January 1888 and died in Gothenburg on 25 November 1946. He was a music critic, teacher, organist and composer. He was a music teacher at Kalmar secondary school 1914−24, cathedral organist in Kalmar 1915−24 and professor of liturgical music at Lund University 1922−34. From 1927 to 1946 he worked as an organist at Oscar Fredrik Church in Gothenburg. As a composer, he wrote primarily church music. He was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1943.


Birger Anrep-Nordin was the son of Fredrik Nordin, the school principal of what is now Vänerskolan in Vänersborg, and Elisabeth Anrep-Nordin. She was the first Swedish woman to obtain a degree as a teacher in deaf education, and she devoted her career to educating blind and deaf-mute students. Elisabeth Anrep-Nordin’s work was considered groundbreaking.

Birger Anrep-Nordin was educated at the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Academy of Music), studying counterpoint with Andreas Hallén and piano with Richard Andersson. He graduated as an organist in 1911 and then as precentor and music teacher in 1912. In 1913 he received the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in music followed by a master’s degree in 1918. In 1924 he completed his PhD at Lund University with a doctoral dissertation on the Swedish composer Joseph Martin Kraus. This was followed by studies abroad in Paris, England, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, in addition to studies in the psychology of music with Carl Seashore in the United States in 1937. In 1917 he married Signe Jeansson, who died in 1936; in 1937 he married MA. Martha Elisabeth Hellsten, née Lindhe.

In 1913 Birger Anrep-Nordin worked as a substitute music teacher at the secondary school in Visby. In 1914 he obtained a position as a music teacher at the Kalmar secondary school and became the Kalmar cathedral organist in 1915 at the then newly renovated cathedral, a post he held until 1924.

In 1922, he began working as a professor of liturgical music at Lund University. This was followed by employment as a music teacher at the teacher’s college in Gothenburg in 1923. He also began to work as a music critic for the local newspaper Göteborgs-Posten 1924−30, followed by Göteborgs Morgonpost 1933−36. He worked as a conductor with the Kalmar Music Society, Sydsvenska Philharmonic Society and the Gothenburg Orchestral Society.

The development of choral music together with the collaboration of educational music and liturgical music was dear to Birger Anrep-Nordin’s heart. His goal was to see to more children participating in the singing of hymns, Gregorian chant and liturgical compositions, which he expressed in his 1932 article in Unga röster i kyrkan. His book Musiken i skolan såsom skön konst (Music as high art in the school) and his choral collection for schools, Dikt och ton. Sångsamling för realskolor, kommunala mellanskolor och därmed jämförliga skolor also reflect these aspirations. Together with Gothenburg’s cathedral organist, Herman Asplöf, he published a book on organ instruction: Orgelspelets teknik: Orgelskola.


Most of Birger Anrep-Nordin’s works consist of music for the church composed during his time as organist at Oscar Fredrik Church in Gothenburg. His musical style does not reveal any impact from his teacher, Andreas Hallén. Rather, Anrep-Nordin was influenced by older music, such as Palestrina and later composers, although he avoided romantic stylistic expressions.

Most of Anrep-Nordin’s compositions are dominated by hymnal arrangements, church cantatas and choral works. His style is simple, influenced by neo-classicism as well as folk music. His most performed works are his Lamento for cello and organ, wedding music entitled Bröllopsmusik i en landskyrka om sommaren and his Christmas cantata Gammal svensk julkantat. His Bröllopsmusik varies stylistically between movements, from neo-classical to warm, lyrical and melodic, ending with a show of good humour and musicianship in the final movement. Gammal svensk julkantat with lyrics by Oscar Levertin was for many years an annually reoccurring feature in schools at the secondary level.

Anrep-Nordin’s earliest works include Invokation till Sancta Caecilia, distinctly a work of praise, composed during his time as cathedral organist in Kalmar. It can be found today in his original handwritten manuscript in the Oscar Fredrik Church archives. Parts of several of Anrep-Nordin’s early works were later arranged or reconstructed by Torsten Sörenson, who succeeded him at Oscar Fredrik Church after his death in 1946.

An article on Birger Anrep-Nordin which can be found in the Swedish biographical resource guide from 1943, Svensk biografisk handbok, mentions additional works such as his symphonic cantatas Mot Ljuset and Sången om Graal, both from the 1920s. Where these works can be found today is unclear.


Birger Anrep-Nordin comes across as a musician who had an unusually wide spectrum of expertise, which was comprised of not only his doctorate, but also his activities as a church musician, critic, composer and conductor. His aspirations even included an educational perspective with his dedication to the development of school children’s song, which he hoped would benefit the church.

It can be surmised that, since several of his works would later be arranged by Torsten Sörenson, rough drafts of pieces existed which were not capable of being performed in their current state. So, one can also hope that his larger works which still only exist in unfinished handwritten form, could be edited so that they also could be performed as Anrep-Nordin once wished.

Iwa Sörenson von Gertten © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander

Publications by the composer

Musiken i skolan såsom skön konst, Stockholm, 1913.
Johan Bahr, en gotländsk kompositör och organist, Stockholm, 1914. [Also in: Musiktidningen, vol. 16, pp. 51−52, 57−58.
Sekvens och hymner till den hel. Helena, Mariestad, 1915.
Musikaliska sällskapet i Visby 1815−1915: minnesskrift, på sällskapets föranstaltande utgifven af Birger Anrep-Nordin, Visby 1916.
Handbok i kördirigering, Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1920.
Det nya koralboksförslaget under kritik: Ett utförligt yttrande avgivet på uppdrag av Växjö domkapitel, Kalmar, 1921.
Jubileumsutstälningen i Göteborg 1923: musikhistoriska avdelningen, Gothenburg, 1923.
Calmar-quartettens protokoll, revised and commented edition, 1924?
Studier över Joseph Martin Kraus, diss., Stockholm, 1924.
Jacopo Foroni, Den svenska operascenens kapellmästare vol. 7, Stockholm, 1931.
Opublicerade textpartier till J.H. Kellgrens ‘Aeneas i Carthago’, Stockholm, 1927.
Anrep-Nordin, Birger & Sven Körling: Dikt och ton: Sångsamling för realskolor, kommunala mellanskolor och därmed jämförliga skolor, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1934.
Anrep-Nordin, Birger & Herman Asplöf: Orgelspelets teknik: Orgelskola, Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1937.
Högre allmänna läroverket. Vänersborgs studenter av 1908: Matrikel 1938 [published by Birger Anrep-Nordin] [Illustr.] Gothenburg, 1938.
Anrep-Nordin, Birger et al.: Från lyra till saxofon: musikhistorisk orientering, Stockholm: Svenska bokförlaget, Albert Bonnier, 1941.

‘Dalapsalmen’, in: Kyrkosångsförbundet. Organ för Sveriges kyrkosångsförbund, 1931, pp. 77−80.
‘Unga röster i kyrkan’, in: Kyrkosångsförbundet. Organ för Sveriges kyrkosångsförbund, 1932, p. 85f.


Anrep-Nordin, Birger‘, in: Vem är det: svensk biografisk handbok 1943, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1942.
Bengtsson, Ingmar: ‘Svenska samfundet för musikforskning 50 år (1919−1968)‘, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, 1969.
Edström, Olle:
Förutsättningar för förståelse. Läsning av musikkritik under mellankrigstiden i Göteborg‘, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, 1993, no. 1, pp. 38−39.
Fagius, Gunnel:
Barnkören i Svenska kyrkans församlingar‘, Svenskt gudstjänstliv, 2013, pp. 103, 121.
Lindfors, Per:
 ’Birger Anrep-Nordin’, in: Svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 1, Stockholm, 1942, p. 115.
Norberg, Erik
: ‘Läroverkets tillkomst och lokaler‘, in: Årsböcker i svensk undervisningshistoria 138. Högre allmänna läroverket för flickor i Göteborg 1929−1966. Kjellbergska gymnasiet 1966−1972, Uppsala: Föreningen för svensk undervisningshistoria, 1977, p. 12. 


Göteborgs universitetsbibliotek, Kungliga Biblioteket Stockholm, Lunds universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teatermuseet Stockholm, Statens Musik- och teaterbibliotek, Stockholms stadsarkiv, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Kungl. Musikaliska akademien (board member formulary no. 87)

Summary list of works

3 major lithurgical works for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra (Invokation till Sancta Caecilia, Mot ljuset, Sången om Graal), chorale partitas and hymn arrangements, chamber music (string quartet, etc.), choral works with organ.

Collected works

Works with year is indicated first, then in alphabetical order.

Incidental music
Kung Oidipus, incidental music for small wind ensemble and harpsichord.

Balladen om Est, est, est, for declamation and orchestra.

Orchestral music
Kråkeboserenad for small wind orchestra, 1922/1945.

Symphonic cantatas
Mot ljuset.
Sången om Graal.

Kantat vid Kulturmässan i Calmar 1926.
Kantat vid invigningen av Högre allmänna läroverkets för flickor i Göteborg nya byggnad den 14 nov. 1935.
Invigningsmusik till realskolan i Sölvesborg 1935 for choir with accompaniment.

Soli, choir and orchestra
Invokation till Sankta Caecilia, for baritone, mixed choir and orchestra/organ (J.B.Simonsson). First performed in Kalmar 18 October 1924, then performed in Gothenburg in September 1934 and August 1946.
För Tacksägelsedagen (over the hymn Nu tacker Gud, allt folk) for mixed choir and orchestra (trumpet I B-flat, vl. I, vl. II, viola and cello), 1928, rev. 1938.
Jesu födelse for recitation, soprano solo, baritone solo, mixed choir and string orchestra, arr. Torsten Sörenson, 1941/1968.
Uppståndelsen: ett medeltida påskspel ur 1697 års koralbok [medieval Easter play from the 1697 hymnal], arranged for two children’s choirs, mixed choir and organ. Stockholm: Gehrman, 1942.
Den blomstertid nu kommer, chorale partita for solo soprano, violin, mixed choir and organ.
Salomo inviger templet, for soprano, baritone, mixed choir and strings.
Till sångmästaren, for voice and orchestra, mixed choir with accompaniment.
Vadhelst I haven gjort, for soprano, baritone, spoken parts, mixed choir, strings, piano and organ.

Soli, orchestra and harmonium
Klockaren, for baritone, string orchestra and harmonium.

Soli, choir and organ/piano
Nenie for baritone solo, male choir and piano, 1941.

Soli and choir
Old Christmas cantata for baritone and choir, 1941.

Choir with accompaniment
Psalm 84, 1945.
Det är en ros utsprungen, hymn arrangement for three-part choir and organ N.M.S. 2537.

Chamber music
Bröllopsmusik i en landskyrka om sommaren, wedding music for viola and organ, 1940. 1. Brudparet tågar in, 2. Dialog inför altaret, 3. Lyckönskan, 4. Brudföljets uttåg.
Music in baroque manner for viola solo, 1940. Reconstructed in 1967 by Torsten Sörenson, dedicated to Sten Broman.
Partita for oboe and piano, 1943(?)
Lamento for cello and organ, probably 1946.
Divertimento for string quartet, 1945.
String quartet, 1945.

Songs for voice and piano/organ/strings
I Guds händer for voice and piano or organ, 1937.
Five Greek epigrams for baritone, flute and piano.
From Höga Visan [Songs of Songs] for song and four strings alt. organ. 1937. Reconstructed/arranged in 1978 by Torsten Sörenson.

Choral works
Ölandssången, for male voices, 1935.
Den blinde vid vägen till Jericho, for mixed choir, 1940.
Five vagabond ballads for male voices, 1941.
De äro nu förgångna.
En stjärna gick på himlen fram (Ps. 67).
Guds kärleks väg. Chorale motet for recitation, mixed choir and congregational song.
Ljusstöperskan (‘Stilla tindrar stjärnan’, E.A. Karlfeldt).
Påsksång (Petrus Brask, from the 1697 hymnal).