Anders Hugo Bedinger, born 30 March 1876 in Hudiksvall and died 9 November 1914 in Västerås, studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm. Following his studies he settled in the United States, where he taught at Bethany College in Kansas and composed music. In 1900 he returned to Sweden, where in 1901 he was employed as an organist in Hudiksvall, and in 1904, as cathedral organist in Västerås. His compositions consist of choral music, including several major works for choir and orchestra, in addition to solo songs and works for violin and piano.
Early life and education
Hugo Bedinger was born to a family of musicians. His father, Anders Andersson Bedinger, was an organist and music teacher in Hudiksvall, and later became the cathedral organist in Strängnäs, where Hugo attended upper secondary school. However, he ended his schooling at the age of 15 to begin studies at Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music). Even then, he suffered from a heart condition that may have contributed to the shortening of his life. However, this did not prevent him from pursuing music studies at a rapid pace. Over the course of one and a half years, he obtained four degrees: first as an organist in December 1894, followed by two as a precentor and piano tuner in December 1895, and finally with a degree in music education in May 1896.
After graduation, Bedinger worked as a freelance musician and substitute organist in Stockholm, alongside his continuing music studies. At one point he had ambitions of becoming an opera singer and thus took private lessons in singing from Hjalmar Håkansson and in stage movement from the vocal and theatre pedagogue Signe Hebbe. During this time, he also studied counterpoint under Joseph Dente and finally decided to pursue a path as an organist and composer.
In 1897, at the age of 21, Hugo Bedinger moved to the United States, where he was briefly employed as an organist at the Swedish Church in New York. The following year he continued on west to Kansas, where he taught organ and harmony at Bethany College in the small town of Lindsborg, which had been founded by Swedish immigrants. Here he debuted as a composer on a larger scale with two choral works, the Stångebro cantata and the Bethania oratorio. He also staged concerts extensively together with his wife, the concert singer Signe Bedinger.
Organist in Sweden
In 1900 he returned to Sweden, originally to visit with friends and possibly to further his studies in compositional technique. When an opportunity arose to become an organist at the church in Hudiksvall, the same position his father had held, he decided to stay. He evidently still had ambitions as a composer since in 1903 he applied for the state’s composer scholarship, but was unsuccessful since competition was particularly fierce that year, with applicants such as Adolf Wiklund and Otto Olsson. After only two and a half years in Hudiksvall, he was appointed to be the cathedral organist in Västerås, where he began work in March 1904. He also taught music at the upper secondary school there.
In addition to his work at the cathedral, Hugo Bedinger was a diligent performer, primarily as an accompanist to his wife; the couple appeared in their hometown and toured throughout the country under the service of the national Folkbildningsförbundet educational association. They also performed concerts abroad.
Bedinger was involved in the debate over the publication of a new Swedish chorale book and he steadfastly defended traditional Hæffnerian values. His perspective is clearly reflected in the title of the chorale book he published himself in 1911, which speaks of ‘hymn melodies as they rightly ought to be performed.’ That year he also published a collection of mass melodies in a single practical edition that included modulations for the organist.
In the beginning of November 1914, Bedinger suffered a massive stroke while playing the organ at a cathedral service, and died at home a week later. At the cathedral funeral service, his former student Oskar Lindberg served as organist. Bedinger has been described as ‘happy and friendly’ and ‘a good and well-liked companion’.
Hugo Bedinger’s activities as a composer extended over a wide range of genres. Already in the United States he had begun to compose larger works for choir and orchestra, such as the cantata Stångebro and the Bethania oratorio. Other endeavours of significance include his duets for violin and piano, solo songs and songs for mixed choir, both sacred and profane, with an emphasis on the latter. He also wrote children’s songs; particularly noteworthy is his setting of Jeanna Oterdahl’s song collection, En liten prinsessa, which was printed in several editions long after his death. For piano, he is only known to have composed a few marches and dances.
Despite working for much of his professional life as an organist, Bedinger’s works for this instrument are limited to preludes for use in services, albeit in quite a large number. His interest in music for worship services also appeared in the above-mentioned chorale and mass music publications. A tune to be sung as the blessing has also been attributed to him; however he probably only harmonized an already existing melody.
According to his peer Patrik Vretblad, Bedinger’s compositions are distinguished by ‘noble facture, taste and musical feeling’ but ‘do not disclose any distinctive character’. Today they are likely all but forgotten, with the exception of his Christmas choral song ‘Jul’, which has been released on CD.
Sverker Jullander © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Publications by the composer
Svenska koralboken för kyrka, skola och hem: upptagande psalmmelodier så som de rätteligen böra utföras, jämte kortare förspel, Stockholm, 1911.
Svenska mässan för kyrka, skola och hem med modulationer, Stockholm, 1911.
Assar, Assar O.: ‘Hugo Bedinger’, Musiktidningen, vol. 16, no. 45, 1914.
Liemohn, Edwin: The Chorale: Through Four Hundred Years of Musical Development as a Congregational Hymn, Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1953.
Morin, Gösta: ‘Bedinger, Hugo’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 1, Stockholm: Sohlmans förlag, 1951 (identical article in 2nd ed. vol. 1, 1975).
Norlind, Tobias: ‘Hugo Bedinger’, in: Allmänt musiklexikon, vol. 1, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1916; 2nd ed. 1927.
Vretblad, Patrik: ‘Hugo Bedinger’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 3, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1922.
Summary list of works
Works for choir and orchestra (Stångebro cantata; Bethania oratorio), works for violin and piano (including a sonata), piano music, organ music, solo songs, sacred choral songs and motets.