Mathilda Gyllenhaal [d'Orozco] (1796−1863)


Mathilda Beatrix Valeriana Maria della Trinità Gyllenhaal (née D'Orozco) was born 14 June 1796 in Milan, and died 10 October 1863 at Stora Ekeby in Västmanland. She married three times: to Tuscan Bartolomeo Cenami, to Swedish Count Josias Montgomery-Cederhielm, and finally to Baron Carl Alexander Fredrik Gyllenhaal. She was known in Sweden as ‘The Southern Girl in the North’ or ‘The Nightingale from Arno Valley’ and appeared at festive entertainments and at salons as a singer and composer of popular songs.

Oil painting from about 1820 by unknown artist. (Kungl. Biblioteket)


The Road from Italy to Sweden

Mathilda Gyllenhaal was born in Milan on 14 June 1796 (or according to another source in Paris in 1794). Her father was Count Nicolas Blasco d'Orozco, born in Bilbao, however, during Mathilda's childhood, he served as the Spanish minister at the court of Tuscany. Mathilda's mother was Baroness Sabina Lederer, who came from Viennese court circles. Mathilda's childhood was spent with the family in Florence.

In spring 1811, the four Swedish counts Fredrik Ridderstolpe, Erik Albrekt von Lantinghausen, Josias Montgomery-Cerderhielm, and Adolf Ludvig Hamilton arrived in Italy during their educational European tour. In Rome, they befriended the family d'Orozco, meeting Mathilda and admiring her beauty. During their continuing travels, they met her again in Bologna and Florence. Ridderstolpe and Montgomery-Cederhielm fell in love with her, but neither of them proposed, as they feared they might not possess the necessary funds and furthermore, the climate in Sweden would be too cold for her. They returned to Sweden, and Mathilda entered into a marriage of convenience with the considerably older equerry of the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Bartolomeo Cenami (1755−1815).

Cenami subsequently died and when, in 1816, Josias Montgomery-Cederhielm wrote a letter to Mathilda's mother, Madame d'Orozco, expressing his condolences, a correspondence began; Josias Montgomery-Cederhielm enquired whether the opportunity existed for him to propose and received an affirmative response. They were married in a Catholic ceremony in Vienna in 1817, and then travelled Sweden, where they were ordained Lutheran. It has been argued that Mathilda had forgotten the names of the Swedish men she had met in Florence and believed that she was in correspondence with the handsome Ridderstolpe. This mistake was only discovered when Montgomery-Cederhielm came to Italy to claim his bride. Mathilda is said to have fainted in fright.

Social appearances

The young couple settled on Segersjö outside Örebro, at an estate that was the family Montgomery-Cederhielm’s main residence. Mathilda brought her entourage with her from Italy, a number of aristocrats who belonged to her family circle. Presently a social life ensued, reminiscent of the spectacles and antics associated with the late 1700s in France and Switzerland. Up to 60 people were invited to large gatherings, where Mathilda was paraded before the Swedish aristocracy of her husband, who in turn helped to create an image of his wife as ‘the beautiful Italian’. At social gatherings, rooms were arranged with different interiors as Mathilda and her guests were guided around. Tableaux vivants, or ‘living pictures’ were constructed, where participants imagined scenes from classical legends or famous works of art.


Portrait by Axel Johan Fägerplan. (Nationalmuseum)


Rumour of Mathilda's beauty spread, and she was drawn to Stockholm. The family was very rich, with a proximity to the court where Mathilda wished to belong. In Stockholm she developed the organisation of large parties, with tableaux where she would often take leading roles. Her beauty and her voice, showcased in coloratura improvisations, which she accompanied with a knäharpa (lap harp) fascinated the Swedish men who crowded into her salon. Mathilda's role model was most likely the main character of Madame de Staël's novel Corinne ou l’Italie, published, with great success, in 1807. The novel's Corinne was beautiful. With her ​​looks, her grace, the Italian language, song and improvisation she especially captivated, like Mathilda, the male audience.

At the beginning of the 1820s, Josias Montgomery-Cederhielm acquired Stora Frösunda, an estate just north of Stockholm (Solna). The family spent their winters there, and the circle around Mathilda grew. In 1822, she met the writer Esaias Tegnér for the first time. He was smitten, and made daily visits to Stora Frösunda to spend time with Mathilda. He read his Frithiofs saga and she improvised on the poems − several of these songs, among them ‘Axel's monologue’ (1826), being later published. Josias died in 1825 and Mathilda lived on at Stora Frösunda together with their four children.

As a widow Mathilda plunged into the social life in Stockholm, as well as during summers spent at beach resorts on the west coast. Her circle of friends included the poet and diplomat Carl Gustaf von Brinkman, together with several aristocratic families including af Ugglas, Beskow, Åkerhielm and Kraemer, together with notable men of letters, such as CV Böttiger and Fredrika Bremer. In 1829 she published four songs dedicated to the memory of Charlotte Åkerhielm and in 1833 published five songs dedicated the governor's wife Charlotte von Kraemer in Uppsala. This collection included the song ‘Afskedsönskan’ with lyrics by Böttiger. The following year three songs were published, dedicated to the author Fredrika Bremer. These song collections portray the surroundings that Mathilda frequented, participating and singing her songs only in private salons. Until around the 1850s, there existed a significant dialogue between the private salons and the outside world, which meant the songs became well known and circulated through publications across the country.

Music for military celebrations and friends

In 1839 Mathilda married for the third time, with the Baron and military officer Carl Fredrik Gyllenhaal, seventeen years her junior. Gyllenhaal was stationed in the west, and the family moved to Ölanda, just north of Skara.  Military life dominated at Ölanda, and Mathilda began to compose texts that were related to the military and their celebrations. The songs ‘Champagne-ruset’, ‘Sveriges främsta ädling’, ‘Hambo-Polska’, and ‘Galoppen’ appear as comments on the life she lived at Ölanda. The published song collections are often dedicated to her friends, with dedications such as ‘To Miss Maria von Stedingk’, ‘To H Ex Count M Brahe’, ‘To HRH The Duke of Upland’ (Prince Gustaf), and ‘To HRH the Duke of Östergötland’ (Crown Prince Oscar, later Oscar II).

In1849, the Gyllenhaal’s moved from Ölanda to the estate Stora Ekeby in Västmanland. Here Mathilda lived a withdrawn and secluded life. She died in 1863.


Mathilda's Gyllenhaal's songs are strophic, usually constructed over eight or twelve beat phrases, with simple keyboard accompaniment. There are correspondances in style to the Swedish popular song. Some of the songs feature written-out coloraturas, as it is likely that she performed these songs with richly decorated and improvised coloraturas. The texts originate primarily from Esaias Tegnér's poetry, but also poems by Bernhard von Beskow and CV Böttiger amongst others, whilst the songs composed after 1839 include a variety of lyricists, among them the composer herself.

Eva Öhrström © 2014
Trans. Robin McGinley


Böök, Fredrik: Mathilda Orozco, in Svensk vardag, 1922.
Elgenstierna, Gustav
: Den introducerade svenska adelns ättartavlor, vol. 3 and 5, Stockholm: P.A.Norstedt & Söner, 1927 resp. 1930.
Eliason, Åke & Tobias Norlind
: Tegnér i musiken. Bibliografi och musikhistoria, Lund: Gleerups bokförlag, 1846.
Franzén, Olle:
Mathilda Gyllenhaal, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 17, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1967−69.
Hamilton-Geete, Anna
: I solnedgång, vol. I−IV, Stockholm: Alb. Bonniers boktryckeri, 1910−14.
Lindberg, Boel
: Bengta Mattissons klaverbok. En studie i skånsk allmogemusik vid mitten av 1800-talet, thesis in musicology for 60 and 80 credits, Lunds universitet, 1983.
Mankell, Abraham
: Musikens historia, Örebro: N.M.Lindhs Boktryckeri, 1864.
Montgomery-Cederhielm, Robert:
Mathilda Orozco Montgomery-Cederhielm Gyllenhaal, söderländskan i Norden: en lifsbild, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1919.
Norlind, Tobias
: Allmänt musiklexikon, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1916.
Rosén, Johan Magnus
: Några minnesblad, Stockholm: Beijer, 1877.
Schmidt, Pia
: Kvinnliga tonsättare i Sverige 1800–1935. En verkförteckning, specialarbete, Högskolan i Borås, 1982.
Silfverstolpe, Malla
: Memoarer del I−IV, Stockholm: Alb. Bonniers Boktryckeri, 1908−10.
Wrangel, Erik
: Brinkman och Tegnér, Uppsala: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1906.
Öhrström, Eva
: Borgerliga kvinnors musicerande i 1800-talets Sverige, diss. in musicology, Göteborgs universitet, 1987.
Öhrström, Eva
: Klaveret, notboken och behagligheten. Om kvinnors musicerande under romantiken, in Ulla-Britta Lagerroth and Margareta Ramsay (eds), Romantiken över gränser. Symposium på Krapperups borg 2. Lund: Gyllenstiernska Krapperupstiftelsen, 1993.
Öhrström, Eva
: Mathilda Orozco − italiensk gratie i svensk salong, in Anne Scott Sørensen (ed.), Nordisk salonkultur. En studie i nordiske skönånder og salonmiljöer 1780−1850, Odense: Odense universitetsforlag, 1998.

Summary list of works

Vocal music (60 songs, including Axel's monologue, Stjernsången and Rings drapa), piano music (Hussar-Marsch).

Collected works

Song and piano
Axels monolog.
Frithiofs lycka.
Rings Drapa.
Four songs with piano accompaniment. To the Memory of Charlotte Åkerhielm.
Songs with piano accompaniment. To Mrs Governess Carlotte von Kraemer.
Songs with piano accompaniment. To Mademoiselle Fredrika Bremer.
Four song pieces for piano.
Songs at the piano to the daughter Eugenie.
Six songs at the piano composed and kindly dedicated to the high-born Miss Marie von Stedingk.
Sveriges främsta Ädling. Song at the piano to Count M Brahe.
Povera Italia mia!.
Den bedragna.
La Serenata Contadinesca.
Songs at the piano. To HRH Duke of Upland.
Four songs at the piano. To HRH Duke of Östergötland.
Four songs at the piano.
Seven songs at the piano piano.

Piano music

Works by Mathilda Gyllenhaal [d'Orozco]

There are no works by the composer registered