Wilhelm Harteveld (1859−1927)


Julius Napoleon Wilhelm Harteveld was born in Stockholm on 5 April 5 1859 and died there on 1 October 1927. He was a composer, conductor, pianist, author and folk song transcriber. He spent over 40 years in Russia, collecting Siberian prison songs and folk songs among other things. In addition, he worked for a time as a musician in Kiev and founded Kiev’s music society. He later composed music for a Moscow cabaret. Harteveld also composed four operas and a musical comedy (the latter based on material collected in Siberia).

Background behind a musical hit

In Sweden, Wilhelm Harteveld’s name has been associated with a single composition which has been massively popular since the 1920’s: Marcia Carolus Rex. According to Harteveld, this tune was based on a 1707 manuscript from the Poltava city archives, but according to recent research, it is actually an arrangement of the Moscow’s Militia March from 1812. Remarkably, this march is unknown in Russia, whereas ‘the collector of Siberian prison songsʼ, Professor Wilgelm Napoleonovitj Garteveld, is well remembered for his ethnographic achievements. One hundred years ago he laid the foundation for the discovery of an entirely new genre, the so-called ‘Russian chansonʼ which is very much alive today.

Harteveld was a public figure not only during his nearly forty-year residence in Russia, but also in Sweden, where he spent both his early and late years of life. Material in the press from these times enables a glimpse into his activities and achievements. His works can be found today in both original manuscripts and in print. In contrast, his biography is full of holes and ambiguities.

Starting in Sweden

Wilhelm Julius Napoleon Harteveld was born on 5 April 1859 in Stockholm. He was the son of the lithographer Salomon Harteveld, born in Amsterdam, and Johanna Gustafva Vidgar. The family lived on Köpmangatan in Gamla Stan, and Wilhelm grew up together with his sister Hanna.

Later in life, Wilhelm Harteveld was considered to be a skilled pianist with a good tenor voice. Details of his musical education are missing, except for records that he studied harmony during the spring semester of 1873 in the preparatory class at Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm). One can imagine that he had already began to compose by then, when he was only 14 years old. However, his studies at the famous conservatory in Leipzig, as mentioned in several encyclopedias, has not been substantiated. He was never enrolled at the Leipzig conservatory, but it is quite possible that he went there as a ‘free listener’, attending lectures informally, and if this was the case, it likely took place during the mid-1870’s.

Russia: Moscow and Kiev

In one of his first letters home from Moscow, where he had moved in 1877, he wrote: ‘It is a very pleasant feeling to see one’s name in all countries and all languages, printed in all the newspapers, and generally makes me feel very happy that my childhood dream has come true, namely, to become a composer...’ Here he is certainly referring to the publication of his songs (with texts by Heinrich Heine) and his piano pieces, which had begun to be issued by Russian music publishers; his music was advertised for available purchase in many countries, not just in Russia, but also in Sweden, Norway and Germany.

During the 1880’s and well into the following decade, Harteveld was a resident of Kiev (then part of the Russian Empire). He established himself in Kiev as a pianist and choir director, and he seems to have been an active, involved musician. In 1888 concert programs from the Kiev choral association, he is listed as ‘an accompanist at the Russian opera and choral conductor’. Around 1890 he founded the Kiev’s music society and became its director; the society’s first concert was attended by Tchaikovsky. At these events, he played music by Edvard Grieg, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, and with pleasure, the music of Scandinavian Romantics such as August Söderman, Halfdan Kjerulf and Niels W. Gade. In addition, he performed his own piano pieces and romances: expressive and refined in form, yet without any major technical compositional surprises. His musical language, judging from the few original compositions that he has left behind him, show only a good knowledge of the romantic repertoire, mainly from the German and Scandinavian traditions. He appreciated these composers the most, and he appears to not have had any ambitions to try to outflank them with his own music.

Back in Moscow, keeping contact

Wilhelm Harteveld moved to Moscow in the mid-1890’s − bringing with him his newly written opera Kärlekens triumfsång (based on Ivan Turgenev’s novel). It was premiered in Kharkiv on 10 January 1895, which was followed by performances with various opera companies in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, often under the direction of the composer himself (‘about 180 times in total, according to reports by the Russian composers’ organisation’, as listed in Harteveld’s preface to the synopsis, which was printed in Sweden in 1922). He composed at least three additional operas − Almansor, Atalanta and Gorgona, but they were never performed.

Harteveld returned to Kiev in 1901 for the performance of his celebratory cantata Kiev, for soloists, choir and orchestra, composed for the inauguration of the new Kiev municipal theatre, the current National Opera. The work was warmly received and played again the following day as the opening piece before the theatre’s first performance, ‘A Life for the Tsar’ by Mikhail Glinka (the cantata music is no longer preserved).

During the early 1900’s, Harteveld began to appear as a pianist, vocal accompanist, and lecturer in the history of popular music, probably at one of Moscow’s so-called ‘people’s music conservatories’, which offered instruction in vocal and elementary music theory for all music lovers.

Journey to Siberia: transcribing prison songs

In the summer of 1908, he undertook an extended ethnographic trip to Siberia. The six month expedition was made possible with support from the Association of Slavic Culture. Journeying through circa ten prisons in cities including Tobolsk, Nerchinsk, Akatujsk, Harteveld came to transcribe over a hundred songs by prisoners, vagrants and the indigenous Siberian population. He first presented his collection at various forums in Moscow and around the country, while also lecturing on Siberian folklore. The songs were first published in his own arrangements, mainly for voices with piano accompaniment, and then recorded on gramophone. Using the same material, but now with orchestra, he put together Rymlingen: lösdrivarnas sånger som musikaliskt rollspel − for performances at the open-air Hermitage theatre in Moscow. Unfortunately, this development was frowned upon by those in power: the subject was considered to be too political and provocative, and the work was consequently banned throughout the country.

In addition to his efforts to bring the cultural uniqueness of prison songs to the fore, Harteveld also attempted to draw the public’s attention to the prisoners’ inhuman conditions. He wrote newspapers articles, and even managed to obtain an audience with Minister Pyotr Stolypin. His travelogue V strane vozmezdija (In the land of retribution) was printed in 1911 in one of the most important literary magazines from this period, Rysskoe bogatstvo, and it was published in the years following as a book in several editions. The Siberian theme culminated in a documentary film based on his script, Sibiriska straffläger. Sibiriska straffångarnas liv och vardag (Siberian penal camps. The everyday lives of Siberian convicts, 1915). It was the first film recording made outdoors on site of the real life of Siberian political prisoners (the film is not preserved).

Back in Moscow: commemorative music and the cabaret

In 1912, Wilhelm Harteveld collaborated on a project organised for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, when the Russian army had held out against the Napoleonic army. He prepared the program ‘The Year 1812 in Song’, which included arrangements of French and Russian songs from Napoleon’s war against Russia, for orchestra and wind ensemble, soloists and choir. Balkanfolkets krigssånger − 22 sånger och marscher is another example of a collection of his folk music arrangements, a genre that had begun to predominate his production after 1900, and appeared to gain recognition for him more than any of his other works.

Harteveld earned his living by providing music for performances at the first Russian cabaret theatre, Letutjaja mysj (The Bat), with Nikita Balieff at the helm. This included preparing humorous songs and jokes for the stage, tableaux vivants, short musical comedies and parodies, mostly with piano accompaniment. He worked at the theatre from its opening in 1908 until 1918, when it was time for him return to Sweden. The trip home was full of hardships and it took a year and a half for Harteveld, together with his wife and daughter, to disembark in Gothenburg in June 1920.

Final years in Stockholm

Wilhelm Harteveld did not compose any new works after his return to Sweden and was not very successful at getting his older compositions performed there. As a matter of fact, several of his cabaret comedies were translated and used by Robert Ryberg at the Folkteatern theatre in Stockholm. After a preview performance, his opera Kärlekens triumfsång was not approved for performance by Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera). It was mostly his two forgeries − the military march named after Charles XII, Marcia Carolus Rex (originally for solo piano), and the choral work Hymn till Apollo i Delfi, spiced up with the story of the rediscovery of an alternative version on fragments of a Greek column in Crimea − that struck home with the public. Together with his literary works (including the book Svart och rött. Sorglustiga historier från det gamla och nya Ryssland) these musical ‘forgeries’ brought both publicity and income to their creator.

On 1 October 1927, Wilhelm Harteveld died in Stockholm. He was married to Anna Peder (of Russian−Estonian ancestry) and the couple had a daughter named Magda (married Lagerman-Gren), who became an author and translator. He had three children from previous relationships in Russia. One of his sons, Georgi, was a concert pianist and appeared as a guest artist in Sweden in the 1930’s; he also composed art songs and piano pieces.

Songs from Harteveld’s Siberian collection have been experiencing a renaissance in today’s Russia, and have even been performed, recorded and published in new editions outside of Russia. Arrangements from Harteveld’s ‘1812’ program were unearthed from the archives during the 2012 bicentenary, and have since been published online. His arrangement of the Russian folk song ‘Vanitjka, prihodi’ (Come, little Vanya) and ‘Zulejma’s Andalusian romance’ from the fourth act of his opera Almansor are quite popular standards within the soprano repertoire of his second homeland.

Marine Demina © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander

Publications by the composer

Verdi [biographical essay], Moscow: Majevskij, 1914.
Svart och rött: sorglustiga historier från det gamla och nya Ryssland: efter egna upplevelser, Stockholm: Wahledow, 1925 (2nd ed.).
Bolsjevikkuppen i Ryssland 1917, Stockholm: Vårt land och folks förl., 1925.
Katorga i brodiagi Sibiri [Penal labour and drifters in Siberia], Moscow: Delo, 1913.
Sredi sypuchih peskov i otrublennyh golov: putevye otjerki Turkestana [Among drifting sand and decapitated heads. Travel tales from Turkestan], Moscow: Majevskij, 1914.
V dvenadtsatom godu: drama v 4-ch dejstvijach (s prologom) [The year 1812. Drama in 4 acts with prologue], St. Petersburg: Ju. G. Tsimmerman, 1911.
Mazepa, translation of libretto for Tchaikovsky’s opera. Autograph at MTB.


Demina, Marina: ‘Glimtar ur Wilhelm Hartevelds liv återspeglade i hans arkiv i Statens musikbibliotek’, in: Dokumenterat: bulletin från Statens musikbibliotek, no. 41, 2009, pp. 34−59.
Hultén, Lars: ‘Harteveld, Wilhelm’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 3, Stockholm: Sohlmans, 1976, p. 351.
Hultén, Lars: ‘Marcia Carolus Rex’, in: Musikant, no. 1 1971.
Jampolskij, Michail: ‘Garteveld’, in: Muzykalnaja enciklopedija, vol. 1, Moskva: Sovetskaja enciklopedija och Sovetskij kompositor, 1973.
Nordberger, Carl: Intermezzo: Närbilder av stjärnor från scen och estrad, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1936
Zelov, Nikolaj: ‘Kandalnyj marsch’, in: Sovetskaja muzyka, no. 11 1966, pp. 53−56.
Stolt, Lars C.: Förbimarsch i parad: marschmusik som livgivare, traditionsbärare och njutningsmedel, Visby: Nomen: 2010, pp. 391−392.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.

Summary list of works

4 operas (Kärlekens triumfsång, Almansor, Atalanta, Gorgona), 1 musical comedy (Lösdrivarnas sånger som rollspel: Rymlingen), piano works (Marcia Carolus Rex etc.), songs (circa 20), choral works, folk song arrangements.

Collected works

Pesnj torzjestvujushej lubvi (Kärlekens triumfsång/ Il cante d'amor trionfale), opera in 3 acts and 5 tableaux. Libretto after I. Turgenev by L. Munstein (=Lolo,= Mond), 1895. Score in autograph at MTB. Printed piano vocal score: Moscow: Gilkner, 1894. Printed libretto: Moscow: Univ. typ., 1894. Printed synopsis (Swedish), Stockholm, 1922. [Separate prints: Persidskij tanets (Persisk dans), piano 2 h.: St. Petersburg, K. Leopas, n.d. Pesnj torzjestvujushej lubvi (Kärlekens triumfsång) for violin and piano. St. Petersburg: K. Leopas, n.d. Canzonetta, various publishers, n.d. Muzio’s monologue for soloist, choir and piano, Moscow: Mejkov, 1901.]
Almansor (H. Heine).
Pesni sibirskih brodiag v litsah. Beglets [Lösdrivarnas sånger som rollspel. Rymlingen]. Musical mosaic in 3 acts. 1915. Autograph at MTB. Printed libretto (Russian): Teatr i iskusstvo, Petrograd, 1915.

Karl XII’s march (Marcia Carolus XII, Svecorum rex): Lifgardet 1707 / restored by Wilhelm Harteveld [own arr. of Moskvas lantvärns marsch]. Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1941. [Arr. for orchestra, Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1928. Arr. for two men’s choirs with the title Svenskmannaed (S. Erdtman), Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1941. Arr. with the title Hemland (N.-M. Folcke) for Gustaf V on his 85the birthday, 1943. Arr. for wind orchestra by E. Hessler and E. Medberg (1920 and 1922 with the title Narvamarsch).
La lumia. Spanish dance for piano 2 h. St. Petersburg: Zimmerman, n.d.
Marsch moskovskogo opoltjenija 1812 goda [Moskvas lantvärns marsch 1812], notation, arr., St. Petersburg: Zimmerman, n.d.
Malaguena. Danse espagnole de l’Opera Almansor. Pour le piano à 4 mains. Dedicated to Edvard
Grieg. Kiev: L. Idzikowski, n.d.
Feuilles détachées. Tros pièces pour piano. Dedicated to Alfred Grünfeld. Kiev: L. Idzikowski, n.d. 1. Dans les montagnes, 2. Chant d’Automne, 3. Berceuse.
Vesna [Spring], waltz for piano. Yekaterinburg: E.I. Ivanov, n.d.
V sumerkah (Crepuscule), for piano, violin or mandolin. Yekaterinburg: E.I. Ivanov, n.d.

Works for voice(s) with piano in print
An ‘Sie’: Für Gesang mit Klavier op. 17:1. Kiev: Budkevitj, n.d.
Atalanta. Ballada. Moscow: Simfonia, n.d.
Ja dumal: snova ja najdu [Jag trodde: jag finner igen]. Romance. Yekaterinburg: E.I. Ivanov, n.d.
König Harald Harfagar [Harald Hårfager]. Nordische Ballade für Alt oder Bariton mit Pianobegleitung op.14. Leipzig: Rob. Forberg, 248; P. Jurgenson, 1878.
K tjemu vrazjda? [Varför kriga?] (V. Giliarovskij), dedicated to F. Sjaliapin. Moscow: Th. Dettlaff, 1905.
Ne verj [Believe it not] (E. Lvov), Adler: Rostov n/D, n.d.
Ne uhodi [Don’t leave] (V. Zjukovskij), Riga: Blosfeld, 1902.
Novaja vesna [New spring] (H. Heine), Moscow: Gutheil, 1884.
Poryv [A gust] (O. Gorev), Moscow: Gilkner, 1893.
Razve stoit on, tjtob ja lubila [Is he worth my love?] (Miatleva), Samara: Simfonia, n.d.
Snova utro [Yet another day] (G. Russat), Jekaterinoslav: Kriger, n.d.
Tkatji [Die schlesischen Weber] (H. Heine, Russian trans. by M. Mihajlov). Moscow: Th. Dettlaff, n.d.
Zakat [Sunset], romance (V. Ruditj), dedicated to I.V. Tartakov, St. Petersburg: Zimmerman, n.d.
Zoloto [Gold] (W. Harteveld), Moscow: Th. Dettlaff, 1905.
Zu Spät! [Pozdno] (M. Chmelnitzsky, Russian trans. by W. Harteveld) op. 24. Dedicated to V. Duvikler. Kiev: L. Idzikowski, n.d.

Det vackraste i världen. In: Sånger för manskör, 28. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, E. Carelius.
Kiev, cantata for choir, soloists and orchestra (N. Medvedkov), 1901. [Not printed, manuscript not found.]

Notations (arr.)
År 1812: 35 Russian and French songs.
Balkanfolkets krigssånger [War songs of the Balkan people].
Arrangements of folk songs from various countries.

Works by Wilhelm Harteveld

There are no works by the composer registered