Richard Henneberg (1853−1925)


Carl Wilhelm Albert Richard Henneberg was born on 5 August 1853 in Berlin and died on 19 October 1925 in Malmö. He was a pianist, conductor and composer. Henneberg worked as a piano accompanist with engagements in Scandinavia, Germany, Russia and England. In Sweden, he was a conductor at institutions such as the Royal Opera, where he was chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra from 1894. Starting in 1912, he worked in Malmö as a conductor and orchestra leader. Elected as member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1885.

Xylogrphy by Gunnar Forssell. (Kungliga Biblioteket).

From Berlin to Scandinavia

Richard Henneberg grew up in a musical home. His mother was said to be musically gifted and a good singer, and his father was a choirmaster at the Royal Court Opera in Berlin. Richard Henneberg began piano studies at age seven but received most of his music education from the musicologist, conductor and organist Wilhelm Rust in Berlin. In 1870 Henneberg began to work as a pianist and piano accompanist and he performed as such with the tenor Oskar Arnoldson, mezzo-soprano Zelia Trebelli, violinist Henri Wieniawski, bass baritone Conrad Behrens, soprano Mathilde Mallinger and cellist Jules de Swert.

It was during a tour with Conrad Behrens in 1872 that Henneberg came to Sweden for the first time. Between 1872–73 he was the Kapellmeister at the Reunion-Theatre in Berlin. However, he left Berlin for a post as the conductor of the Musikselskapet Harmonien in Bergen, Norway, where he stayed from 1873 until 1875.

Conductor in Stockholm

Richard Henneberg maintained contact with the German music scene, which among other things led to him bringing a German opera troupe to Stockholm in 1876. Through this visit he wrote himself into Swedish music history by performing Wagner’s Tannhäuser for the first time on a Swedish stage on 16 August 1876. The premiere took place at the Mindre teatern with the title role sung by Franz Ferency. Henneberg continued in his role as conductor to zealously promote Wagner’s music in Sweden. After a period at the Royal Italian Opera in London, Henneberg decided to settle down in Stockholm. In 1879 he married Fanny Louise Behrens, daughter of the famous opera singer Conrad Behrens.

During his time at Nya teatern Henneberg reached success with his comic opera Drottningens vallfart, a debut work, which was premiered in 1882. Henneberg’s style was characterised by a contemporary observer as influenced by French neo-romanticism, and with elements of ʻ[Robert] Planquette’s graceful waltz formsʼ, ʻSuppé’s and Strauss’ spasmodic march rhythmsʼ and ʻdreamy tones à la Gounod or Wagner.ʼ His orchestration was hailed as particularly colourful and tasteful.

He had already begun his Swedish career as a conductor the previous year. From 1878 until 1879 he was employed at Mindre teatern, 1879–85 at Nya teatern and 1885–1907 at the Kungliga Operan (Royal Opera). In 1885 he was appointed member of the Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien (Royal Swedish Academy of Music) and in 1894 as hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra). He received the royal Litteris et artibus medal in 1889. Henneberg was also involved with the W6 society, an association that organised music evenings. Within this venue Henneberg wrote and performed some of his own music, including a cantata. After Fanny Louise died in 1899 Henneberg married Tyra Maria Gyllenskepp the following year. In 1901 their son Albert – who also grew up to become a composer – was born.

In 1907 Richard Henneberg left the Stockholm Opera and initiated a number of engagements as a conductor in restaurants in Stockholm, including Berns 1907–09 and Operaterrassen 1910–11. At Blanch’s cafe in 1910, he led an orchestra of 11 musicians recruited from Berlin, which, according to a reviewer in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, was ʻthe best chamber soloists ever heard in Stockholm restaurants for a long time.ʼ The orchestra performed works by Felix Mendelssohn, Emil Sjögren, Andreas Hallén, Carl Maria von Weber, Richard Wagner and Gioachino Rossini among others.

Henneberg was also interested in music research. In 1910 he became a board member of the music research organization that in 1919 became the Swedish Society for Musicology.

Malmö residency

Leaving his esteemed position in Stockholm, Henneberg arrived in Malmö in 1912 to a more modest music environment. He most likely made his Malmö debut in connection with the Baltic Exhibition of 1914, for which he conducted dinner concerts. From 1915 until 1920 he was the conductor of concerts organised by the financially embattled Sydsvenska filharmoniska sällskapet (the Southern Sweden Philharmonic Society). He was also employed by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra 1916–21.

Henrik Rosengren © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Brandel, Åke: ‘Henneberg, Richard’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 18, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1969−71, p. 635.
Engländer, Richard: ‘Henneberg, Richard’, in: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol. 6,  Kassel, Basel & London: Bärenreiter, 1957, p. 151.
Karle, Gunhild: Ludvig Norman och Kungl. Hovkapellet i Stockholm 1861−90. Med flera, Uppsala, 2006
Nyman, Alf: ‘Richard Henneberg avliden’, Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 20 Oct. 1925.
Percy, Gösta: ‘Henneberg, Richard’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 3, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1976, p. 415.
‘Från scenen och konsertsalen’, Svensk Musiktidning, no. 22 1882, pp. 175-176
‘Richard Henneberg’, Svensk Musiktidning, no. 14 1909, p. 118.
‘Henneberg på Blanchs’, Svenska Dagbladet, 2 March 1910.
Tegen, Martin: Musiklivet i Stockholm 1890−1910, Stockholm: Stockholms kommunalförvaltning, 1955.

Summary list of works

2 operas (Drottningens vallfart, Trettondagsafton), one ballet (Undina), incidental music (including for Ibsen’s Brand and Strindberg’s Lucky Per’s Travels and Erik XIV), one piano concerto, chamber music, piano music, songs, choral music.

Collected works

Drottningens vallfart/Giralda, Opéra Comique in 3 Acts (E. Scribe), 1879.
Twelfth Night (W. Shakespeare) 1902?, incomplete?

Undina, 1890.

Incidental Music
Brand (H. Ibsen), Act 3 and 5, score.
Brand (H. Ibsen), Introduction, score.
Catilina (Ibsen), Act 2 and 3, score
Domaren af Zalamea (P. Calderón), incomplete score.
Don Carlos (F. von Schiller), ‘Song Backstage’, score.
Erik XIV (A. Strindberg), 1903.
Ett [?] af Infantinnans dockor, score.
Kapten Gass, score for Act 3.
Lycko-Pers resa (A. Strindberg), 1882. 
Macbeth (W. Shakespeare).
Tiggarstudenten, Act 1, score.

Orchestral music
Tre Bellmanmelodier.

Solo concertos
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor.

Chamber music
Dem lieben Freunde Kapten T.E. Berggren Malmö (M.S. Josephson), quintet for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello, 1916.
Piano Quintet.
Serenade, octet for flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 french horns, 2 bassoons.

Piano music
Undine, from the balet divertissement, for piano.

Voice and piano
Three Songs for Soprano or Tenor with piano accompaniment, 188?. 1. Har du mig kär, 2. Ungbirken, 3. Haiden-Röslein.
Two Romances from Drottningens vallfart, arr. for 1 voice and piano. 1. I ungdomens dagar, 188?, 2. Blomma så skön, 188?.
Violetta tulpaner (prince Wilhelm), for mezzo-soprano or baritone.

Cantata for Solo, Choir and Orchestra, 187?.
Cantata for Soli, Men’s Choir and Orchestra to the WG Society.