Wilhelm Hildebrand (1785−1830)


Fredrik (Friedrich) Wilhelm Hildebrand was born on 3 September 1785 in Rathenow near Brandenburg and died on 8 January 1830 in Stockholm. He studied violin with Louis Spohr, with whom he also appeared in public concerts. In 1816 he was hired as first violinist with the Royal Court Orchestra, a post he held until his death. He was also one of Sweden’s first guitar virtuosos, composing mainly for this instrument.


A German background

Wilhelm Hildebrand was born under poor circumstances in Rathenow, Prussia and died unmarried and childless in Stockholm shortly before he would have turned 45. Although he had felt strongly drawn to music as a child and received some education in music, his father decided that he should study law at the University of Halle. But when the French army attacked the city, his father allowed him to go to Gotha to study music with the merely one and a half years older concertmaster and composer Louis Spohr (1784−1859).

In the summer of 1809, after two years of study, Spohr considered Hildebrand to be fully trained and encouraged him to continue his education on his own with the attentive study of other artists. On 5 October Hildebrand presented his farewell concert in Gotha. Shortly thereafter he gave a concert in Sondershausen (15 October) including Spohr’s notoriously difficult Violin Concerto no. 2 in D minor (1804), which was received with great admiration, although it was noted that he had adopted some of Spohr’s mannerisms.

Even during his time as a student, Wilhelm Hildebrand’s virtuosic playing inspired Spohr in 1808 to compose a Concertante for two violins and orchestra op. 48, which they performed together at the Royal National Theatre in Berlin on 11 January 1810. Spohr dedicated his Duets for two violins op. 9 (1808) to five of his students, including Hildebrand. In addition, Hildebrand is the only one of Spohr’s students to be mentioned at length and with great praise in his memoirs.

Royal Court Orchestra violinist and guitarist in Stockholm

Wilhelm Hildebrand signed a contract (in German) as first violinist with the Kungliga Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) in Stockholm and worked as such from 1 October 1816 until his death in 1830. From 1820 he also received additional remuneration for assisting on ‘cittern and guitar.’  There was much confusion at the time regarding names of instruments, so this probably meant that Hildebrand played the same instrument as the Swedish songwriter and performer Carl Michael Bellman, namely the cister (similar to the cittern). Hildebrand performed as a soloist on both the violin and the guitar in Stockholm and he came to participate in the Stockholm music scene in several different ways. He also played second violin in the Kvartettsällskapet (the String Quartet Society) founded by the composer Johan Fredrik Berwald (1787−1861) in 1818 and active until 1824. ‘Two quartets were performed every evening. Participating in addition to Berwald were Mr Hildebrand (vn 2), (Edward) Lowe (vc.) and an amateur (va). Reviewers found the performance to be very good …’. (Quote from the History of the Kungliga Hovkapellet.)

Wilhelm Hildebrand was unique as a guitar soloist at this time, but he was not completely alone. Jöns Boman (1798−1849) was a colleague of his who also published arrangements of Bellman’s songs. Another was the German Carl von Gärtner (Charles de Gaertner) who appeared in Uppsala and Gothenburg, as well as in Vienna. In the Journal för guitarre, book 1, Hildebrand included a waltz by Gärtner. Gärtner also worked as a guitar teacher as evidenced by the dedication of his only separately published guitar work: Six Laendlers pour la Guitare composées et Dediés a Mademoiselle Dorothée de Engeström par son maître … (printed as op. 1 by Müller in Stockholm in 1823). Hildebrand dedicated several of his works to Miss Dorotea Anna Josefina von Engeström (born in Berlin in 1803, died in Toulon only twenty years old in 1823, the daughter of Foreign Prime Minister Count Lars von Engeström, married in 1821 to Dorothée de Stjerneld). She was evidently a promising young guitarist.


As Johan Wikmanson’s guitar sonata in B minor was offered to be part of a subscription in an advertisement from 1781, although never printed, Wilhelm Hildebrand’s Verschiedene Tänze und ein Marsch became the first Swedish compilation of guitar works published in Sweden (1818). By this time several of his works had already been published by C.F. Peters in Germany. He often preferred to give title names to his works and to spell his name in French: Guillaume Hildebrand.

Wilhelm Hildebrand also published the magazine Journal för guitarre, of which three numbers were printed sporadically between 1823 and 1829. Each of these 16 page magazines consisted of ten pieces, mostly vocal works, in which Hildebrand replaced the orchestra or piano accompaniment with guitar. There were predominantly well-known opera arias from the time by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Le nozze di Figaro), Carl Maria von Weber (Der Freischütz), François Adrien Boieldieu (Le nouveau seigneur de village), Etienne Nicolas Méhul (Joseph), Peter von Winter (Das unterbrochene Opferfest) Jean Pierre Solie (Le secret) and Louis Spohr (Der Schiffs Mädchen). All of these operas, except for Spohr’s, were performed at the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera) during these years, with Hildebrand as first violinist in the orchestra. Also included in the books were songs by Johan Fredrik Berwald and Erik Gustaf Geijer.

Of particular interest in this context are Hildebrand’s own works published through his magazine. These include a solo work for guitar, a guitar duo and songs (probably with his own lyrics) such as ‘Drickes Wisa’, in which symbols of drinking glasses in the music indicate where in the song beverages are to be consumed. ‘Herdesång’ begins with the stage direction: ‘The sound of shepherd’s bells are heard in the distance’. The nation’s interest in playing the guitar would grow, reaching its peak in the 1820’s, when for a brief time the instrument would be taken up by the bourgeoisie since it was both easier to play and cheaper to buy than a piano.

Hildebrand’s music is rarely performed today, but in 1959 the guitarist Roland Bengtsson recorded three dances for Sveriges Radio.

Stig Jacobsson © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Bredvad-Jensen, Claes: Solistiskt gitarrspel i Sverige, 60 credit thesis in musicology from Lund University, 1972.
Giertz, Martin
: Den klassiska gitarren, instrumentet, musiken, mästarna, Stockholm, 1979.
Karle, Gunnel:
Kungl. Hovkapellet i Stockholm och dess musiker 1818−61, med utblickar, Uppsala, 2005.
Louis Spohr:
Festschrift und Ausstellungskatalog, Kassel, 1984.
Nisser, Carl
: Svensk instrumentalkomposition 1770-1830, nominalkatalog, Stockholm 1943.
Norlind, Tobias & Trobäck, Emil
: Kungl. Hovkapellets historia 1526−1926, Stockholm, 1926.
Reichardt, Johann Friedrich
: Vertraute Briefe, 1810.
Mörner, C-G Stellan
: ‘Wilhelm Hildebrand’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 3, 1950, column 108.
Sparr, Kenneth
: The Guitar in Sweden Until the Middle of the 19th Century, 1997.
Spohr, Louis:
Lebenserinnerungen, 1968.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket

Summary list of works

Works for guitar, songs with guitar accompaniment.

Collected works

4 Weinlieder mit kl. Chören im frohen Kreise zu singen, mit Guit. op 2. C. F. Peters. Lieder für Guitarre op 3.
Sex Svenska Folk Wisor satta för guitarre. Stockholm. 1. Den bergtagna ‘Och Jungfrun hon skulle sig åt Ottesången gå’ 2. Liten Karin ‘Och liten Karin tjente på unga Kungens gård’ 3. Hillebrand ‘Hillebrand tjente på Konungens gård’ 4. Sorgens magt ‘Liten Kerstin och hennes Moder’ 5. Pröfningen ‘Och Jungfrun hon gick till sjöastrand’ 6. Stolts Botelid stalldräng ‘Stolts Botelid han rider på Konungens gård’. Lithography by Fehr et Müller 1819. Second ed.: Stockholm 1828. Lithography by C. Müller.
Fantasie lugubre sur la mort de Mme la Comtesse Dorothée de Stjerneld, née d'Engeström, composée pour la guitarre par Guillaume Hildebrand op. 4. (Andante D minor, Allegro E major, Allegretto G major, Andantino C major, Allegretto G major, Adagio D major) Stockholm 1823. Imp. Lithogr. de C. Müller.
Divertissement for guitar or harp op. 5. 1823.
Verschiedene Tänze und ein Marsch für die Guitarre komponiert und dem Hochwohlgebornen Fräulein Dorothea von Engeström ergebenst zugeeignet von Wilhelm Hildebrand. 1. Polonaise D major, 2. Polonaise C major 3. Marsch D major 4. Walzer A major 5. Angloise F major 6. Angloise A major. Stockholm 1818. Steindrück von Fehr & Müller.
Six polonaises pour Violin ou Flûte avec accompagnement de Pianoforte ou Guitarre composée et dediée à Monsieur Charles de Westrell par Guillaume Hildebrand. (A major, G major, D minor, E major, A major, C minor) 1824.

Boieldieu: ‘Kom tjusand' sköna’ (Eugène Scribe, trans.: Bernhard Crusell) from the opera Vita frun for voice and guitar (1827).
Crusell: Four songs from Frithiofs saga (Esaias Tegnér) for voice and guitar (1826): 1. Frithiof och Ingeborg 2. Frithiof spelar schack 3. Frithiofs lycka 4. Frithiof kommer till kung Ring. 
Crusell: Three songs from Frithiofs saga (Esaias Tegnér) for voice and guitar (1827): 1. Ingeborgs klagan 2. Kung Rings död 3. Konungavalet.
Crusell: Harpan ‘I ensliga stugan, en kulen kväll’ (Anders Abraham Grafström) for voice and guitar (1832).
Crusell: 3 arias from the operetta Lilla Slafvinnan (1828).
Spohr: ‘Törnrosen’ (Johann Jakob Ihlee, trans.: Bernhard Crusell) romantic song from the opera Zemir och Azor for voice and guitar (1828).

Journal för guitarre (book 1−3) 1823−29. Mainly other composers’ vocal works to which Hildebrand has composed a guitar accompaniment, but also some of his original works. All songs also have lyrics in German. Book 1: no. 2. Trinklied (Drickes Wisa) ‘De kylda Glasen mot oss ler, hej klingom med hvaran’, ‘ 3. Wals. Allegro A-dur för två gitarrer, no. 4. Angloise D-dur för gitarr, no. 5. Hasche die Zeit ‘Drick! De förflyga de susande Perlorna, drick!’, no. 6. Wisa ‘Stunden bort ilar, men inte min smärta’ (Pehr Henrik Ling), ‘ 7. Den beständiga Olyckan ‘Jag är så ung min blod så het, jag är blott sjutton år’. Book 2: ‘ 3. Den sofvande sköna ‘Vid Bäckens rand, i gräset, en Flicka tryckt sin kind’ (W. Gerhard), ‘ 7. Serenade ‘Slumra min hulda Sköna’ (Apel), ‘ 10. Champagner ‘Att du icke dig försummar, Gosse, utur flaskan gjut!’, ‘ 12. Kyssen ‘Den kyssen som ett barn mig skänker’ (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing), ‘ 14. Herdesång ‘Bild af våra älskarinnor sväfve’. Book 3 does not include any original works by Hildebrand.

Works by Wilhelm Hildebrand

There are no works by the composer registered