Johan Lindegren (1842−1908)


Johan (Johannes) Lindegren was born on 7 January 1842 in the parish of Ullared and died on 8 June 1908 in Stockholm. He was a composer, a church musician, a music theorist, teacher and writer; he was also a chorister and répétiteur at the Royal Opera. As a teacher of counterpoint and composition he nurtured virtually an entire generation of composers and was deeply involved in the reformation of liturgical music. His oeuvre is relatively modest but contains some important works. He was made a Knight of the Order of Vasa in 1896 and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1903.

(Statens Musikverk)

Childhood and education

Johan Lindegren, who went by the patronymic name Johannes Andreasson at least until he left home aged 15, was the son of freeholder and churchwarden Andreas Johansson and Inger Lena Carlsdotter.

As a child of a poor peasant family, Johan had to help with the daily grind of farm work. A priest discovered his musical talent and introduced him to the harmonium. Despite his father’s stubborn resistance, Johan managed to wheedle out of him permission to travel to church musician Holmdahl in the neighbouring parish for lessons in organ playing and singing.

Determined to become a musician, he moved to Stockholm in 1860, where he enrolled into the organ and piano class at the educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (Royal Academy of Music). Notable amongst his teachers are Gustaf Mankell (organ), Jan van Boom (piano) and Julius Günther (singing). In 1861 Lindegren joined the composition class, adding Hermann Berens the elder to his mentors. He also studied composition for Franz Berwald and Ludvig Norman.

Counterpoint was a particular source of fascination for Lindegren, who wrote advanced exercises on the technique and countless fugues. He made conscientious study of J.S. Bach’s works and, later, Palestrina’s vocal polyphony and the music of Orlando di Lasso.

In desperate need of some income, the destitute Lindegren sung in the Kungliga Teatern (Royal Opera) choir while still a student, a position he retained until his death. He also started work as a répétiteur there in 1874.

Lindegren was hungry for knowledge. With an extremely poor schooling behind him, he autodidactically amassed considerable erudition in the arts and was fluent in many foreign languages, including Latin and Greek.

In the spring of 1865 he earned organ and cantorship degrees, graduating with distinction in most of the subjects. He continued his studies in conductorship and in the orchestra class. He left the conservatory in the spring of 1866.

Composition and other occupations

The latter half of the 1860s was Lindegren’s most productive time as a composer. He was himself a keen pianist and wrote several extensive works for the instrument. It is also possible that he began the string quintet he completed in 1870 at this time.

In 1870 Lindegren moved in with his childhood friend Josefina Grönberg, and the meagre chorister salary he received from the Kungliga Teatern was not enough to provide for his gradually expanding family. In the autumn of 1876 Lindegren was accepted as a supply teacher of counterpoint at the conservatory, but when the vacancy left by Berens was to be refilled he was overlooked, a disappointment he would experience many times over when other posts as conservatory teacher and cantor needed filling.

Lindegren stepped in countless time as a substitute in the parishes of Stockholm’s inner city, but even though he was regularly judged to be the most qualified of all applicants he would lose the job to another. He wrote in a letter, not without some self-awareness: ‘I fundamentally lack that precious sycophancy that bestows fortune upon so many these days.’

Blind to the possible consequences, Lindegren always stood up for his noble ideals, even when criticising the authorities. Such as when he published an article series in Necken under the heading ‘On the Conditions of the Blossoming of our National Art of Music’ in which he bemoaned the ‘base, disregarding stance that the study of composition at our conservatory currently maintains’ – a dart aimed directly at the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien. The turnover of new composers in Sweden was worryingly low.

In 1881 Lindegren started work as a teacher of music at St James’s lower secondary grammar school. He was in no way cut out to be a teacher of the rudiments of music, but financial constraints forced him to endure the misery.

Teacher of counterpoint and composition

Teaching at an advanced level suited him better. Lindegren was by far Sweden’s leading proponent of counterpoint and drew to himself many aspiring composers. He chose his students with care, however. As a teacher he was austere and demanding in the extreme. His comments, both written and spoken, were, according to student Hugo Alfvén, ‘weighty in content, aphoristic in form, explicit and circumspect’.

In the early 1900s, a large cohort of composers debuted, many of them alumni from Lindegren’s school of tough learning. Apart from Alfvén, there were such composers as Bror Beckman, Gustaf Bengtsson, Natanael Berg, Harald Fryklöf, Algot Haquinius, Knut Håkanson, Sigurd von Koch, Helena Munktell, Ture Rangström, Alice Tegnér and Adolf Wiklund.

‘Technique is the sine qua non of the visualisation of thought,’ asserted Lindegren. But the composer must also be ignited by ‘the sacred flame of art’. It was creative conditions such as these that Lindegren drilled into his students.

The promoter of liturgical song

Lindegren wrote articles for both Necken and the self-published Tidning för kyrkomusik  (a liturgical music journal) on a range of subjects related to liturgical music. The genre was in a state of decline in the 19th century but it was one that engaged Lindegren nonetheless. In one of the articles, he wrote: ‘Church music should be more intimately reconciled with religion.’

Lindegren differentiated between art singing and congregational singing, both of which were in need of revitalisation.

At last, in 1884, Lindegren was able to take up a permanent post as a church musician, and as cantor in Stockholm Cathedral he put a lot of care into the music. The cathedral was one of the few churches where choir singing (which was uncommon at the time) was integrated into the service.

As for the chorales he was a fervent advocate of a return to a rhythmic, lively execution and he actively opposed the even and extremely slow delivery of the Hæffner style. This was quite a contentious issue in church circles at the time.

Lindegren published his own chorale book containing rearrangements of older chorales and a great many newly composed ones.

When a new handbook of liturgical music was to be written in 1895, Lindegren was appointed a member of the committee along with Gunnar Wennerberg, Conrad Nordqvist and Richard Norén. Two years’ endeavours finally led to a new missal for the morning service, which was later described as revolutionary in its wealth of new compositions, including several choral pieces by Lindegren. In the foreword, the committee recommended a reversion to the former liturgical form of choral song.

The composer

Lindegren’s career as a composer started off successful and promising. Some way into the 1870s he had advanced plans for a major work, such as a symphony, but his workload prevented him from doing any of his own composition until after he retired – but no such time was granted him. He died in 1908 at the age of 66. However, his limited oeuvre contains several sweeping, artistically weighty works.

Norman wrote in a testimonial that Lindegren ‘possesses extremely rare talent for all thematic work in musical composition and a thorough grasp of harmony, of which his works bear witness’. Lindegren claimed himself to embrace ‘the melodic principle, being the true idea that breathes life into music’.

His works are written in a romantic style on a classical base, and the fact that he constructed his works with contrapuntal proficiency and an otherwise complete mastery of the musical craft does not mean that they lack vigour and stature. His music is indeed infused with ‘the sacred flame of art’.

Even though Lindegren made conscientious study of the music of former times, he kept himself up to date with new musical trends and showed much interest in composers like Franz Liszt and Max Reger. His own musical language is one of chromaticism and bold harmonies.

The 1860s produced, amongst other pieces, the piano works Fuga uti fri stil and Stor sonat with the rubric ‘canon’; both were entered into the Musikaliska konstföreningens (Swedish Art Music Society’s) annual competition for publication. Lindegren staked everything. Musicologist Bo Wallner describes his Fantasie-Polonaise as ‘a piece in the grandiose piano style’; it too also probably belongs to his early works.

In 1876 Lindegren submitted his string quintet to the Musikaliska konstföreningen’s competition, but it did not enjoy the same kind of success as the two earlier piano works. National romantics were now lauding other ideals that involved simpler textures and, ideally, allusions to folk music.

In his sacred works, Lindegren was an exponent of the archaic, anti-romantic movement that began to make headway in liturgical music towards the close of the 1800s.

Despite his lofty artistic ambitions, Lindegren also composed salon music in the true spirit of his age.

When Lindegren’s string quintet was given its first public outing at the Swedish music festival of 1906, it garnered considerable attention, giving Lindegren the pleasure of appreciation as a composer in the winter of his life. The quintet was published posthumously by the Musikaliska konstföreningen in 1909 and now ranks as one of the late 19th century’s most significant chamber music works.

Christina Tobeck © 2016
trans. Neil Betteridge

Publications by the composer

‘Om villkoren för blomstringen af vår nationella tonkonst’, Necken. Svensk musiktidning, nos 1, 2 and 4 1880.
‘Bör koralfrågan som fråga anses’, Necken. Svensk musiktidning, no. 3 1880.
‘Melodi och harmoni. Studie af Johan Lindegren’, Necken. Svensk musiktidning, nos 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12 1880.
‘Mera i koralfrågan’, Necken. Svensk musiktidning, no. 5 1880.
‘Koralvännernas möte i Uppsala’, Necken. Svensk musiktidning, no. 13 1880.
‘Orgelspelet i sin skönhet och sanning’, Necken. Svensk musiktidning, no. 18 1880. [Reprinted in Orgelforum 1999 no. 1 with introductory commentary by Sverker Jullander.]
‘Kyrkosångens höjande och förbättrande’, Tidning för kyrkomusik, nos 2, 3, 4 and 5 1881.
‘Om koralkomposition och harmonisering’, Tidning för kyrkomusik, nos 5, 6 and 7 1881.
‘Kyrkomusikens betydelse och uppgift’, Tidning för kyrkomusik, nos 2, 3 and 4 1882.
‘Musikens odling – mensklighetens’, Tidning för kyrkomusik, nos 6, 7 and 8 1882.
‘Till tonkonstens filosofi’, Tidning för kyrkomusik, nos 10 and 12 1882.
‘Nya koralböcker’, Tidning för kyrkomusik, nos 11 and 12 1882.
‘Vår Gud är oss en väldig borg’, Svensk musiktidning, no. 17 1883.
Musiken till svenska mässan: Bilaga till svenska kyrkans handbok, Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist, 1896. [Preface Gunnar Wennerberg, Conrad Nordqvist, Richard Norén and Johan Lindegren.]
Kortfattad lärokurs i tonträffning och takt jämte tillämpningsöfningar för skolor, Stockholm: AB Cecilias förlag, 1898.
Svensk koralbok: Den evangeliska församlingssångens verkliga toner och rytmer, historiskt restituerade, för kyrko- och skolbruk lämpade till svenska psalmtexter jämte talrika äldre och nyare alternativ, harmoniserade, taktiskt ordnade och metronomiserade, att utföras med ledning af inöfvad unison kör och orgel. Musik till svenska psalmboken af år 1819. Vol. 1. Johan Lindegren (pub.), Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1905, 2nd revised ed. [Title on the cover: Ny svensk koralbok (restituerad).], Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1906.
1819–1918. En studie öfver den protestantiska koralen, tillägnad Sveriges organister och andra intresserade [Title on the cover: En koralbroschyr.], Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1907.
‘Koralboksfrågan. Inledningsföredrag [vid Allmänna organistmötet, jämte debattinlägg]’, Kyrkomusik och skolsång, nos 40 and 41 1907.
Åtskilliga mindre artiklar, även dikter, anonyma, signerade eller under pseudonymen Orfeus i ovannämnda tidskrifter.
Published: Tidning för kyrkomusik 1881–1882 samt dess musikbilaga Urania. Musik för kyrkan, skolan och hemmet, 1882.


Alfvén, Hugo: [untitled article], Hvar 8 dag, no. 18 1906/07.
−−−: ‘Min lärare Johan Lindegren’, in: Musikmänniskor: Personliga minnen av bortgångna svenska tonsättare. Hågkomster och livsintryck XXIV, Folke H. Törnblom (ed.), Uppsala: Lindblad, 1943.
−−−Första satsen: Ungdomsminnen, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1946.
−−−Tempo furioso: Vandringsår, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1948.
Anon.: ‘En bortglömd musiker’, Dagens Nyheter, 21 May 1906
Beckman, Bror: ‘Några minnets ord öfver en bortgången musiker’, Idun, no. 25 1908.
Blom, Oscar: ‘Johan Lindegren. Hans liv och verksamhet’, Kyrkomusik och skolsång, nos 24 and 25 1910.
Bohlin, Folke (Helmer, Axel): ‘Lindegren, Johan’, in: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol. 11, Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004.
Carlsson, Curt: Musikaliska konstföreningen 150 år: Några kapitel ur dess historia, Stockholm: Musikaliska konstföreningen, 2009.
Eriksson, Ola: ‘Lindegren Johannes (Johan)’, Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon, vol. 23, Stockholm: Svensk biografiskt lexikon, 1980−81.
Friberg, Britta: [article], in: Tonkonsten: Internationellt musiklexikon, vol. 2, Stockholm: AB Nordiska uppslagsböcker, 1957.
Hallenberg, Aron: ‘Johan Lindegren. Några minnesblad ur hans liv’, Kyrkosångsförbundet, no. 4 1951.
Hedwall, Lennart: Hugo Alfvén: En svensk tonsättares liv och verk, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1973.
Layton, Robert: ‘Lindegren, Johan’, in: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol. 14, London: Macmillan, 2001.
Lellky, Åke: Musikaliska konstföreningen 1859–1959, Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1959.
Lindfors, Per: Hugo Alfvén berättar: Radiointervjuer, Stockholm: Natur och kultur, 1966.
Matrikel, utförlig och fullständig, öfver Sveriges folkskollärare, organister, kantorer och lärare etc. jemte uppgift om löneförmåner m.m. för 1889, Pehr Borg (ed.), Norrköping: M.W. Wallberg, 1889.
Moberg, Carl-Allan: ‘Johan Lindegren. Till hundraårsminnet av hans födelse’, Kyrkosångsförbundet, no. 4 1942.
−−−Kyrkomusikens historia, Stockholm: Diakonistyrelsens förlag, 1932.
Musiken i Sverige, vol. 3, Den nationella identiteten 1810–1920, Leif Jonsson och Martin Tegen (eds), Stockholm: Fischer & Co., 1992.
O.R.: ‘Johan Lindegren − nordens lärdaste kontrapunktist’, Svenska Dagbladet, 9 Jan. 1907.
Pereswetoff-Morath, Magnus: ‘Johan Lindegren: Kontrapunktiker − pedagog. Lindegren och hans lärjungar’, 60-credit thesis in musicology, Stockholm University, 1988.
Reese, Anne: ‘Johan Lindegrens vägval: En studie i de faktorer som påverkade enskilda aktörers verksamhet inom Stockholms musiksamhälle 1860–1908’, master thesis in musicology, Uppsala University, 2007.
Stare, Ivar: ‘Lindegren, Johan’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, 1st ed. vol. 3, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1951, 2nd revised ed. vol. 4, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1977.
Tobeck, Christina: ‘Johan Lindegren – inte bara kontrapunktlärare [induction address at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music]’, in: Årsskrift 2007, Stockholm: the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, 2008.
Wallin, Nils: ‘Johan Lindegren’, Svenska män och kvinnor: Biografisk uppslagsbok, vol. 4, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1948.
Wallner, Bo: ‘Johan Lindegren och hans stråkkvintett’, CD booklet, Musica Sveciae MS 510 LP 1987, CD 1996.

Radio programmes
‘‘Måla mig en värld …’. Johan Lindegren – upptänd av konstens heliga flamma. Tre program av Christina Tobeck om den svenske 1800-talsmusikern hundra år efter hans bortgång’, Sveriges Radio P2 1, 8 and 15 June 2008.


Kungliga Biblioteket Stockholm, Musikmuseet Stockholm, Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek.

Summary list of works

Chamber music (string quintet), works for piano (Fuga uti fri stil, Stor sonat (canon), Elegi, Fantasi-polonaise, Kanon-Rhapsodie, etc.), liturgical music (choral pieces, chorales and some minor organ pieces).

Collected works

Information on the year of composition is not certain.

Chamber music
Quintet for 2 violins, 2 violas, 1 cello F major, printed in 1909.

Piano works
Fuga uti fri stil, printed in 1866.
Great sonata (‘canon’) op. 2, printed in 1867.
Miniatyrbilder. 1. Ballad, 2. Vid en blommas graf. Necken, Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 3, 1880.
Till allra kärestan. Salon piece. Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 4, 1880.
Polarfararnes vals, 1880. Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 6, 1880.
Serenade. Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 7, 1880.
Small simple piano pieces. II. Sorg i rosenrödt, III. Mazurka. Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 7, 1880.
Meditationer I och II. Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 23, 1880.
Fest-Marsch composed for orchestra. Arrangement for piano and four hands. Till Vegas hjeltar [orchestra version is lost or never brought to completion], 1880.
Elegy on the passing of Oscar Arnoldsons, 1881.
Fantasie-Polonaise, printed in 1892.
Canon-Rhapsodie, printed in 1898.

Melody for organ or piano. Tidning för kyrkomusik, vol. 1, no. 1, 1881.
Fugue (on Agnus Dei). Urania, musik för kyrkan skolan och hemmet, 1882 (appendix to Tidning för kyrkomusik).
Melody for organ or piano. Tidning för kyrkomusik, vol. 1, no. 7, 1881.
Melody for organ or piano. Tidning för kyrkomusik, vol. 2, no. 1, 1882.
Simple chorale preludes. Urania, musik för kyrkan skolan och hemmet, 1882.

Som i ungdomens år, for voice and piano (J. Lindegren), 1876.
Liljan i dalen, for voice and piano (J. Lindegren). Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 23, 1880.

Choral works
New composed chorale, Din spira, Jesu, sträckes ut, for SATB (Swedish hymnal no. 118). Necken, Svensk Musiktidning, vol. 1, no. 15, 1880.
Motet, Jordens oro viker för den fröjd som varar, for SAATB (J.O. Wallin). Tidning för kyrkomusik, vol. 1, no. 2, 1881.
Chorale, O Gud! hvem skall jag klaga, for SATB (Swedish hymnal no. 373). Tidning för kyrkomusik, vol. 2, no. 10, 1882.
Kyrie. Herre, förbarma Dig, for SSATB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
New chorale melodies. Urania, musik för kyrkan skolan och hemmet, 1882 (appendix to Tidning för kyrkomusik).
Laudamus. Vi prisa Dig, for SATBB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Laudamus. Vi prisa Dig, for SATBB and organ. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Laudamus. Vi prisa Dig, for SSATB and organ. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Laudamus. Vi prisa Dig, for SSA. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Laudamus. Vi prisa Dig, for TTBB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Credo. Vi tro på en allsmäktig Gud, for SSATB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Credo. Vi tro på en allsmäktig Gud, for SATBB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Sanctus. Helig, Helig, Helig, for SATB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Agnus Dei. O Guds Lamm, for SATB. Musiken till Svenska Mässan, 1897.
Väktare på Sions murar, for SATB. Musica Sacra, vol. 2, 1915.
Sörj för mig, o Fader kär!, for SATB (Swedish hymnal no. 592).

Chorale book
Swedish chorale book, the Swedish congregation’s actual tones and rhythms, historically restituted, 1905, Ny svensk koralbok 1 (restituted), second revised edition, 1906. [Includes ca 400 chorales, or which a great many newly composed by Johan Lindegren.]

Kungl. biblioteket, Kungl. Teatrarnas arkiv, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Riksarkivet, Stockholms stadsarkiv, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek.