Carl Reinhold Littmarck (1842-1899)


Carl Reinhold Gottfried Littmarck was born in Stockholm on 8 January 1842 and died in Halmstad on 27 December 1899. He was a composer, conductor and orchestra leader. In 1863 Littmarck completed his music director’s degree at the educational institution of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Stockholm. He then worked as the orchestra leader at the Swedish theatre in Helsinki as well at the Mindre teatern, the Södra teatern and the Nya teatern in Stockholm. He wrote operas, operettas and comic operas as well as songs with piano arrangements.


Carl Reinhold Littmarck was born in Stockholm on 8 January. As an 18-year old he registered at Uppsala University, staying for one year. Between 1861 and 1863 he studied at the Kungliga Musikaliska akademiens undervisningssverk (the educational institution of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in Stockholm where he completed his music director’s degree. After graduating in 1863 Littmarck worked as an orchestra director at various places in Stockholm. In 1865 he married the well-known actress, Ottilia Rylander (1834−1929) with whom he collaborated a great deal.

During the summer of 1867 the Djurgårdsteatern (a theatre on the island of Djurgården) arranged five concerts with Littmarck’s music. He then produced a comedy Kusin Pettersson eller 10 minuter för sent at the Mindre teatern (a theatre at Kungsträdgården in Stockholm). It was a free translation of the German dramatist Karl August Görner’s Pinkenweiler und Müller with newly written music in eight parts. During 1871 Littmarck’s operetta Frihetsbröderna was performed. The next year he produced En hel familj på halsen, an operetta in one act at Södra teatern in Stockholm (a theatre on the island of Södermalm). Afterward the newspaper, Dagens Nyheter wrote the following on 11 February 1872: ‘…the music, since it was otherwise produced with good taste and talent, stood for a good many memories’.

Littmarck, together with his wife took over the management of the Södra teatern in Stockholm in the autumn of 1873, leading it for one year. The couple then moved to Helsinki where they worked at the Svenska teatern (a Swedish language theatre in Helsinki). After a little more than one year in Helsinki they moved back to Stockholm and began working at the Nya teatern (later known as Svenska teatern, a theatre on the peninsula Blasieholmen) as well as with regional theatres around Sweden. With the so-called Littmarckska teatersällskapet (the Littmarck theatre society), in which Ottilia was also active, Littmarck diligently toured in Sweden with various productions during the 1880s and ‘90s.

On 26 December 1899, however, Littmarck met with a horrible accident. The Littmarckska teatersällskapet was on tour, travelling by train from Varberg to Halmstad. The company’s car did not have a smoking compartment so Littmarck stood on the outside the train car in order to smoke a cigar. He probably leaned out too far or sat down on the safety line and then fell off the train in Falkenberg. He badly injured his head and broke all of the toes on one foot. He was taken to the hospital but died the following day.


Carl Reinhold Littmarck’s wrote mainly for the theatre stage. He composed two operas and a number of operettas and comic operas.

The opera Hagbrandwas composed in four acts together with a postlude. Hagbrand was popular at the time and the Littmarckska sällskapet toured with the opera as late as the autumn of 1899. It is a dramatic and heroic opera about revenge, love and the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia. The theme encompasses the Vikings’ love for Scandinavia and for the Nordic pagan religion Asatro. At the centre of the action stands a Viking lineage with a man who has sworn vengeance for the death of his older brother. In the final dramatic scene a Viking woman chooses to freeze to death out in the cold (praying to the Norse god Frey) rather then go inside the church where those who were Christianised are singing.

The opera Jungfrun från Orleans was Littmarck’s final work. He completed it right before his fatal accident in December of 1899. It is a tragedy in five acts, partly based on Friedrich Schiller’s tragedy Die Jungfrau von Orléans. Littmarck wrote both the text and the music. The work tells of the saint Joan of Arc and her visions, which led to her becoming the commander of the French against the English during the Hundred Years’ War.

Another of Littmarck’s larger works that deserves mention is Nerkingarne, a comedy in eight parts with an overture. Here he combined his own music with folk music as well as with pieces by Carl Johan Lewerth and Jacques Offenbach.

Additionally he composed music to a number of song texts by Elias Sehlstedt (1808−1874). Most of Littmarck’s songs were dedicated to the tenor and actor Victor Holmquist (1842−1895) and were published in three songbooks (1872–1874). It was written in Dagens Nyheter on 1 July 1873 that: ‘Herr Victor Holmquist has in particular circles, with the liveliest approval shown preference for these beautiful songs, which have been dedicated to him by the fortunate composer.’ The songs are humorous and easy to listen to, with mostly rhyming texts and an uncomplicated accompaniment that was suited to the theatre stage. Sehlstedt’s texts were mainly depictions of nature; for example, ‘En fluga om våren!’(A fly in the spring), ‘En blick på naturen’ (A glance at nature) and different variants on the theme of being satisfied and thankful for what you have; for example, ‘Vackert så!’ (It is beautiful as it is) and ‘Till en sorgsen, bitter och missnöjd själ’ (To a sorrowful, bitter and dissatisfied soul).

Angelina Liljevall © 2016
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson


A. F.: Review in Dagens Nyheter, 26 Sept. 1876.
Unsigned: Review in Dagens Nyheter, 10 Nov. 1870.
Unsigned: Review in Dagens Nyheter, 19 Dec. 1871.
Unsigned: Review in Dagens Nyheter, 14 Nov. 1871.
Unsigned: Obituary in Svenska Dagbladet, 28 Dec. 1899.
Unsigned: Review in Tidning för Wenersborgs stad och län, 15 May 1895.
Unsigned: Review in Aftonbladet, 9 Feb. 1872.
Unsigned: Notice in Dagens Nyheter 27 Dec. 1899.
Unsigned: Notice in Aftonbladet 15 Feb. 1877.
Unsigned: Notice in Aftonbladet 15 Dec. 1874.
Unsigned: Review in Dagens Nyheter, 1 July 1873.
Unsigned: Review in Dagens Nyheter, 11 Feb. 1872.
Ström, Ottmar: ‘Littmarck, C. G. R.’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, Stockholm 1975.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.

Summary list of works

2 operas (Hagbrand, Jungfrun från Orleans,), 4 operettas (Frihetsbröderna, En hel familj på halsen, Liten Karin, Théblomma), 3 comic operas (Nerkingarne, Kusin Pettersson eller 10 minuter för sent, Qvinnolist), Pantomime-ballet (Elfdrottningens bröllop), songs (Vackert så!, Salig farmor, En blick på naturen, Till en sorgsen bitter och missnöjd själ, etc.).

Collected works

Hagbrand, 1885.
Jungfrun från Orleans, 1899.

Frihetsbröderna, 1871.
En hel familj på halsen (Wallmark), 1872.
Liten Karin, 1895.
Théblomma, 1882.

Comic operas
Nerkingarne [overture and eight numbers: three songs, a farmer’s waltz, a piece by C.J. Lewerth, one by J. Offenbach, one from Filikromen, one from Dalarna, a folk song and five melodies from Närke], 1871.
Kusin Pettersson eller 10 minuter för sent (free trans. by K.A. Görners Pinkenweiler und Müller’), 1870.
Qvinnolist, 1876.

Elfdrottningens bröllop, 1895.

Cantata for the funeral of Edward Stjernström (J. Jolin), 1877.

Four songs by Elias Sehlstedt for one voice and piano and dedicated to Victor Holmquist. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1872. 1. Vackert så!, 2. En fluga i april, 3. En blick på naturen, 4. Salig farmor.
Four new songs at the piano (E. Sehlstedt), Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist, 1874. 1. Dopparedagen 1870, 2. Till min mage, 3. På gästgifvaregården, 4. Till en sorgsen bitter och missnöjd själ.
Three songs by Sehlstedt sung by Victor Holmquist. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1873. 1. Lilla Lisa, 2. Från en husmamsell på landet, 3. En filosof

Works by Carl Reinhold Littmarck

There are no works by the composer registered