Albert Gustaf Löfgren was born on 21 September 1872 in Hasslösa, Västergötland, and died in nearby Eggby on 4 January 1930. He was a musician, conductor, composer and arranger. A versatile instrumentalist, Löfgren was one of the most outstanding clarinet soloists of his time. Although schooled in military music, his compositions emanated from folk music. His rhapsodies Slåttergille, Svensk fantasi and Forna dar received wide acclaim from his contemporaries.
Growing up, Education and Early Career
Albert Löfgren was the youngest of three musical brothers in a family that bore the name Andersson Gren. The three brothers, of which Carl Emil and Johan August were the oldest, were sons to the crofter Lars Peter Andersson Gren and his wife Anna Christina Jansdotter. The family was poor, but both parents were interested in music, and this inclination was passed on to the sons. The father played the psalmodikon, which made an early musical impression on the boys. Another influence on the brothers was folk music from the western Swedish province of Västergötland, namely the Valle district. Since the military offered possibilities for advancement and a professional career as a musician, it was to the military that the three brothers turned.
The boys were intitially taught by a retired sergeant major in Skärf. In order to finance their continued education, they were compelled to borrow money from neighbours. Their aim was to become musicians at Axevalla heath, a military training ground for the Royal Skaraborg and Västergötland regiments. In 1882 the three brothers – fifteen, thirteen and ten years old – turned up at the Västergötland regimental sergeant major’s registry office and were accepted, but to avoid confusion all were given new last names. Johan August was given the last name Gréhn, Carl Emil was named Lundgren and Gustav Albert, Löfgren. All three achieved careers as prominent musicians. On 24 February 1883, Albert was accepted to the regiment as a drummer. But his brother Carl, who was a respected clarinetist, introduced Albert to the clarinet, which would later become his main instrument. Several years later, Albert Löfgren was promoted to corporal on 19 July 1890 and to sergeant on 26 January 1892.
Most military musicians earned a living by other means during the winter months. However, Albert Löfgren and his brothers were skilled and ambitious and could thus continue to work as musicians full-time. In 1892 Albert joined his brother Carl (on the clarinet) and August (on bass) as a violinist with Hjalmar Meissner’s Orchestra in Stockholm. Löfgren remained with Meissner until 1895. In January of 1893 he began studies at the Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Stockholm under the eminent clarinetist Johan Kjellberg. That same year he married Jenny Kristina Andersson who was born in Varnhem on 12 August 1870. In 1896, Albert Löfgren completed his military Director of Music degree at the Conservatory, receiving excellent grades and recommendations. While completing his education during the 1890’s, he simultaneously had several military music assignments within the Västergötland regiment as both a field musician, sergeant and sergeant major.
Military and civilian musician
As a professional musician, Albert Löfgren worked more and more in civilian contexts, although he continued to work with military music alongside this. In 1902 he became the solo clarinetist of the Stockholms Konsertförening (precursor to the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra) led by Tor Aulin – Aulin also hired him to collaborate with the Aulin String Quartet. Löfgren worked as a conductor and then director of music at the Älvsborg regiment in Borås 1904−09, with the purpose of raising the regiment’s level of musicianship. He was then employed as solo clarinetist with the Göteborg Konsertförening (precursor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) 1909−25 while he was simultaneously music sergeant major and conductor with the Göta Artillery Regiment 1909−26. He combined his pursuits as a musician with educational activities, namely as a teacher at the Gothenburg Orchestra School 1915−25. His military merits include being awarded with the ranks Lieutenant (1920) and Captain (1922).
As a composer, Albert Löfgren’s natural field of expertise was military music. Yet he composed music for a variety of ensembles: salon orchestra, accordion, piano, violin and larger orchestras. Löfgren also made many arrangements of folk music, a pursuit which included documenting his source material (his folk music legacy was carried on by his son, rikspelman (National Folk Musician) Nils Löfgren, on the violin). During his childhood folk melodies from Västergötland had left an impression on Albert Löfgren, and he returned to this subject in both his compositions and musical arrangements. Like his colleague of the same age, Hugo Alfvén, Löfgren’s background in Swedish folk music melodies formed the foundation for his original creations – as revealed shimmeringly in Slåttergille (1927), which expresses the moods of a Swedish summer with discernible skill and imagination. Löfgren’s originality as a composer can be found in the crossroads between melodic folk music and the wind instrument tradition of military music.
During Albert Löfgren’s life, a number of his works – such as Älfsborgslåtar and Fantasi öfver västgötalåtar – were published, recorded and released by different publishing houses, a few in several editions. Many of his compositions are still popular, particularly within a military context. They have been recorded by several military bands, and published in new versions by various arrangers, including for use in films. Unfortunately much of Albert Löfgren’s military music, in the original or as copies, has largely been lost. In acknowledgement of his extensive musical achievements, Albert Löfgren was awarded the royal medal Litteris et artibus in 1925.
Toivo Burlin © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Bondestam, Torgny: En bok om I15: Kungl Älvsborgs regemente 1624−1974, Borås: I15, 1974, pp. 262−266.
Gustafsson, Ille: ‘Löfgren, Albert’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 4, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1977, p. 401.
Rudén, Jan Olof: ‘Hugo Alfvén och Albert Lövgren’, Alfvéniana, nos 1−2 2007.
Schiller, Harald & Broman, Sten: ‘Folkton från Västergötland’, Sydsvenska Dagbladet Snällposten, 20 October 1955.
Strand, Sigfrid: ‘G. Albert Löfgren’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 24, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1982−84, p. 501.
Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.
Summary list of works
Orchestral music (Slåttergille, Svensk fantasi, Forna dar, Fantasi öfver Vestgöta-låtar, etc.), piano works (including several arrangements of folk music).
Älfsborgslåtar, songs and dances transcribed and arranged for orchestra, 23 November 1908.
Gångtrall (arr. for wind orchestra and organ).
Från forna dar, 1924.
Slåttergille, Svenskt Allmogestycke, for 2 flutes, 2 clarinets in A, bass clarinet in A, tenor saxophone in C and french horn in F, 1927.
Svenska nationalmelodier, for salon orchestra, 1925.
Tre danslåtar från Södra Kinds härad.
Fantasy on two Swedish folk melodies.
Suite no 2 on Swedish motifs.
Fantasi öfver Vestgöta-låtar, transcribed and arranged for military band by Albert Löfgren.
Tva danselåtar ifrå’ Väschöttaböjda.
Spelemanshambo o Annersa-Lisa-polka på Axevalla he’, 1902.
Gångtrall, svenskt allmogestycke, 1904.
Beväringsdans från Axevalla he', 1902 [also in Dansalbum för ungdom, for violin and piano, 1905. Danser och låtar for violin, in Abr. Lundquists orkester-bibliotek, 27, 1905].
Älfsborgslåtar, songs and dances transcribed from Knallebygden and arranged for piano by Albert Löfgren. 1. Visa, 2. Gammal allmogevals från Gäsene härad, 3a. Gammal trall från Marks härad, 3b. Gammal trall från Fristadstrakten, 4. Visa från Västergötland, 5. Knallen och vittran, 6. Gammal soldat-trall från Älfsborgs regemente, 7a. Slängpolska, 7b. Speleman i Vänga, 8. Gammal Västgötavisa.
En västgötalåt, 1907.
Violin and piano
Gångtrall, svenskt allmogestycke, 1904.
Transcriptions and arrangements
Spelmansvisor och danser, 1912.
Från när och fjärran, populärsvit.
Danslåtar från Vestergötland.
Flickan hon går i dansen, schottische.
Luk op! Till bröder Sångare i S.H.T.
Fiskarvals från Bohuslän (David Hellström, arr. A. Löfgren).
Gammal allmogevals från Gäsene härad.
Gammal trall från Marks härad.
Knallen och vittran (trad. from Västergötland).
Gammal soldattrall från Älfsborgs regemente (trad. from Västergötland).
Slängpolska från Valle härad (trad. from Västergötland).
Jag gick mig ut att fria en dag jag var så fin.
Friarvisa från Sjuhäradsbygden (trad. from Västergötland).
Gammal svensk kadrilj (trad.).
Gånglåt från Hälsingland (trad.).
Beväringstrall från Axvall (trad.).
Slängpolska från Valle härad D major (trad.).
Slängpolska från Valle härad F major (trad.).
Polska från S. Kind D minor (trad.).
Dragspels-album, 2, o Nya messings-sextetter 25.
Karl Johan Lilliehöök, march.
Överste Hamilton, march.
Överste Sjöquist, march.