Lennart Lundberg (1863−1931)


Lennart Arvid Lundberg was born in Norrköping on 29 September 1863 and died in Karlshamn on 27 July 1931. He is most known for his contributions to piano teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm, where he turned out a long line of successful pianists. He was also a composer and wrote a great deal of piano music that was subjective and harmonically bold for its time. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1904.


Early years

Lennart Lundberg was born in Norrköping in 1863. His father, bank clerk Magnus Lundberg, died the year after his birth, leaving his wife Augusta to provide for the family with the income she earned from her small private lending library. Lennart Lundberg had humanist interests and was quick to demonstrate a talent for piano.

On leaving school in Norrköping he applied to study piano at the Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Stockholm, where he was enrolled in 1881. His teacher was Hilda Thegerström, the leading Swedish piano teacher of the time. She took the young Lundberg under her wing and supported him financially so that he could study abroad. She herself had studied with Franz Liszt in Weimar and, for a while, with Antoine-François Marmontel in Paris, the esteemed piano teacher at the conservatory there. Lundberg went to Paris at the end of 1887 after a brief period of study in Berlin with pianist Heinrich Ehrlich.

In Paris

Lennart Lundberg arrived in Paris at a time when many Swedish musicians, especially singers, resided in the city to further their studies or careers. He remained until the summer of 1890, returning to spend the following two winter seasons there. In all, this brought him into close contact with the French music scene for a total of four years. It appears he spent some time attending Louis Diémer’s piano classes at the conservatory, along with Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski, who became one of Lundberg’s friends; it was probably through the likes of Diémer, Stojowski and fellow-student Erik Åkerberg, a student of César Franck’s, that Lundberg connected with the latest trends in French music. The music library he left to posterity includes works by Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

In Paris Lundberg cultivated his acquaintance with the Chopin tradition at lessons held by Camille Dubois, one of the great pianist’s students. He also studied for Ignaz Paderewski and received training in composition and counterpoint from Ernest Le Tourneux, a precocious and productive composer five years his junior who represented a harmonically lush, salonesque style that Lundberg began to emulate. He wrote songs and short piano pieces during his Paris years and performed his opus 1, ‘Au bord de la mer’ (dedicated to Hilda Thegerström), at a concert in Salle Erard in 1890. It was not long before this and the song ‘Sorg’ were both published in Paris.

The pianist and the teacher

Lennart Lundberg was known as a highly gifted concert pianist, and had appeared as such in Stockholm before his studies in Paris, where he gave a new concert in 1892. Before he took to the stage this second time, Hilda Thegerström expressed her fear that his technique had developed in the wrong direction − ‘Charming but effete, inferior education’ − and urged him to remain in Stockholm to teach and study. And so it was. He eventually put aside all performing and devoted himself full-time to teaching and composition. 

When Hilda Thegerström retired from the Musikkonservatoriet in 1904 she was succeeded by Lundberg, who was made professor in 1913. He remained at the conservatory until 1928, during which time he trained a large number of successful Swedish pianists, including Stina Sundell, Sven Brandel, Olof Wibergh and Gunnar de Frumerie. Many of his students, such as Brandel, de Frumerie, Märta Ohlson, Gösta Nystroem and Harry Ebert, went on to study in Paris as he himself had done. He was an inspirational teacher, who would invite his students to his home for captivating musical soirees when everyone ‘sat on cushions in front of a fire while someone played’, in the words of conductor Tor Mann.

The composer and the man

Lennart Lundberg’s first proper public appearance as a composer − discounting his earlier concerts in Paris − was in January 1899 at a composition evening in the city with the American singer Minnie Tracey, a concert that was warmly received.

Lundberg composed a number of songs but otherwise concentrated almost exclusively on piano, working at a steady pace from the 1890s to the mid-1920s, with a more intense period around 1909−10. The dedications he made to his students and friends are evidence of a wide network of contacts; he found a particularly close soul-mate in his pupil Henning Mankell, who also created harmonically imaginative Chopinesque piano pieces with a similar streak of modesty towards his achievements.

As a private person, Lennart Lundberg cut a rather withdrawn figure, which could be why he gave up performing as a concert pianist. He was a devoted amateur artist, who liked nothing better than to pain dramatic seascapes, and spent all his free time close to the sea. Many of his compositions have littoral locations as their designated place of conception, such as the islands of Utö, Harstena and Utsira, with its North Sea lighthouse. On his retirement in 1928 Lennart Lundberg left the capital for the more suitably tranquil coastal milieu of Karlshamn, where he died from heart disease in 1931. 


Despite the fact that Lennart Lundberg’s oeuvre contains numerous solo songs and that amongst his autographs are sketches for a couple of orchestral works, his legacy is completely dominated by piano music, notably sonatas and a great many pieces with such titles as ballad, berceuse, impromptu, legend, marin and nocturne. Many of his works have been published, while others only exist in manuscript form. The opus numbering in print and manuscript do not always tally.

The salon style that Lundberg adopted already had quite a colourful harmonic palette, which presumably inspired the greater boldness that characterises his later music, with its rather loose harmonic migrations and use of chords that live their own life rather than following the rules of harmony. In the opinion of German music critic Walter Niemann writing in 1918, Lundberg was the most modernist of Swedish piano composers. His style was ‘strongly personal’ with a ‘bizarre and harshly inaccessible piano sound’, shot through − as Niemann rightly mentions − with a vein of heavy melancholy.

Lundberg’s music is rich in tonal variation but not formally advanced. Brief melodic motifs are presented and varied, at times with provocative simplicity, and used to build up long passages, ideally with large crescendo and diminuendo passages. A traditional ABA form is common in his piano pieces, but they can also be very short and lack contrasting sections. 

Lennart Lundberg’s music rarely features on concert programmes and recordings, but with its originality and expressiveness of tone, it has the potential to spark the interest of contemporary and future pianists alike.

Anders Edling © 2015
Trans. Neil Betteridge


Aare, Leif: Studier i Lennart Lundbergs pianomusik, Bachelor's thesis in musicology, Uppsala University, 1956.
Edling, Anders: 'Lennart Lundberg', in: Franskt i svensk musik 1880−1920, diss. in musicology, Uppsala University, 1982.
Niemann, Walter: 'Lennart Lundberg', in: Die nordische Klaviermusik, 1918, pp. 57−59.
Rangström, Ture: 'De tystlåtna − och en stridsman!', in: Musikmänniskor, 1943.
Seymer, William
: 'Lennart Lundberg', in: Svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 5, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1949, p. 96.
Uppström, Tore: Pianister i Sverige, Stockholm, 1973.


Bergens offentliga bibliotek, Musik- och teatermuseet, Riksarkivet Stockholm, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Stockholms stadsarkiv.
Porträtt: Kungl. Musikhögskolan Stockholm

Summary list of works

Piano music (4 sonatas and approx. 80 pieces with titles like prelude, ballad and barcarole), 14 songs.

Collected works

Printed works are marked with ‘(pr.)’.

Piano sonatas
Sonata op. 5 C minor, 1893–94.
Sonata op. 13 D minor, 1897.
Sonata op. 18 F minor, 1898.
Sonata op. 33 D minor, 1905−06 (pr.).

Freestanding pieces for piano with opus number
Four preludes op. 4, 1893.
Barcarole op. 7:1 C minor (pr.).
Legend op. 7:4 E-flat major, 1896 (pr.).
Thema/Andante con variazioni op. 9, 1896?
Scherzo op. 12 A-flat major, 1896−97? (pr.).
Swedish rhapsody op. 15, 1897.
Four piano pieces op. 16, 1897. 1. Idyll, 2. Humoresque, 3. Scherzo, 4. Nocturne.
Three fantasy pieces op. 20, 1898. 1. Album leaf, 2. Humoresque, 3. Marin.
Ballade op. 23 C-sharp minor, 1898−99.
Romance op. 31 B minor, 1904 (pr.).
Three piano pieces op. 35, 1907. 1. Nocturne, 2. Barcarole, 3. Prelude.
Two preludes op. 37, 1908.
Ballad B-flat minor op. 42, 1910.
Ballad op. 44:2 C major, 1910−11 (pr.).
Mazurka op. 45 E-flat minor, 1910 (pr.).
Drei Fantasiestücke op. 46, 1911 (pr.).
Ballade op. 47 B major, 1912 (pr.).
Legend op. 55:1 A minor, 1916 (pr.).
Impromptu op. 56:2 E minor, 1917.
Polonaise op. 57 B major, 1918 (pr.).
Ballad op. 61:1 C-sharp minor, 1922 (pr.).
Nocturne op. 61:2 B-flat major, 1922 (pr.).
Epilogue op. 61:5 A minor, 1922 (pr.).

Other piano music (printed)
6 Klavierstücke, 2 vol. (pr.).
5 Marinen (pr.).
Konzert-Etüden, 2 vol. (pr.).
Skizzen, 2 vol. (pr.).
Technical studies for piano (pr.).

I sommarkväll, 1888 (pr.).
Sorg, 1890 (pr.).
Violoncell, 1898 (pr.).
Dold förening, 1898 (pr.).
Jeg elsker dig, 1899.
Two songs op. 28, 1900. 1. Till Sverige, 2. I skogen.
Four songs op. 30, 1903. 1. Havets vågor, 2. Höst, 3. När?, 4. Till havet.
Till Helganaes, 1904.
Ich grolle nicht, 1910.
Eviga fröjd och smärta, 1922.

Works by Lennart Lundberg

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 19