Johan Fredrik Palm (1754−1821)


Johan Fredrik Palm was born on 20 August 1754 in Stockholm and died on 15 March 1821 in Edsberg, Sollentuna. He was a pianist, composer and music educator, and taught keyboard and elementary singing in 1772 and 1818−21, respectively, at the educational institution of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He also worked at the Royal Opera as an accompanist (1778−87) and second singing master (1787−1805). He was elected into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1794.


Even though Johan Fredrik Palm is the most frequently published composer after Olof Åhlström in the latter’s anthologies Musikalisk Tidsfördrif and Skaldestycken satte i musik, he is barely mentioned in contemporary documents and thus little is known about his life and circumstances. He must have earned a measure of precocious renown as a talented pianist, for in 1772, at the age of 19, he was made keyboard teacher at the newly established educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (Royal Swedish Academy of Music), where financial constraints precluded proper instrumental teaching until some way into the 1800s. Palm probably had countless private students but seems to have participated in concerts only rarely. However, he appeared as a soloist in a Mozart concerto during royal court musician C.I.B. Megelin’s concert at Riddarhuset (the House of the Nobility) on 23 September 1792 and in a Johann Christian Bach double concerto with Åhlström at singer Christoffer Karsten’s concert in Börssalen (the grand hall of the Stockholm Stock Exchange) on 15 March 1795. And Dagligt Allehanda reports that in January 1810 Palm also performed a variation work for piano, possibly his own.

Palm is mentioned as an ‘accompanist at the harpsichord’ at the Kungliga Operan (Royal Opera) in 1778−87, which presumably means that he was part of the orchestra for works that demanded particular recitative and/or basso continuo accompaniment. From 1787 to 1805 he was second singing master responsible for rehearsals and the soloists’ vocal condition; the first singing masters at this time were J.C.F. Hæffner (1787−96) and Ludovico Piccinni (1796−1803). Subsequently, the only time Palm’s name appears in official contexts is in 1818, when he was made teacher of elementary singing at the educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien, a position that he retained until his death. Elementary singing was the term used for the teaching given to students who were not destined to become professional (the teacher of solo singing at the time was the Kungliga Operan’s then second singing master, Carl August Stieler). Palm was a member of the Par Bricole order, founded in 1779, where most of Stockholm’s professional and amateur musicians met.


Palm’s close to 60 songs, the majority from the 1790s, encompass most of the blossoming drawing-room-ballad genres – from drinking songs and love songs to role songs and ballads –and thus contain elements inspired by both the French song tradition and the currently popular German lied. Although almost all the songs are strophic, Palm demonstrates a melodic breadth from the simplest ‘Till Sophie’ to lyrics by Swedish poet Anna Maria Lenngren (Skaldestycken satte i musik, 1793), to the sweeping art song ‘Förrn solens morgonblick’ and full aria scene ‘Julia’ (both in Musikalisk Tidsfördrif, 1797). What strikes the ear is a melodic suppleness that allows expressive major/minor modulations and relatively high vocal pitches (even though the songs are well suited to transposition).

While Palm’s settings of Lenngren’s poems are said to have been his most popular, he also composed a large number of sensitive songs to poems by Axel Gabriel Silverstolpe and Carl Johan Lindegren, and liked to adopt Gustaf Paykull’s Anacreon pastiches for his drinking songs. Of note is his interpretation of Kellgren’s ‘Epicurismen’ (‘Lägg af, min vän, den sorgedräkt’, 1789). He also composed Franzén’s popular ‘Supvisa’ (‘Goda gosse, glaset töm’) twice (both times in 1794), although both songs have since paled under the glow of Åhlström’s more famous version. Palm’s melody to Franzén’s ‘Den gamle knekten’ (‘Det var i Saimen’, 1792) is to be sustained over 34 (!) stanzas and in print bears the instruction ‘L’accomp. siegue esattamente la declamazione’ – food for thought for all those who adhere strictly to the printed notes in these songs – interpretive freedom here is a natural necessity. Palm provides three of the melodies in Johan Elers’s collection Glada Qväden (1792), one of which is used for three different sets of lyrics.

Some of Palm’s piano pieces were included in Musikalisk Tidsfördrif: in 1807 a Marche Funebre in C minor, which, surprisingly, contains a few measures in triple metre shortly before the end; and two F major Waltzes, the one in 1808 and the other in 1814, both containing decorative eight-bar phrases and the first with elements in a minor key. More typical of contemporary tastes are his variation works, including one in B-flat major that was published in the second volume of Öfnings-Musik för Begynnare i Clavér-spelning (1819) and two more substantial but unprinted pieces (one a variation on Bellman’s ‘Gubben Noak’) dated 1805. Palm also made a piano arrangement of Johan Zander’s overture to Kronfogdarne, which was published by Åhlström in 1789.

Lennart Hedwall © 2015
trans. Neil Betteridge


Dahlgren, F.A.: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms Theatrar 1737−1863 och Kongl. Theatrarnes personal 1773−1863, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1866.
Jonsson, Leif & Anna Ivarsdotter (eds): Musiken i Sverige. Frihetstid och gustaviansk tid 1720−1810. Stockholm, 1993, pp. 376379.
Nisser, Carl
: Svensk instrumentalkomposition 1770−1830, Stockholm: Gothia, 1943.
Norlind, Tobias: Svensk musikhistoria, second expanded and illustrated edition, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1918.
 −−−: ‘Olof Åhlström och sällskapsvisan på Anna Maria Lenngrens tid’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 8, 1926.
Tegen, Martin: ‘Den Åhlströmska sångrepertoaren 17891810’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 65, 1983.
−−−: ‘Den Åhlströmska sångrepertoaren. Tillägg och rättelser’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 70, 1988.
−−− (pub.): Svenska sånger 1790−1810, MMS 20 [introduction, commentary, etc.], Stockholm: Edition Reimers, 2001.
Wiberg, Albert: ‘Olof Åhlströms musiktryckeri’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 31, 1949.
Vretblad, Patrik: Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700−talet, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1918.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Linköpings stadsbibliotek (dept. Stiftsbiblioteket), Karlshamns museum

Summary list of works

Piano works, songs (approximately 60).

Collected works

(Abbreviations: Musikalisk Tidsfördrif = MT, Skaldestycken satte i musik = Sk)

Piano music
Marche Funebre, MT, 1807.
Theme by Palm and variations, in Öfnings-Musik för Begynnare i Clavér-Spelning, book 2.
Theme and variations, C major (‘Gubben Noak’).
Theme and variations, G major.
Waltz, MT, 1808.
Waltz, MT, 1814.

Songs (for many no text author is given)
Atis uti raseri (Anacreon/Gustaf Paykull), Sk III, 1795.
Bäfven då alt folk på jorden (Johan Elers), Glada Qväden, 1792.
Den mänskjovän må heder (Anna Maria Lenngren), MT, 1793,
Den vinterliga stormen ren (J. P. Bagge), Sk IV, 1796.
Det var en sägn i Svithiod, Sk IX, 1801.
Det var i Saimen på en ö (Frans Mikael Franzén), Sk I, 1793.
Dig sjunger jag, du milda, Sk XVII, 1816.
Ensam i den mörka lunden (Johan David Valerius), Sk IX, 1801.
Fästom då förrän de slutas, MT, 1792.
Förgäfves letar du en töcknig framtids öden (Axel Gabriel Silfverstolpe), Sk III, 1795.
Förrn solens morgonblick, MT, 1797.
Gläd dig i din ungdomsvår (Lenngren), Sk I, 1793.
Goda gosse, glaset tom (Franzén), MT, 1794.
Goda gosse, glaset töm, a second setting, Sk II, 1794.
Han, som en dag skall verlden döma (Thaarup/Blom), Sk III, 1795.
Han, som kan ensam glädje (efter Thaarup), MT, 1793.
Hilda sväfvar lätt i dansen (Lenngren), Sk V, 1796.
Hopp om den tid som komma skall (Elers), Sk III, 1793.
Hvar dag jag känner i min själ (Valerius) Sk X 1802
Hvar skall min ängslan lugnet finna? (Pehr Ulrik Enbom), Sk I, 1793.
Hvar är Cypern? Jag skal finna (Franzén). Sk II. 1794.
Hvem vill ha mitt hjerta, qvinnor (Valerius), Sk IX, 1801.
Här vid denna silfverbäcken (Franzén), Sk I, 1793.
Iris och dess herde lågo (Elers), Glada Qväden, 1792 [same melody as Bäfven då].
Jag bygger mig en kammare, Sk VIII, 1800.
Jag lifvets nöje smakar (Elers), Glada Qväden, 1792.
Jag sjunga vill om Trojas krig, MT, 1792.
Jag såg en syn (Franzén), Sk VIII, 1800.
Jag vid min harpa sjunga vill (Carl Johan Lindegren), Sk VI, 1797.
Kärlek som så vänligt smilar (Elers), Glada Qväden, 1792 [samma melodi som Bäfven då].
Le uti din moders sköt, Sk VIII, 1800.
Lilla Calle sprang så rolig (Lindegren), Sk VI, 1797.
Lycklig den, med sorgfritt hjerta (Lenngren), Sk IV, 1796.
Lägg af, min vän, den sorgedräkt (Johan Henric Kellgren), MT, 1789.
Länge vandrade mitt trötta hjerta (Lindegren), Sk VI, 1797.
Lät oss Bacchi ära höja (Anacreon/Paykull), MT, 1792.
Lät statskloke män (Jens Zetlitz/Gustaf Regnér), MT, 1793.
Midnattens måne bland molnen går (efter Jens Baggesen), Sk VII, 1798.
Må Cytherens blommor paras (Anacreon/Paykull), Sk III, 1795 [same melody as Lät oss Bacchi ära höja].
Nannas siska i sin bur (Lenngren), Sk V, 1796.
Ner uti dalens djup, MT, 1799.
O du, som räknat mina år (Silfverstolpe), Sk III, 1795.
O du, som verldars millioner (Lenngren), MT, 1801.
O! flygtade behag af mina barndoms dagar (Lindegren), Sk VII, 1798.
Prässa drufvan! Glaset fyll! (Lindegren), Sk IX, 1801.
På lätta azurskyar (Valerius), Sk X, 1802.
På späda mytrhenqvistars blad (Anacreon/Paykull), MT, 1792.
Se ifrån kullen, öfver sträckan der (John Cunningham/Silfverstolpe), Sk XIII, 1805.
Se mamma hur det brinner (Franzén), MT, 1799.
Se stjernorna vandra, Sk XVII, 1816.
Sjungom dygdens låf, som gifvit (Elers), Glada Qväden, 1792.
Snabb flygtade min ålders vår (Silfverstolpe), Sk II, 1794.
Snabb flygtade min ålders vår, annan tonsättning, Sk III (insert), 1795.
Snart mit hjerta, domnande bort, MT, 1797.
Snart är din sällhets tid (Lindegren), MT, 1796.
Tag hit min lyra (Lenngren), MT, 1791.
Yngling! du som dansar mig förbi (Lindegren), Sk VIII, 1800.
Yngling: kransa dina hår (Silfverstolpe), Sk II, 1794.
Älskvärda nattfiol (J. E. Angelini), MT, 1802.
Än et ögonblick – och sedan slut (Lindegren), Sk VII, 1798.

Works by Johan Fredrik Palm

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

Number of works: 12