Anders Piscator (1736−1804)


Anders Piscator was born in Ekshärad in 1736 and died in Hammarö on 25 July 1804. He was a lektor (grammar school teacher), director musices and cathedral organist in Karlstad, as well as being vicar and dean of Hammarö. He was a leading figure in Värmland music at that time. He was elected as member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1800. His musical output is small but includes orchestral works and chamber music.


Anders Piscator came of an old Värmland clerical family. His father was Magnus Piscator, curate of Ekshärad. They were a very musical family, and Anders learned the violin at an early age. In 1757, after finishing grammar school in Karlstad, he enrolled at Uppsala University, where he took his master’s degree in 1761. In 1772 he became temporary senior mathematics and history teacher at Karlstad Gymnasium (grammar school). The appointment was made permanent the following year, and in 1781 he married Eva Fredrika Gärtner, whose father, Gabriel Gärtner, was director musices and rector cantus at the grammar school and organist of Karlstad Cathedral. Six children were born to them − five daughters and a son − but of these only three daughters survived into adulthood. The eldest of them, Eva Fredrika (Spak by marriage), came to be much in demand in the city as a pianist.

Following the death of his father-in-law in 1792, Piscator was appointed to succeed him in the three appointments mentioned above. He stayed rector cantus until 1794 and retained the other two appointments until 1801, when he was elected vicar and dean of the parish of Hammarö, having been ordained in 1799. Even before becoming music teacher and organist, Piscator was a leading light of the Karlstad music scene. Among other things, he and his grammar school pupils took part in the assemblies organised at Rådhuset (the courthouse), especially on market days.

Piscator’s father-in-law had left a considerable collection of sheet music which could be used both in school and on other occasions, and music had its appointed place in the grammar school. The daily singing periods were mainly devoted to hymns and the liturgy, the pupils being required to sing at services in the cathedral every Sunday and feast day. Two hours were reserved for part singing on two days of the week, but most often these periods were devoted to the school orchestra, which could include both wind and stringed instruments. The orchestra performed mainly on official in-school occasions and could be reinforced by amateurs, as for example in the memorial service of Gustav III in 1792 and the ‘festival of praise and thanksgiving’ following the birth of Crown Prince Gustaf in 1799.

Astronomy was another of Piscator’s great interests. This subject formed part of the mathematics curriculum. The school had an observatory, in the still-extant octagon up on the roof, and Piscator’s correspondence with Torbern Bergman, professor of chemistry, includes observations and theories concerning the Aurora Borealis. Incidentally, Erik Gustaf Geijer became a pupil of Piscator’s in 1795 and was examined by him in mathematics in 1799.


Piscator’s surviving musical output is fairly modest, comprising two sinfonias for orchestra, two trio sonatas and two duets for violin and cello, plus a few minuets in various collections of fiddle music. The sinfonias, one in C major and the other in F major, would seem by all accounts to have been part of the Utile Dulci society’s repertoire in the 1780s and, for some reason, were revived in 1799, when Pehr Frigel, Secretary to Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music), recommended Piscator for membership, as having given proof of ‘genius and knowledge in major works of music composed for orchestra’. Piscator was elected to membership on 15 February 1800. Both works are in four movements, conform to the contemporary international patterns and are scored for double flutes and horn as well as strings. All movements are basic in form, but the slow movements and the minuets in particular have a certain grandeur about them. Piscator had more difficulty in balancing the outer movements, which if anything are additively structured, though the first movement of the C major sinfonia can be said to verge on sonata form.

The chamber music works, again, are none too elaborate. The trio sonatas for two violins and bass are in two movements, consisting of a slow movement and a minuet. Written while Piscator was studying at Uppsala, they reflect earlier, post-baroque ideals. The duets are harder to date, but, given their dense and nicely balanced texture, they were probably written during the closing years of the 18th century. The manuscripts bear the stamp of the Musikaliska akademien, suggesting that they were presented as a token of gratitude for Piscator’s election to membership. The duet in C major has two movements, slow-fast, while that in C minor has two slow movements and a minuet. Piscator’s interest in minuets is evident from the above mentioned books of fiddle music, added to which there is an unmistakable affinity between his type of minuet and the polska.

Lennart Hedwall © 2014
Trans. Roger Tanner

Publications by the composer

De Cicerone Mathematico, diss. pro exercitio, Uppsala, 1759.
Qua in Specimen Generaliter Solvendi Problematis Mathematici, Explicatur Motus
Collidentium Lubricorum Corporum, Non Gravium
, diss. pro gradu, Uppsala, 1761.
Försök till öfwersättning af danska låfskriften Om Sjöfarten, desz Uprinnelse och werkningar, anonymous ed. (written by Christian Braunmann Tullin and trans. by Johan Christopher Stricker), Stockholm: Peter Hasselberg, 1766.
Verlds Systemet. I anledning af Sidsta Observationerne På Veneris gång genom Solen. Karlstad, 1774.
Wid flere bedröflige tillfällen… Program vid Karlstads gymn. till Olof Bjurbäcks parentation öfver Konung Gustaf III, Karlstad, 1792.


Dalgren, Lars: 'Karlstads Läroverks historia', in: Karlstads Högre allmänna läroverks hävder, Karlstad: Nya Wermlands-Tidningens AB, 1931.
Edestam, Anders: Karlstads stifts herdaminne från medeltiden till våra dagar, vol. 2, Domprosteriet. Älvdals kontrakt. Visnums kontrakt, Karlstad: Stiftshistoriska sällskapet i Karlstad, 1965.
Hammarin, Johan: Carlstad Stifts Herdaminne, vol. 1, Carlstad: Wallencrona, 1846.
Hedwall, Lennart: Den svenska symfonin, Stockholm: Geber, 1983.
−−−: 'Herrgårdsmusik i Värmland', liner notes to LP record, Fabo SLP 33136, 1990.
−−−: 'Herrgårdsmusiken i Värmland och musiklivet i Karlstad 1770−1830', thesis (degree unspecified) in musicology, Göteborgs universitet, 1992.
−−−: 'Herrgårdsmusik i Värmland 1770− 1830', in: Nordisk musikkforskerkongress 1992, Oslo: Institutt for musikk og teater, 1993, pp. 64−69.
−−−: 'En öfwersigt af Musiken inom Wermland'. Bidrag till belysningen av det sena 1700-talets svenska musikliv, diss. in musicology, Stockholms universitet, 1995.
−−−: Tonsättaren Erik Gustaf Geijer. En musikalisk biografi, Stockholm: Edition Reimers, 2001.
Mossberg, Karl-Åke: Karlstads gymnasium 1675–1975, Karlstad: Nerman, 1975.
Ronge, Mats: Gymnasium Adolpho-Fredericianum. Karlstads gamla gymnasiebyggnad 1759−1959, in Värmland förr och nu, Karlstad: Värmlands museum, 1959.
Walin, Stig: 'Musiken i skolorna under upplysningstidevarvet', in Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 19, 1938.
−−−: Beiträge zur Geschichte det schwedischen Sinfonik, diss. in musicology, Stockholm, 1941.


Landsarkivet Härnösand, Länsmuseet Västernorrland, Härnösand, Lunds universitetsbibliotek, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Kungliga biblioteket Stockholm, Karlstads stadsbibliotek

Summary list of works

Orchestral works (2 sinfonias), chamber music (2 sonatas for two violins and bass, two duets for violin and cello).

Collected works

Orchestral works
Sinfonia in C major.
Sinfonia in F major. Tr. 1983 in The Symphony in Sweden, vol. 2, The Symphony 1720−1840, ed. Bertil van Boer.

Chamber music
Sonata in E-flat major for two violins and bass.
Sonata in A major for two violins and bass.
Duet in C major for violin and violoncello.
Duet in C minor for violin and violoncello.

Two two-part minuets in anonymous folk music book (KB).
One minuet in Gunnar Persson's from Emterud in Eda music manuscript books.

Works by Anders Piscator

There are no works by the composer registered