Ellen Sandels (1859−1931)


Ellen Charlotta Sandels (née Karlström) was born on Lövåsa estate in Västergötland on 22 July 1859 and died in Stockholm on 22 November 1931. She composed some 70 dances and marches as well as a few songs. Some of them succeeded in becoming very popular. From 1901 to 1913 Sandels was the editor for Damernas musikblad.

A popular composer

Ellen Sandels’ music was widely distributed around the turn of the 20th century. In a composer’s portrait in Idun (a journal for women and the home) in 1899, writer Wilma Lindhé even renders the judgement ‘as popularity probably is the best measure of value, currently perhaps, in her genre, one can say [Sandels] is Sweden’s most successful composer’. Her dances and marches were played by orchestras and military music ensembles over the whole of the country as well as abroad, for example in Denmark and Germany. Her dance compositions could regularly be heard at balls given in the Vita havet ballroom at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, as well as at a gala soiree on 11 July 1905.

Sandels’ life-course

She was born on 22 July 1859 on Lövåsa estate in Kinne-Vedum parish in the region of Västergötland as the daughter of estate owner Carl Johan Karlström and Ida Carolina (née Björsell), also she the daughter of an estate owner. As a young girl, she received singing lessons from Fredrika Stenhammar. Lindhé describes Sandels as a talented singer who dreamed of a career on the stage, but that such a path was made impossible, partly because of her mother’s objections and partly because of an early marriage as a 19-year old to the officer Carl Axel Magnus Sandels. The couple moved several times, and lived in Stockholm, Düsseldorf, at Stora Lee in Dalsland and from around 1897 in Stora Böö in Gothenburg. It was in the last-named place that Ellen Sandels began working as a composer. She was 38 years old at the time and mother to four children and thus began composing relatively late in life.

Her first composition bears the name Petit cœur and is a pas de quatre − a kind of schottische. The piece was orchestrated immediately and performed in the winter of 1897 at the evening concerts led by Carl Oscar Fredrik Kuhlau at the Grand Hotel Haglund in Gothenburg. The newspaper Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning says that the composition ‘won wide acclaim and has perpetually been a sought-after encore’ (1/4 1897). Her music thus received immediate attention and for the following 19 years, new compositions by Sandels were published in a steady stream.

In December 1901, Sandels founded the journal Damernas musikblad (Women’s music journal), and after her husband’s death in 1902, she moved to Stockholm where the journal came to be an important undertaking for a total of twelve years. The music journal was suspended in the spring of 1913 and her last published work was made public in 1916. Sandels died in Stockholm on 22 November 1931.


Sandels composed some 70 piano pieces and a few songs. Over half of her works are waltzes and Boston waltzes and the remainder consist mainly of marches and dances such as pas de quatre, polka and gavotte.

According to Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning (19/1 1899), ‘Mrs S. completely avoids the virtuosic and “salon”-related adornments, in that she primarily means to attract one to dance with her waltzes’, and in the same year, Lindhé perceives that the waltzes ‘though fully original, have something from Waldteufel and Strauss in them’ (Idun 23/12 1899). The descriptions are telling and well reflect the character of the six waltzes Tre prinsessor: Margareta, Maria och Ingeborg, Jeu de rose, Mälardrottningen and Margareta (the two pieces named Margareta are not identical), which are representative of Sandels’ sure sense of style. The melodies here have a tendency to sometimes circle around the fifth, the sixth and the seventh of the scale in a way that can be considered a trait of the genre. And like the Strauss family’s and Waldteufel’s waltzes, most of the titles of her compositions indicate a portrait of a person or some picturesque motif (Prins Karl − Prince Karl, SnöbollarSnowballs, Glittrande böljor − Glittering waves).

All of Sandels’ piano pieces are written in a way that makes it possible for them to be played by most amateurs. The idea of presenting music that demands only modest technical skills was a stated goal of the journal Damernas musikblad, but it seems also to have guided her other creative output. A certain part of Sandels’ piano pieces became available to orchestras when conductors arranged them for their ensembles; among them were German-born composer Richard Henneberg and Swedish composer Knut Söderström.

Damernas musikblad

Sandels’ creation, Damernas musikblad, was published twice a month from December 1901 until the spring of 1913. The journal contained piano pieces and songs, texts about music and people in the music scene, reviews of concert life in Stockholm and Gothenburg and notifications about newly published music works, alongside advertisements such as that for the meat extract Bonit, Dr. Sanden’s electric Herculex battery and Trichosol hair loss preventative.

Sandels herself took responsibility for the editorial work and also wrote a number of the published compositions. In an interview in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (19/12 1906), she explains that the goal of the journal from the start was to spread music ‘that was suitable for the home, that drew one to the piano and enlivened the interest in music’. Through a diverse repertoire there would be ‘a constant variation, something for each and everyone in every issue’. Around a third of the music was newly written original works, mainly by Swedish composers, and the remainder consisted of older classical compositions, modern salon music and dances. The texts for the written section would be at the same time entertaining and educational.

Damernas musikblad also contained debate articles such as Sandels’ contribution about the decline of the art of singing (no. 1 1909) and the piece ‘Kvinnan som tonsättare’ (The woman as composer) (no. 9 1903). The latter is unsigned, however it was likely written by editor Sandels. The author of the article reminds one that there are often complaints that female composers could not ‘free themselves from foreign influences’, but continues by pointing out that precisely the same relationship pertains to male composers and exclaims: ‘What a fortunate circumstance is this not!’ For the major composers have always learned to compose by studying their predecessors and ‘[t]heir hegemony consists in that they realised how to find lasting benefit from the foreign influence. [...] The reproach one usually makes toward female composers, is thus rather a praise.’ The text ends by briefly presenting 17 female composers from the previous 150 years, among them Ingeborg von Bronsart, Amanda Maier-Röntgen and Laura Netzel.

Martin Edin © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Damernas musikblad, Ellen Sandels (ed.), test number in Dec. 1901, published in 1902−1913.
'En rolig bok', in: Idun: Illustrerad tidning för kvinnan och hemmet, annual vol. 13, no. 29, 29 Jul. 1900, pp. 459−61.
Script to the silent film Säterjäntan (1912), script title: 'Bröllopsdansen på Hårgaberget. Folkskådespel. Musikdrama för biograf'.


Aftonbladet, 19 Dec. 1901.
, 25 Jan. 1902.
, 16 Mar., 9 Apr. 1903.
Alfvén, Hugo
: Tempo furioso: Vandringsår, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1948, p. 185.
Damernas musikblad
, Ellen Sandels (ed.), test number in Dec. 1901, publ. 1902−1913.
Elgenstierna, Gustaf (ed.):
Den introducerade svenska adelns ättartavlor, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1925−1936.
‘E. −Er.’
: ‘Våra bostonvalsers komponist’, in: Idun, annual vol. 22, no. 4, 24 Jan. 1909, p. 44.
Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning
, 1 Apr. 1897.
Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning
, 19 Jan. 1899.
Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning
, 18 Jan. 1902.
, 11 Dec. 1909.
Lindhé, Wilma:
‘En kvinnlig komponist’, in: Idun, annual vol. 12, no. 101−102, 23 Dec. 1899, pp. 11−12.
‘Musikpressen’, Svensk musiktidning, annual vol. 21, no. 20, 16/12 1901, pp. 153−54.
Nya dagligt allehanda
, 16 Dec. 1902.
Nya pressen,
6 May 1910.
Stockholms dagblad,
19 Dec. 1901.
Svenska Dagbladet,
12 Jul., 27 Dec. 1905.
Svenska Dagbladet,
26 Jan., 3 Mar., 6 Mar., 10 Dec., 19 Dec. 1906.
Svenska Dagbladet,
17 Dec. 1907.
Svenska Dagbladet,
2 Feb., 17 Feb., 18 Feb., 27 Feb. 1908.
Svenska Dagbladet,
24 Jan., 28 Jan., 26 Jun. 1909.
Svenska Dagbladet,
19 Sep. 1915.
Svenska Dagbladet,
23 Dec. 1978.
Tegen, Martin
: Musiklivet i Stockholm 1890−1910, diss., Stockholm: Stockholms kommunalförvaltning, 1955, pp. 89−90.
Wiborgs nyheter
, 22 Dec. 1909.
, 28 Feb. 1908.
Östra Finland
, 3 Feb. 1909.

Advertisements and notices
, 29 Jan., 1 Feb. 1902.
, 5 Feb. 1904.
28 Dec. 1902.
, 28 Dec. 1902; 6 Jan. 1903; 5 Dec., 16 Dec. 1906; 10 Jan. 1909; 24 Jan. 1910.
, 13 Jan., 7 Feb., 3 Nov. 1906; 12 Dec., 14 Dec. 1908.
Nya pressen
, 9 Jan., 11 Jan. 1909.
Svenska Dagbladet,
30 May, 3 Oct. 1905; 6 Jan., 16 Jan., 21 Jan., 3 Feb., 23 Feb., 11 Mar., 15 Mar., 9 Jun., 20 Dec., 27 Dec. 1906; 16 Jan., 27 Dec. 1907; 5 Mar., 26 Jul., 17 Dec., 20 Dec., 27 Dec., 31 Dec. 1908; 3 Jan., 13 Jan., 7 Jun., 8 Jun., 3 Oct., 15 Oct., 20 Oct. 1909; 19 Aug. 1915, 3 Jun. 1916; 5 Jun. 1924; 30 Sep. 1965.
Tidning för Venersborgs stad och län,
17 Oct. 1898.

Summary list of works

Some 70 piano pieces (waltzes, marches, pas de quatre and other dance forms), arrangements and pot-pourris for piano, 1 violin solo, 2 songs.

Collected works

Blåklockor, song without words, printed in ca 1897.
Mälardrottningen, waltz, printed in ca 1897.
Ninon, vals, printed in ca 1897.
Ombord å Drott, gavott, printed in ca 1897.
Petit coeur, pas de quatre, 1897.
‘Blå prinsen’, cavalry march, printed in ca 1898.
Gif akt i bataljon, march, printed in ca 1898.
Jeu de Rose, waltz, printed in ca 1898.
Prenez garde, ladies’ polka, printed in ca 1898.
Snöbollar, waltz, printed in ca 1898.
‘Flirt’, new pas de quatre, printed in ca 1899.
Fröken Backfisch, rheinländer, printed in ca 1899.
Gullvifvan, polka, latest in 1899.
La variable, mazurka, printed in ca 1899.
Loreley, waltz, latest in 1899.
‘Molly Polly’, kreuz-polka, printed in ca 1899.
Teknolog-polka, latest in 1899.
Öfver land och haf, française, printed in ca 1899
− No. 1 In Stockholm.
− No. 2 In London.
− No. 3 In Vienna.
− No. 4 In New-York.
− No. 5 In Berlin.
Cupido-waltz, printed in ca 1900.
Dröj qvar!, intermezzo, printed in 1901.
Friskt mod, I gossar blå!, march, printed in ca 1901.
Följ mig!, ladies’ own pas de quatre, printed in 1901.
Bagatelle, minor salon waltz, printed in 1902.
Glittrande böljor, waltz op. 27, dedicated to H.R.H. Princess Ingeborg, printed in 1902.
La fée d'amour, waltz, printed in 1902.
Moi-même, polka-mazurka, printed in 1902.
Sylvester-stämning, printed in 1902.
Sommarfröjd, Boston waltz, printed in 1903.
Höstsol, valse-boston, printed in 1904.
I ‘Hvita hafvet’, vals, printed in 1904.
Locktoner, valse boston, printed in 1905.
Margareta, Boston waltz, printed in 1905.
Petites soeurs, gavotte, dedicated to KKF [Kvinnliga kontoristförbundet] in Gothenburg, printed in 1905.
Drömlif, waltz lento, printed in 1906.
General ‘Fritz’, cavalry march, printed in 1906.
‘Musikbladets’ Boston waltz, printed in 1906.
Noblesse oblige, gavotte, composed for ‘A. D. K:s’ [Adelns diskussions-klubbs] Christmas number, printed in 1906.
Boston waltz, printed in 1907.
Danse variàble, Boston-pas de quatre, printed in 1907.
‘Liaison’, valse lente, printed in 1907.
September, Boston waltz, printed in 1907.
Svärmeri-boston, waltz, printed in 1907.
I Palmehaven, waltz, dedicated to Mr Julien Olsen’s orchestra, printed in 1908.
Nan, Boston waltz, dedicated to Miss Nan Bergmanson, printed in 1908.
‘Svenska dagbladets bostonvals’, awarded at the Svenska dagbladet Boston competition 1908.
Winterfröjd, minor Boston, printed in 1908.
'Vid Saltsjövåg', the exhibition Boston waltz op. 57, 1909.
Boston-charme!, Julstämnings bostonvals 1909 (partly with lyrics).
E. d. C., Boston waltz, printed in ca 1909.
‘Julottan’, printed in 1909.
På julkalas, Boston waltz, printed in 1910.
Valse parisienne G major, printed in 1910.
Julrosor, valse dansante, printed in 1911.
Noblesse, waltz, printed in 1911.
Julafton, minor fantasy, printed in 1912.
Valse parisienne E-flat major, printed in 1912.
Vid Mälarstrand, waltz op. 98, dedicated to H.R.H. the Crown Princess, printed in 1913.
Säsongens vals, Boston waltz, printed in Säsongens nyheter November 1915.
Svenska flaggans marsch, composition for Vecko-Journalen, 1916.
En afton i Röda Kvarn, fantasy.
Generalens marsch, cavalry march.
Moët & Chandon.
När kärleken vaknar, valse lente.
Prins Karl, march, dedicated to the Duke of Vestergötland.
Tre prinsessor, three Boston waltzes for Idun
− Margareta
− Maria
− Ingeborg.
Wienerfläkt, Boston waltz.

Arrangements and pot-pourries for piano

Engelsk pas de quatre, printed in 1902.
En operett-afton i hemmet, pot-pourri, printed in 1902.
Pot-pourri from ‘Wiener-blod’ operetta by Johann Strauss, printed in 1902.
Pas de quatre from the opera ‘Wienerblod’ by J. Strauss, printed in 1903.
Russian dance melodies by W. Madurowiez, printed in 1903.
Pas de quatre from the operetta ‘Vagabonderna’ by C. M. Ziehrer, printed in 1905.
‘Waldteufel-bukett’, printed in 1905.


Boston-charme!, Julstämnings bostonvals 1909 (partly with lyrics).
Quand l'amour, chante, Boston waltz, printed in 1909.

Violin solo

Stockholmsflickor, waltz, in Violinbiblioteket book 2, printed in ca 1904.


Several of Sandel’s dances and marches were arranged by different orchestra leaders for orchestra setting of military band, among them: Blå prinsen (for military band); Boston-charme!, arr. by Knut Söderström; Gif akt i bataljon (for military band); Glittrande böljor; Ninon; Petit coeur; Svenska dagbladets bostonvals, arr. by Richard Henneberg; Svenska toner.

Works by Ellen Sandels

There are no works by the composer registered