Johan Wilhelm Söderman (1808−1858)


Johan Wilhelm Söderman, born in Stockholm 20 July 1808 and died 29 July 1858 in Karlstad, was a conductor and composer. He was also the father of the composer August Söderman. He trained first as a civil servant, before commencing a career as a musician. In Stockholm he was a conductor for theatres Mindre teatern, Djurgårdsteatern and Södra teatern. He wrote and arranged music for many plays in addition to publishing dances and opera fantasies.


Early years

Johan Wilhelm Söderman was born 20 July 1808 in Stockholm and graduated from Uppsala University in 1828 with a kameralexamen (a general degree including fiscal management). He then worked for a time as a clerk. It was not until he was an adult that he began to study music, completing his organist and cantor degree at the educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) as late as 1837. He composed instrumental works for the piano, organ, violin and oboe, but it was as an orchestra leader that he would make a name for himself in the Stockholm music scene. Upon graduating from Uppsala he began to compose for the first time, which resulted in some chamber music works including Waltz for piano, which he dedicated to Beata Hasselquist (published in Musikaliskt veckoblad, 1833, no. 17).

The theatre musician

Johan Wilhelm Söderman’s entrance into the Stockholm theatre world coincided with the abolishment of the royal theatre monopoly in 1842. In connection with its opening, he was engaged by Mindre teatern as assistant orchestra manager under Jacob Niklas Ahlström. The theatre started out with a large orchestra consisting of 27 musicians. The extent of his involvement with the theatre is somewhat unclear since no employment documents have been preserved from the time before 1844, when the theatre was reorganised. The theatre experienced several major organisational and economic problems during its first year of existence, resulting in a substantial reduction of the originally large ensemble. In any case, Söderman was provided with the opportunity of testing his wings as a composer of incidental music at the 1842 opening ceremony with his introduction to Prolog i anl. af Nya Theaterns invigning and the overture as well as music to the couplets of the comedy Pröfningen by Carl Anton Wetterbergh (also known under the pseudonym ‘Uncle Adam’). Throughout his career Söderman came to write and arrange the music for over 70 plays.

Music for the theatre thus became Söderman’s primary source of employment, where he appeared not only as a musician, but also as an orchestra leader, composer and, above all, organiser. In 1844, he left Mindre teatern to take the position as conductor at Djurgårdsteatern, where he remained employed from 1844 to 1853. In 1853 he moved on to Södra teatern, where he also was employed as a conductor.

Composer and arranger

As both a composer and arranger, Johan Wilhelm Söderman prepared music for several plays. He occupied himself mainly within the comic genres, and he never wrote music for more substantial dramatic works. He was mostly involved with vaudevilles and comedies. The majority of these plays are set in contemporary times and the music was often based on familiar melodies. The music could be taken from famous operas or comic operas by composers such as Giacomo Meyerbeer or Vincenzo Bellini, and romantic songs, folk songs, waltzes and dances by for example the Danish composer Hans Christian Lumbye, as well as other famous songs. It was common practice to copy melodies and write new texts adapted to the plots of the plays.

It was common at the time to use songs that the audience could relate to, reinforcing their connection with the plot and creating associations with specific phenomena or events. Sometimes the playwright chose specific songs that Söderman would then arrange; sometimes he chose the pieces himself or wrote his own. Söderman also wrote original music that could accompany the events onstage or function as musical interludes during transitions between the scenes. Those plays for which he had the opportunity to write original compositions were mainly produced by Djurgårdsteatern and Södra teatern.The playwright and impresario Frans Hedberg was behind a significant number of the plays (9 out of 21).

Söderman’s arrangements are usually set for five-part string orchestra with (or without) song, but he also arranged music for chamber orchestra (strings and woodwinds). Solo songs, duets, small ensemble pieces and choral music occurred, but rarely for more than four parts. This is a matter of occasional music with rather simple instrumental and vocal parts. In the vocal sections the instruments function primarily as accompaniment.

Johan Wilhelm Söderman was especially productive during the 1850s, but his career did not last long. He died in 1858 at the age of 50, with just under 20 of these years dedicated to the theatre. However, much of his music also came to be used posthumously.

Anne Reese Willén © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Dahlgren, F.A.: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms theatrar 1737−1863 och Kongl. theatrarnes personal 1773−1863 med flera anteckningar, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1866.
Hallgren, Karin: Borgerlighetens teater: om verksamhet, musiker och repertoar vid Mindre teatern i Stockholm 1842−63, diss., Uppsala University, 2000.
Helmer, Axel: ‘Söderman, Johan Wilhelm’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 5, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1979.
Höijer, Leonard: ‘Johan Wilhelm Söderman’, in: Musik-lexikon: omfattande den theoretiska och praktiska tonkonsten, biographier öfver de förnämste in- och utländske musikförfattare, tonkonstnärer och dilettanter, som med utmärkelse idkat eller befordrat denna konst, beskrifningar öfver äldre och nyare instrumenter m.m. beträffande musik samt af natur att kunna lexikaliskt behandlas, Stockholm: Abr. Lundqvist, 1864.
Jonsson, Leif & Martin Tegen (eds): Musiken i Sverige, vol. 3, Den nationella identiteten 1810−1920, Stockholm: Fischer, 1992.
Lindeberg, Hj.: Anders Lindeberg: hans liv och verksamhet, biografisk studie, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1918.
Norlind, Tobias: ‘Söderman, Johan Wilhelm’, in: Allmänt musiklexikon, vol. 2, Stockholm, 1916.
Personne, Nils: Svenska teatern: några anteckningar, vol. 6, Under Karl Johans tiden 1832−1835, Stockholm: Wahlström och Widstrand, 1925.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Stockholm.

Summary list of works

Incidental music (around 70 original works/arrangements), piano works.

Collected works

Original music for the stage
Prolog med anledning av Nya teaterns invigning. Introduktion, 1842.
Pröfningen, comedy in 1 act with couplets by C. A. Wetterbergh. Overture and music to couplets, 1842.
En engel från afgrunden, comedy wit song in 4 acts, trans. by F.N. Berg, 1845.
Äfventyr på en fotresa, comedy with song in 4 acts, arr. by J. Jolin. Original music and arrangement.
Rosenjungfrun i Saint-Pierre, comedy with choir, couplets and melodramas by A. Säfström. Original music, 1853.
Sjömännen på landbacken, comedy with song in 3 acts, trans. by L. Granberg. Original music, 1854.
En fru som har ledsamt, vaudeville monologue by A. Säfström. Original music and arrangement, 1855.
Hin ondes skägg, comedy with song in 3 acts, arr. by F.N Berg. Original music and arrangement, 1855.
Den nya kommendanten, occasional piece with song in 2 tableaus by C.W. Ouchterlony. Original music and arrangement, 1855.
Tiggarflickan eller En julafton i Blekinge, dramatic sketch with song in 2 acts by Axel Krook. Original music and arrangement, 1855.
Ett småstadsäfventyr, comedy with song by F. Hedberg, original music, 1855.
Valborgsmesso-aftonen: Hvardagsbilder ur folklifvet by F. Hedberg. Original music and arrangement, 1855.
Nyårsnatten på Mosebacke, ‘tillfällighetstrolleri’ [incidental music] with song in 1 act by F. Hedberg. Original music and arrangement, 1856.
Upprorsmakaren eller Trägen vinner, farce with song in 3 acts, arr. by F. Hedberg. Original music and arrangement, 1856.
Min hustru vill så ha det, comedy with song in 3 acts by F. Hedberg. Original music and arrangement, 1857.
Fastlagsgillet, vaudeville in 1 act, trans. by F. Hedberg. Original music, 1857.
Tomtegubbarne, New Year comedy with song in 1 act by F. Hedberg. Original music and arrangement, 1857.
Ulv i fårakläder, comedy with song by F. Hedberg. Original music, 1857.
Ett vad, comedy with choir and couplets in 2 acts, trans. by I.C.M. Flodman. Original music, 1858.
Storvätten, comedy with song, arr. by A. Blanche. Original music and arrangement, first performed in 1860.

Arrangements for staged plays
Magister Bläckstadius eller Giftermålsannonsen, comedy with choir and couplets in 2 acts by A. Blanche, 1844.
Rika morbror, comedy with choir and couplets by A. Blanche, 1845.
Jenny eller Ångbåtsfärden, ‘dramatiserat äventyr på sjön’ [dramatised adventure out at sea] with choir and couplets in 1 act by A. Blanche, 1845.
Jernbärarendrama in 2 acts and 6 tableaus with choirs and couplets by A. Blanche.
Major von Haudegen, comedy with couplets in 1 acts, trans by A.E. Afzelius, 1846.
1846 och 1946, comedy in 2 acts and 4 tableaus, arr. by J. Jolin, 1846.
Bröstkaramellerna, comedy with couplets in 3 acts, arr. by J. Jolin, 1847.
Dukaten, comedy with couplets in 2 acts by A. Blanche, 1847.
En half million, comedy with choir and couplets in 3 acts by M. Craemer, 1847.
Friaren från Skåne, comedy with couplets in 3 acts, arr. by F.N. Berg, 1847.
Hittebarnet, comedy with couplets in 2 acts, arr. by A. Blanche, 1847.
Allas Onkel, comedy with couplets in 2 acts by C.F. Ridderstad, 1848.
Herr och fru Tapperman, comedy with song in 2 acts, arr. by H. Brooman, 1848.
Symamsellerna, comedy with choir and couplets in 4 acts by M. Craemer, 1848.
Resan till Kalifornien, occasional comedy with choir and couplets by C. W. Ouchterlony, 1849.
Flickorna på Söder, comedy with song in 2 tableaus by A. Säfström, 1849.
Friare-resan eller Flickorna från Norr, comedy with song in 2 acts, by A. Säfström, 1850.
Lilla apan, vaudeville, arr. by A. Säfström, 1850.
Klippningshandskarne, vaudeville in 2 acts by A. Säfström, 1851.
Nipperboden, vaudeville in 1 act by A. Säfström, 1851.
Ett herrskap som ser på rum, comedy with song in 2 acts, arr. by A. Säfström, 1851.
Skolgossarne eller Examensdagen, vaudeville in 1 act, arr. by A. Säfström, 1852.
En straffad kurtisör, comedy with song in 2 tableaus, arr. by A. Säfström, 1852.
Ett bord som dansar, comedy with song in 1 act by F. Hedberg, 1853.
Malins bröllop, vaudeville monologue by A. Säfström, 1853.
Malins korgar, vaudeville monologue by A. Säfström, 1853.
Aprilnarrit, vaudeville bagatelle in 1 act, trans. by J. Philipsson, 1853.
Ett äfventyr på spektaklet, comedy with song in 2 acts, trans. by F.N. Berg, 1854.
En midsommarnatt i Dalarne, dramatic idyll with song in 1 act, after E. Bøgh’s Huldrebakken in free arr. by A. Kloo, 1854.
Koleraspärrningen, farce with song in 2 acts, 1854
Dunder och blixt eller Lifvet i barnkammaren, comedy with song, arr. by C.H. Rydberg, 1855.
Mitt andra jag, vaudeville in 3 acts, trans. by A. Säfström, 1855.
En herre som spisar en månad, comedy with song, arr. by F. Hedberg, 1855.
Dagblads-annonsen, vaudeville in 1 act, trans. by A. Säfström, 1855.
En liten stjerna, comedy with song in 1 act G. de Vylder, 1855.
Oscars paraply, comedy with song, trans. by G. Michal, 1855.
De oskiljaktige, comedy with song in 2 acts, trans. by F. Wannqvist, 1855.
Den resande studenten eller Åskvädret, trans. by E.W. Djurström, 1855.
Som ungkarl och äkta man, comedy with song in 2 acts, 1856.
1856 och 1956, comedy with couplets, choirs and melodramas in 2 acts and 4 tableaus, arr. by A. Blanche, 1856.
Ingenting är omöjligt för en blåstrumpa (comedy with couplets in 1 act) by Hyckert, 1856.
Tre för en, vaudeville by F. Hedberg, 1856.
Den tredje, comedy with song in 1 act, trans. by Almlöf, 1856.
Tant Bazu eller Den högvälborna fiskköperskan, comedy with finale couplets in 2 acts by Axel Krook, 1856.
Distraktionerna, comedy with song in 1 act, arr. by F. Hedberg, 1857.
Ett äfventyr under riksdags-utblåsningen, comedy with song in 2 tableaus by M.U. Torsslow, 1857.
Kometen, dramatic sketch with couplets in 1 act by C.R. Roselli, 1857.
Magisterns peruk, comedy in 2 acts with finale couplets, trans. by G.C. Michal, 1857.

Fantasy for piano over motifs from the operas Profeten, Stradella, Huguenotterna, Martha and the Magic Flute.
Waltz dedicated to Beata Hasselquist, published in Musikaliskt veckoblad, 1833:17.

Works by Johan Wilhelm Söderman

There are no works by the composer registered