Erik Tulindberg (1761−1814)


Erik Eriksson Tulindberg was born on 22 February 1761 in the village of Saarenpää in what was then Swedish Ostrobothnia, and died in Turku on 1 September 1814. He was a civil servant, musician and composer. His compositional efforts were few but of high quality and continued until around 1784, when he left Turku to become an official in Oulo. He later returned to Turku where he came to play a significant role as a functionary in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland. In 1797 he became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.


Background and education

Erik Tulindberg was born on 22 February 1761 in the village of Saarenpää in Vähäkyrö parish, located 30 kilometres east of the town of Vaasa in Ostrobothnia − now in Finland, but at that time a part of Sweden. He bore the same name as his father who was a land surveyor and country clerk, and his mother was Christina Beata Carlborg. The family had its roots in Tullinge, south of Stockholm.

After studying humanities at the Turku Academy, Erik Tulindberg received his Master’s degree at age 21. From 1778 until 1779 he worked as a tutor at Kullo estate in Porvoo for, among others, Nils Fredrik von Schoultz, an acquaintanceship that resulted in a lifelong friendship. After graduation Tulindberg became an assistant at Turku Academy’s library. During the years 1780−1784 he was awarded scholarships for his musical proficiency.

Erik Tulindberg performed in the academy orchestra in Turku and in the orchestra of the short-lived secret literary society Aurora from 1776. Aurora was the local equivalent to the society Utile Dulci in Stockholm. Tulindberg came to be described as Finland’s foremost violinist at this time. In a letter from 1782 the professor Henrik Gabriel Porthan writes eloquently about a concert in Turku given in honour of the birth of Prince Carl Gustaf (who died when only six months old): ‘Among our true virtuosos, maestros Röring, Nordberg and Tulindberg and some others, held a concert at the academy.’ The two other named musicians were cellist Anders Röring as well as violinist and associate professor in mathematics, Isak Nordberg.

Successful civil servant

Erik Tulindberg continued his civil service path in 1784 as a county bookkeeper in Oulo, and ten years later followed in his father’s footsteps becoming county clerk. His efforts to raise the status of music in Oulo were significant. In the town at the time, music was cultivated exclusively in the home, and Tulindberg himself arranged concerts and took part as a violinist, and if the need presented itself, also as a cellist. In Oulo he married Margareta Christina Nylander in 1787. She was the daughter of the court adviser Johan Mattsson Nylander, the region’s most affluent resident. Among the children, their son Otto exhibited musical talent.

At the Porvoo provincial congress in 1809, when Sweden lost Finland, which then became a Russian grand duchy, Tulindberg was commissioned to investigate the country’s finances. That same year he moved back to Turku so he, as privy councillor, could work in the governmental council and finance committee. He made highly important contributions to the Finnish nation and was awarded a diamond ring by the Russian Tsar. In 1811, at his own request, he returned to work as county clerk in Turku and Pori’s county. He died in Turku on 1 September 1814.

A pioneer composer on Finnish soil

Erik Tulindberg’s activities as a committed public servant limited his composition efforts. However, he seems not to have lived life strictly as a civil servant. On the contrary, at least periodically, he seems to have expressed a bohemian side that brings to mind his contemporary, the poet Carl Michael Bellman in Stockholm. Tulindberg nevertheless is usually considered to be the first composer of any significance born on Finnish soil, and musically can be most closely compared with his Swedish colleague, Johan Wikmanson.

Tulindberg’s above-mentioned friend, Nils Fredrik von Schoultz (1767−1816), came to have an impressive civil service career as a judge and governor of Vasa. However, he also had an ardent life-long interest in music. He wrote a personal and revealing portrait of his friend in a biography:

Tulindberg had a rare, good head, an uncommonly rapid ability to comprehend, and a great musical talent, so that he was the best violinist in the whole country. In addition he was by nature especially amusing, full of whims and hilarious anecdotes; his way of socialising was relatively civilised so he was welcome everywhere. But frivolous, bacchanal and overindulgent in the worship of Freya as he was, he set aside only a little time for his studies − he was constantly at concerts, at the pub, or with pleasure girls; he always took me with him to these places. I have only Providence and my parents’ compassionate counsel and exhortations to thank for the fact that I was not driven to complete destruction … (citation from Kimmo Korhonen).

There were not many opportunities to study music on Finnish soil at that time, and those few music personalities with whom Erik Tulindberg mainly could have studied violin performance included director musices at the Turku academy, Carl Peter Lenning. All the other musical skills Tulindberg acquired would have come from listening to concerts and studying scores. He was well versed in contemporary musical creativity in Europe, and his well preserved and coherent private library of musical scores includes more than 150 works of composers such as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Luigi Boccherini, Carl Friedrich Abel and Karl Stamitz. Oddly enough, his own works are not included in this collection.


Erik Tulindberg’s creative output was very small: six string quartets, one piece for solo violin and a violin concerto. An additional violin concerto is mentioned in the sources, but today there are no other traces of it. There is no reliable information about the creation and performances of the compositions, although it seems likely that at least some of the string quartets were played within his closest circle of friends.

The string quartets

After his death, the works of Erik Tulindberg fell into the archives of oblivion. It was not until 1923 that his six string quartets were again found in University of Helsinki’s library − and then it was discovered that the second violin parts were missing. It is easy to conjecture that the second violinist took the scores home to practice and never brought them back. They have been reconstructed, first by Toivo Haapanen, and then by Professor of Musicology at the Turku Academy, John Rosas, who created fairly uninteresting parts, and then by Kalevi Aho, who refrained from doing a stylistic adaptation. The person who has attempted most thoroughly to find a stylistic and artistic solution is Anssi Mattila, who in 2004 presented his well-regarded offering.

We know that in 1781, Erik Tulindberg acquired the musical notation to Haydn’s string quartets op. 9 and that these, to some extent, stood as a model for his own quartets, even though he had the knowledge and ability to fill the form and tradition with his own thoughts and attractive tonal style. All of his quartets have four movements and have abandoned the diverting character of earlier quartet literature. In addition he has created significant parts for both viola and cello. Stylistically, the quartets swing back and forth between elegant classicism and dramatic Sturm und Drang, not least in the C minor quartet.

Works for violin with and without orchestra

It was in 1956 that Tulindberg’s first violin concerto in B-flat major (op. 1) was found, in a collection that belonged to Patrik Alströmer, to whom the concerto was dedicated. Alströmer was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in 1771, and later became the secretary of the academy, but he was also the music director for Utile Dulci. It is likely that Tulindberg sent his violin concerto to Alströmer as a working draft. The work apparently won approval since Tulindberg, in 1797, was elected as a member of the academy. Even a couple of years earlier in a lecture for the academy, Jacob Tengström had referred to Tulindberg’s great insights into folk music. 

The concerto has three movements, formed from the model created by composers of the Mannheim school (Allegro−Romance grazioso−Rondo. Tempo di menuetto), in which the final minuet contains a series of variations that require a certain virtuosity, but that also leaves room for an improvised cadenza.

In addition to the works already named, there is only one other known work, a Polonaise con variazioni for solo violin. During Erik Tulindberg’s time in Oulo, he became so interested in the region’s local folk music that he came to be called ‘the first Finnish folklorist’. This was also the way he first attracted the attention of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien. He became enraptured by a polska (a couple dance particular to Sweden) and wrote five variations to it. It is a brief work of less than three minutes.

Stig Jacobsson © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson


Andersson, Otto: ‘Erik Tulindberg: en finländsk musikamatör från det gustavianska tidevarvet’, Finsk tidskrift, 1930, pp. 122−151.

Haapanen, Toivo: ‘Erik Tulindberg’, Suomen Musiikkilehti, no. 6 1925.
Korhonen, Kimmo
: ‘Erik Tulindberg’, liner notes to CD with the string quartets, Polyhymnia PH0604, 2006.
Lappalainen, Seija
: ‘Erik Tulindberg’, Biografiskt lexikon för Finland, vol. 1, Svenska tiden, Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 2008.
Maasalo, Kai
: ‘Erik Tulindberg’, in: Suomalaisia sävellyksiä, vol. 1, Tulindbergistä Sibeliukseen, Borgå, 1964
Oramo, Ilkka: ‘Erik Tulindberg, Viennese Classicist of the far North’, in: Finnish Musical Quarterly, no. 2 1989, pp. 36−39.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket

Summary list of works

Violin concerto in B-flat major, 6 string quartets, Polonaise con variationi for solo violin.

Collected works

Six string quartets (B-flat major, D minor, C major and G major, C minor, F major), ca 1783.
Violin concerto no. 1 in B-flat major, ca 1783.
Violin concerto no. 2 (lost).
Polonaise con variazioni, solo violin.

Works by Erik Tulindberg

There are no works by the composer registered