Karl Valentin (1853−1918)


Karl (Carl) Fritiof Valentin was born in Gothenburg on 30 May 1853 and died in Stockholm (Lidingö) on 1 April 1918. He studied in Uppsala 1873−79 and then in Leipzig 1879−85, at both the conservatory and university. He gained his PhD with a thesis on Swedish folk tunes. Between 1885 and 1897 he lived in Gothenburg, where he revived the dormant Harmonic Society. Moving to Stockholm in 1897, he was permanent secretary to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music from 1901 onwards, and in 1903 became a music history teacher at the academy conservatory. As secretary to the academy he had a hand in forming the Gävle, Norrköping and Helsingborg orchestras.

Xylography by Gunnar Vidar Forssell, 1890. (Kungliga biblioteket)


Childhood and youth

Karl Valentin was born in Gothenburg. His father, Isaac Philip Valentin, was a Jewish wholesale merchant, his mother Rosa Valentin. They were a well-to-do family and members of the Gothenburg Jewish congregation. Music was their paramount interest, and in the 1850s the Valentins helped to arrange for the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana to visit Gothenburg − Karl Valentin’s parents became his patrons.

Valentin attended the Jewish School between 1862 and 1873, going on from there to Schillerska gymnasiet (grammar school), where he matriculated. In 1873 he moved to Uppsala to read law, and remained there till 1879, though without pursuing any legal studies in earnest. He became acquainted with the university director musices, J.A. Josephson, and attended his music history lectures. After contacting Ludvig Norman, Valentin was advised to continue his studies at the Leipzig Conservatory. In addition to his musical talent, Valentin knew several languages − German as well as Swedish was spoken at home, he had studied Hebrew and was conversant in English and French − and, moreover, thanks to his parents, he was financially independent.

Leipzig and Gothenburg

The Leipzig Conservatory suited Valentin down to the ground. Felix Mendelssohn, its founder, had defined an overarching objective for studies there, namely that music should be, not just a matter of momentary enjoyment, but an ‘art’ relating to ‘a higher spiritual life’. The artist-musician should be steeped in the theory and history of music and should have a sense of judgement were art and music were concerned. There was also an in-built conflict here, namely a clear dichotomy between craftsmanship and artistry. The musical craftsman became the antithesis of the cultivated artist. The conservatory enjoyed high standing among the citizens of Leipzig, and there was an ideal here of melding musicians and citizens into a new, ‘elevated type of citizen’. The concept of Bildung, accordingly, held a very strong position in Leipzig. .

Valentin received theoretical and practical tuition at the conservatory between 1879 and 1883, graduating in June 1883. He then went on to the university, to study for a doctorate. In November 1884 he presented his thesis, entitled Studien über die Schwedischen Volksmelodien. In 1885, simultaneously with the publication of his thesis, and with top marks from the faculty, he was made philosophiae doctor et bonarum artium magister, with the theory and history of music as his main subject.  

In 1885 Valentin returned to Gothenburg. There he formed a choir which in 1886 merged with the Harmoniska sällskapet (Harmonic Society), which thereby took on a new lease of life. In 1895, taking his cue from Leipzig and Stockholm, he started popular concerts at Göteborgs Arbetareinstitut (the Gothenburg workers’ institute). At these concerts, the actual performance was preceded by a music history lecture in popular vein. A new period in Valentin’s life began in 1897, when he moved to Stockholm.

Valentin in Stockholm

Valentin made a rapid career in Stockholm. Richard Andersson had invited him there, to lecture on music history to the students at Andersson’s school of music, and until 1903 Valentin was also a music reviewer for the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. In 1897 he was elected to membership of Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music), and that same year he received the Litteris et artibus. (literature and art) award. In 1901 he was elected permanent secretary to the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien, and in 1903 he began teaching music history at the academy conservatory, from 1912 onwards as a titular professor. In 1910 a group assembled to form a Swedish equivalent of Germany’s Internationale Musikgesellschaft. Valentin was elected chairman. Den musikvetenskapliga föreningen was reconstituted in 1915 as Svenska samfundet för musikforskning (the Swedish Musicological Society). The first issue of the musicology journal Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning appeared in 1919, a year after Valentin died, but the subject did not acquire official status until 1927.

Popular education, music history and administration were Karl Valentin’s prime concerns after 1900. Concert activities as we know them today were built up at the end of the 19th century. City populations were growing rapidly. Previously, art music had been the preserve of a small upper class, but in and around 1900 musicians began forming orchestras, which in turn meant that the public had to be acclimatised to hearing unfamiliar music. Valentin was only one of several popular educators, but he played a very important part in this connection, due to his being active in several different spheres.  

Already in 1898, it was announced that Karl Valentin would be giving a series of music history lectures under the aegis of Borgarskolan (the citizens’ school) in the auditorium of the Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien (the Royal Academy of Sciences). Starting with music two thousand years previously, the series worked its way forward to the contemporary scene. Borgarskolan musicians assisted with the lectures by playing music from each period Valentin dealt with.

In 1901, together with P.E.M. Fischer, Valentin founded Folkkonsertförbundet (the Popular Concert Society), an organisation which, with some transformation, survived until 1970. Between 1898 and 1917 Karl Valentin gave between 10 and 20 popular concerts each term, under Borgarskolan and Folkkonsertförbundet auspices. Most of his concerts conformed to a set pattern: an introductory talk, perhaps on a particular theme or featuring the music of a single composer or a group of composers. Swedish music figured frequently on the programme, but so too did European art music. The actual concert would then follow. Audiences flocked to these occasions, and a dialogue existed between Valentin’s popular concerts and the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, which had several precursors from 1902 onwards and was formally established in 1914.

As secretary to the Musikaliska akademien, Valentin played a part in forming the Norrköping, Helsingborg and Gävle orchestras (1912). All three had loose-knit orchestral constellations which gave popular concerts and formed the basis of the newly constituted orchestras’ activities.

From 1903 onwards, Valentin also taught music history at the conservatory of the Musikaliska akademien in Stockholm. In 1900 he published an illustrated history of music, Populär allmän musikhistoria, in two volumes  (‘Musiken i forna dagar’ and ‘Från Palestrina till Wagner’). A second, revised edition appeared in 1916.


Although principally concerned with music history, popular education and administration, Valentin was also a composer. Most of his surviving compositions were written during his years in Leipzig and Gothenburg, while a minor portion, jubilee cantatas mostly, was written during his years in Stockholm. Most of his compositions are solo songs composed in the 1880s and 1890s; with few exceptions, they are cast in a late-romantic vein which coincides with the type of sound commonly employed by Swedish composers in and around 1900. A number of works for violin and piano are dedicated to Henri Marteau (1874−1934), a Franco-German violinist active in Sweden, and are redolent of French late romanticism, while the piano compositions can be termed elegant salon music true to the spirit of the age.

As a composer, Valentin has a copious output which is practically unknown to musicians and musicologists alike. No study has yet been made of his music, which is of interest if only for the light it sheds on music-making at the turn of the century. The collection, then, awaits due processing in the perspective of music history.


Valentin’s music has been very sparingly performed since his death. The aspects of his career of importance today are above all his work as popular educator and music historian, but also his initiatives as secretary to the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien. His history of music was written in conjunction with his lectures and for the students at the conservatory of the Musikaliska akademien. After Wilhelm Bauck’s textbook of music history, published in the 1860s, Valentin’s books on the subject remained the most important until the end of the 1920s. His popular educational work was epoch-making, guaranteeing audiences for the newly formed orchestras in Gothenburg, Stockholm, Norrköping, Gävle and Helsingborg. Valentin’s correspondence reveals a far-flung network of international contacts, which helped give him a strong position in Swedish music.

Eva Öhrström © 2014
Trans. Roger Tanner

Publications by the composer

Studien über die schwedischen Volksmelodien, diss., Leipzig, 1885.
Music in Scandinavia, in: The Concert Goer, New York, 1898.
Pianot och dess föregångare, Stockholm, 1899.
Populär allmän musikhistoria, Stockholm, 1900−1901, rev. ed. 1916.


Carlsson, Anders: 'Handel och Bacchus eller Händel och Bach?' Det borgerliga musiklivet och dess orkesterbildningar i köpmannastaden Göteborg under andra hälften av 1800-talet. Diss. Göteborg, 1996.
Dahlstedt, Sten: Fakta och förnuft. Svensk akademisk musikforskning 1909−1941, diss. Göteborg, 1986, p. 46ff.
Pettersson, Tobias:
De bildade männens Beethoven. Musikhistorisk kunskap och social formering i Sverige mellan 1850 och 1940, diss. Göteborg, 2004.
Olsson, Dan
: Ett förbisett pionjärarbete − om Karl Valentins doktorsavhandling, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, 2003.
Öhrström, EvaKarl Valentin − den bildade musikern, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning: STM-online vol. 12, 2009.


Kungl. Biblioteket

Summary list of works

Orchestral works (mostly occasional), works for solo instrument and orchestra (Romans, Fantasistycke, Rondo), chamber music (Adagio for cello and piano, etc.), plus other piano music (Tre pianostycken, Spelmansvisor, Bagateller etc.), songs (Alte Lieder, Aus alten Tagen etc.), works for voice and orchestra (Brudfärd, Kleines Volk, Vårflod etc.), choral music.

52 opus numbers and a few separate, unnumbered works are extant, mostly in manuscript.

Collected works

After an opus list compiled by Karl Valenin's son, Valter Valentin, in 1952 and based on the composer's own notes. For a complete opus list, refer to Valter Valentin's compilation in the archive register to Karl Valentin's archive at Kungliga Biblioteket (the National Library of Sweden). The works exist in manuscript if nothing else is stated. Apart from the opus numbered works 20 or so works exist, see the mentioned archive register.

Opus 1
Ballad for one voice and piano or orchestra. Prolog zum lyrischen Intermezzo. Der blöde Ritter ('Es war mal ein Ritter', Heinrich Heine), 1879.

Opus 2
Skogsrået for soprano and baritone solo, choir and orchestra, ('Han Björn var', Viktor Rydberg), 1879−81.

Opus 3
Drei Klavierstücke in rondo form. 1. G minor, 2. F major, 3. E-flat major, 1881. Printed at Friedrich Kistner, Leipzig (5798), 1881.

Opus 4
Songs for voice and piano, 1879−81. 1. Prindsessen, 2. Ljusning (Tagesanbruch, text by the composer), 3. Wohl über Nacht, printed in op. 38, 4. Träumerei, printed in op. 38, 5. Ich hab im Traum, printed in op. 38, 6. Frühlingsnacht, text by Eichendorff.

Opus 5
Three pieces for solo instrument and piano (nos 1 and 3 also with orchestra). 1. Romance for violoncello/violin/clarinet and piano or orchestra, 2. Fantasy for violin/violoncello and piano, 3. Rondo for violin/violoncello and piano or orchestra. 1880−81.

Opus 6
Male quartets. 1. Es war ein alter König, 1878?, 2. Ein Fichtenbaum, text by Heinrich Heine, 3. Studentenlied, 1878?, 4. Somren er gaaet, 1880.

Opus 7
Eight songs from 'Fahrendes Volk' by A. Fitger. 1. Vorfrühling ('Hunderttausend Lerchen'), 2. Erste Liebe ('Singend über die Heide'), 3. Zu ihr ('Bin ich wirklich'), 4. Nachklang ('Als mich verliess'), 5. Alles aus ('Des Herzens Gluth'), 6. Asche ('Endlich ist es mir gelungen'), 7. Maienacht ('Ich wandle durch die Maiennacht'), 8. Abgekühlt ('Mir fallen alte Blätter'). 1881−82. Printed by Musikaliska konstföreningen, 1886.

Opus 8
Spelmansvisor, small piano pieces. 1. Spelman, 2. Om våren, 3. Drömmen, 4. Danslek, 5. Sorgsna tankar, 6. Spelmansliv. 1882. Printed at Abr. Lundquist (4216), no. 5 also printed in Svensk Musiktidning, 1896.

Opus 9
A. Reiters Morgengesang. ('Morgenroth, Morgenroth', Hauff) for voice and piano or orchestra.
B. Lied des Landsknechts. ('Ihr Trommeln', Ebers) for voice and piano, 1882−83. Printed in piano reduction at Raabe & Plothow, Berlin (R149p).

Opus 10
Bagatelles for piano, 1883−84. 1. Tillägnan (Dedikation). Printed in Damernas Musikalbum and in Tre svenska pianostycken, Å & Å, 2. Vid kvarnen, 3. En gammal historia, printed in Album av svenska tonsättare, Abr. Lundquist förlag, 4. Oro, 5. Canon, printed in Album för piano av svenska tonsättare, Gehrmans.

Opus 11
Songs for one voice and piano, 1879. 1. Verlassenes Mägdlein, printed in op. 25 and Song Journal of Detroit, 1896, 1883−84, 2. Agnes (text after Mörike), printed in Svensk sång (1885), 3. Ben Bol,( text old English song), 1884, 4. Mädchenlied (Geibel), printed at Gumpert, Göteborg.

Opus 12
Songs for once voice and piano. 1. Lebensfrühling, printed in op. 38, 2. Hin, printed in op. 38.

Opus 13
Frithiof på sin faders gård, melodrama with piano or orchestra (text from 'Frithiofs saga' by Esaias Tegnér).

Opus 14
Ingeborgs klagan, soprano and orchestra or piano (text from 'Frithiofs saga' by Esaias Tegnér), 1883.

Opus 15
Brudfärd, solo, choir and orchestra, also piano reduction (A. Fitger, trans. by W. Paterson), 1885.

Opus 16
Alte Lieder, voice and piano. 1. Tageslied, 1884−1891, 2. Hadlaubslied, 3. Quant li rossignol, harmonisation of Courcy's song from the 1100s, 4. Sichelein ('Ich hört ein Sichelein rauschen'), printed in Svensk sång (1884), 5. Jung sterben ('Soll ich denn sterben', text from Des Knaben Wunderhorn), printed at Gumpert, Göteborg, 1883.

Opus 17
Adagio for violin and orchestra or piano. Dedicated to Henri Marteau. Printed piano reduction at Abr. Lundquist (2956), 1886.

Opus 18
Festouverture vid Valands invigning, overture for large orchestra, 1886.

Opus 19
Vak upp! ('Upp att verka', Oscar Fredrik), song with orchestra or piano. Printed for song and piano at Gehrmans (798), 1888−89.

Opus 20
Kleines Volk (Dvärgakrig). ('Nun spannt der Lenz', A. Fitger), baritone and orchestra or piano, 1888−89.

Opus 21
Kantat i Par Bricole, Göteborg till Aron Jonasson på hans 50-årsdag, cantata for soli, choir and orchestra, 1888.

Opus 22
Two female choirs with piano or orchestra. 1. Libellen (Dagsländor, von Fallersleben), 1883, 2. Vårregn (text by the composer), 1883.

Opus 23
Champagne, 'Bricole-hymn' (W. Paterson), soli and male choir à cappella. Printed at Sällskapet för svenska kvartettsångens befrämjande.

Opus 24
Songs. 1. Snöklockan ('Det faller i flockar', Ernst Josephson), voice and piano, 1885, 2. Vinter, printed in op. 38, 3. April ('April, april, det är vår i luften', Gottfrid Kallstenius), voice and piano, printed in Svensk sång, 1889, 3. Kärlek. Vid silverbröllopet, 1891, 4. Takölsrim (Uhland), voice and piano, 1891, 5. Kampf ums Dasein ('Vor der Feste', A. Fitger after Josua's book), solo and male choir with piano or orchestra, before 1895.

Opus 25
Three songs for one voice and piano, 1883−84. 1. I maj ('I maj, i maj', Paul Heyse), 1890, 2. Den långa dagen ('Förr när min vän var här'). Earlier printed by Gnistan, Göteborg, 1889, 3. Den övergivna ('Früh, wenn dir Hähne kräh'n', Mörike. Printed at Abr. Lundquist (3148).

Opus 26
A book of songs to poems by Hans Hopfen, voice and piano, 1889−91. 1. Nur eine ('Wie viel er ihrer waren'), 2. Lied ('Ein Sonntag wars nach Osterzeit'), 3. Der Herbst ist kommen, 4. Dieweil Du mich verlassen hast. Printed at Abr. Hirsch (2282).

Opus 27
Lieder von Paul Heyse, for one voice and piano, 1887. 1. In alten Tagen, printed in op. 38, 2. Rosenzeit, printed in op. 38, 3. Tiefer Brunnen.

Opus 28
Three songs by Paul Heyse, for voice and piano, 1890. 1. Hütet Euch ('Ein Stündlein sind sie'), printed at Wilhelm Hansen, 2. Im Lenz, see op. 25, 3. Mädchenlied.

Opus 29
Festmarsch för stor orkester till Göteborgs högskolas invigning. Printed piano reduction for four hands, Gumperts i distribution, F. Jost, Leipzig.

Opus 30
Three songs for voice and piano. 1. Den lycklige ('Und wieder ist´s die Alte Mär', A. Fitger), printed at Gehrmans (898), (1892), 2. I midnattsstund ('Nun ruht und schlummert alles'), printed at Gehrmans (899), (1881), 3. Gambettas rosor, printed in Svenska Dagbladet, Svensk sång and in op. 51.

Opus 31
Kantat vid Göteborgs högskolas invigning, cantata for soli, choir and orchestra, also in piano reduction, 1891.

Opus 32
Eftermäle (Till Industripalatset), soli, choir, organ, obligato violin (and wind orchestra added by Czapek), 1891.

Opus 33
Songs from 'Francesca da Rimini' by Helmer Key, voice and piano, 1892. 1. Menelstrelvisa ('Om eld jag vore'), 2. Arabisk serenad ('Mitt liv, min fagra tärna'), 3. Korsfararsång ('För mina sorgsna tankar'). Printed piano reduction at Gehrmans (444).

Opus 34
Decembersaga ('På fönsterspringans giga har blåsten spelat opp', Verner von Heidenstam), voice and orchestra or piano, 1892.

Opus 35
Till min mors minne, cantata in four movements, 1893.

Opus 36
Klockringning, male choir à cappella. (text by Viktor Rydberg after Edgar Allan Poe), 1895.

Opus 37
Kantat vid minnesfesten i SHT över Viktor Rydberg, cantata for tenor, baritone, male choir and orchestra (text by Liljebjörn). Printed piano reduction at Gumperts, 1895.

Opus 38
Aus alten Tagen − Från flydda dagar, a song cycle for voice and piano. 1. Rosenzeit ('Nun stehn die Rosen in Blüte'), from op. 27, 1891, 2. Wohl über Nacht ('Die holden Vöglein sind erwacht', August Sturm), 1880, 3. Die Herzallerliebste ('Lieblich hat sich gesellet'), 1894, 4. Deine Stimme ('Was ist es nur', Scherer), 1898, 5. Frau Sorge ('Frau Sorge, was will sie von mir', Roeber), (1890), 6. Tränen ('Ich hab im Traum gewein't', Heinrich Heine), 1881, 7. Traum ('Mir träumte von einem schönen Kind', Heine), 1879, 8. Hin ('Als der Sommersonne Gluten', Leuthold), from op. 12, 1884, 9. Vinter ('Körsbärsträdets kala kvistar', Lundgren), 1884, 10. In alten Tagen ('Ich glaube in alten Tagen', Paul Heyse), from op. 27, 1887, 11. Erinnerung ('O, Lebensfrühling', Leuthold), from op. 12, 1884. Printed at Abr. Lundquist (4466).

Opus 39
Kantat för Mosaiska församlingen, cantata.

Opus 40
Vårflod, male choir and piano or orchestra (text by F. Holmgren), ca 1892.

Opus 41
Schajaxkantat i SHT, cantata.

Opus 42
Lützen for soli and male choir à capella (text by Snoilsky).

Opus 43
Festmarsch vid Pressens vecka i Stockholm 1891, march for large orchestra. Printed piano reduction at Ljus 1901.

Opus 44
Winternächte. Ein Liederzyklus für eine Singstimme und Klavier (text by A. Fitger). Prologue: Der Klausner ('Im Forst der Klausner grub'), 1. Eisgang ('In Eis erstarrt'), 1889, 2. Getroffen ('Ich war schon so klug'), 1890, 3. Flammen ('Wohlan, nun hast Du's'), 1889, 4. Liebestraum ('Ich liege Dir zu Füssen'), 1889, 5. Putti ('Wieder mal'ich Liebesenglein'), 1896, 6. Einsam ('Ich neide nicht'), 1889, 7. Bis in den Tod ('Ein einzger steter Schmerz'), 1890, 8. Der Oldbaum ('Dein Mark ist krank'), 1895. Printed at Forberg, Leipzig/Hirsch, Stockholm.

Opus 45
Four songs to texts by Gustaf Fröding, voice and piano. 1. Fredrek på Ransätt ('Den låta Ransätts-Fredrik sang'), 2. I solnedgången ('Satte jag mig på bergets kam'), 3. Harrgårdtösa i äppelapla ('De satt å sang'), also with orchestra, 4. Sjöfararen vid milan ('Vid milan har jag vaktat'). Printed at Elkan & Schildknecht (2380).

'Säf, säf susa', voice and piano (text by Gustaf Fröding). Printed at Elkan & Schildknecht (1769) and in the Christmas number of Svenska Dagbladet in 1897.

Opus 46
Wennerbergskantat, cantata.

Opus 47
Linnékantat. Kantat vid Kungl. Vetenskapsakademiens minnesfest över Carl von Linné den 25 maj 1907, cantata for soli, choir and orchestra (text by Gustaf Retzius), 1907. Printed piano reduction at Abr. Lundquist (4465).

Opus 48
Sång vid Karl X Gustafs staty, song for soli, choir and piano (text by Snoilsky), 1908.

Opus 49
Skogen sover och andra dikter av Ernest Thiel, voice and piano. 1. Jag älskar dig, 2. Skogen sover, 3. En enda, 1909. Printed at Abr. Hirsch (2606) 'Se du kom' (Ernest Thiel) for voice and piano. Printed at Svenska musikförlaget, Malmö (14), 1910.

Opus 50
La paix. Kantat vid invigningen av internationella fredskongressen i Stockholm 1911, cantata for soli, choir and piano (text by Passy).

Opus 51
Three songs for one voice and piano. 1. Gambettas rosor ('På Gambettas kista man sagt', Daniel Fallström), from op. 30, 1891, 2. Korsväg ('Vägar leda mot öst och väst', Bertel Gripenberg), earlier printed in Dopparedagen 1915, 1914, 3. Vårsky ('Sedan din blick föll in i min själ', Vilhelm Ekelund), earlier printed in Norwegian Julegranen, 1914. Printed at Nordiska musikförlaget.

Opus 52
Jerusalem ('Vid älvarna i Babylon', K. A. Melin), song with orchestra, also piano reduction.

Works by Karl Valentin

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

Number of works: 24