Patrik Vretblad (1876−1953)


Patrik Vretblad was born in Svartnäs, Dalarna on 5 April 1876 and died in Stockholm on 15 January 1953. He worked as a church musician, organist, music critic and music researcher. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm during 1895−1900, graduating with degrees in organ performance, cantorship and music teaching in 1896. He was the organist in the French Reformed church during 1900−06 and in Oscar Church from 1907. He was a music critic for several daily newspapers. As a music researcher he was particularly known for his biography of the composer Johan Helmich Roman. From 1918 he was the secretary of the Society of Swedish Composers and for the Swedish Art Music Society from 1933. In 1921 he became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and that same year was awarded the Litteris et Artibus medal.

Childhood and education

Patrik Vretblad originally came from the industrial town of Svartnäs, in the region of Dalarna, where he was born on 5 April 1876. His parents were the public school teacher Per Vretblad and his wife Elisabeth Rahm. He graduated from the Falun secondary school where he had studied between 1889 and 1895.

After his education in Falun he went to Stockholm where he studied at the Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) between 1895 and 1900. In 1896 he completed degrees in organ performance, cantorship and music teaching, but he continued to study at the conservatory. He took lessons in piano performance from Hilda Thegerström together with composition and counterpoint from Joseph Dente between 1897 and 1900. During the summers of 1898 and 1899 Vretblad substituted for Mauritz Boheman as librarian at the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music).



In 1900 Vretblad began working as the organist in the French Reformed church in Stockholm, however, after just one year he had the opportunity to take a study trip to Germany to train in composition. This was made possible through a government composer’s grant of 1000 Swedish crowns annually for two years, which he was awarded in 1901.

In 1909 he began to organize motet evenings together with the cantor Oscar Sandberg in Oscar's Church. Together they came to hold a total of about one hundred gatherings. The repertoire included a mix of both older and newer vocal and instrumental church music and was performed by Vretblad on organ with a choir under Sandberg’s direction. Other instrumentalists and choirs also took part in certain concerts. One of the violinists who performed in these concerts and who often concertized with Vretblad was his wife, Karin (née Bodman). Karin Vretblad was also quite a well-educated musician and had studied at the conservatory in Stockholm at the same time as Vretblad, afterwards continuing her education in Geneva. Patrik Vretblad was also a highly regarded concert organist and held a number of organ concerts in Stockholm as well as in Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki.

Civil Servant

At the same time that he began his career in music, he also began a parallel career as a civil servant, when in 1900 he took a job as a clerk at the Postverket (the Swedish Postal Service). Over the years he advanced in the organization, and in 1917 became First Postal Clerk, then in 1925 First Postal Assistant and finally Controller for the General Postal Service board of directors from 1933 to 1941. Within this administrative pathway he also worked as an accountant and secretary for the Dramatiska och musikaliska artisternas pensionskassa (Theatrical and musical artist’s pension fund) from 1915, as secretary for the Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare (the Society of Swedish Composers) from 1918 and as secretary in the Musikaliska konstföreningen (the Swedish Art Music Society) from 1933. He had become a member in the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien in 1921 and worked occasionally within the administration and the board of directors there. Beyond this Vretblad was involved in the founding of the music copyright organization, Svenska Tonsättares Internationella Musikbyrå or STIM (Swedish Performing Rights Society).

Music author

In the spring of 1902 Karl Valentin proposed Vretblad as a substitute music reviewer for the daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, which would lead to Vretblad’s more than forty year-long career writing about music. In the autumn of 1902 he received his first job as a music critic for the newspaper Nya dagligt allehanda where he stayed until 1906. He then continued his career as music critic for the Social-demokraten 1906−08 (also 1915−16, and from 1920 onward), Svenska Dagbladet 1909−11, Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidnings Stockholmsavdelning 1911−13, Aftontidningen 1916−20, and more sporadically in Idun and Post- och inrikes tidningar. He became a member in the Publicistklubben (Publicist club) in 1929.

Vretblad’s contributions to musicological research were also significant, despite the fact that he lacked an academic education. His research was particularly centred on Swedish music history from the 18th century, but also included the music of other countries. Among among his foremost publications are his biography of the composer Johan Helmich Roman (1914) and Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700-talet (Concert life in Stockholm during the 18th century), published in 1918.

The composer

In addition to his work as an organist, civil servant and music writer, Vretblad was also engaged extensively as a composer. He wrote solo pieces for piano and organ, pieces for solo song and piano or organ, choral works, works for string quartet and also quite a bit for orchestra.

Several of his works follow the style of National Romanticism and draw on Swedish folk music, particularly from Vretblad's home region of Dalarna. One sees this in his Liten Dalasvit for violin, cello and piano, and also in, among others, his music for solo piano and solo song and piano. He often created different arrangements and reworked his own compositions. His interest in music history is seen as well in certain works that have clearly taken their inspiration from older music – for example the suite Från Bellmans tid as well as his arrangements and editions of music by Roman and others.

As an organist he was renowned for his organ compositions, many of which are infused with a meditative character. He arranged a significant number of his own works for organ as well as for string quartet.

Anne Reese Willén © 2016
trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Selected works:

A series on modern tone poets (Max Reger, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler), Nya Dagligt Allehanda, 1905.
Articles on Franz Berwald, Ole Bull, Lohengrin, Izeyl, Faust, Romeo and Juliet, Don Giovanni, Telemark’s friarfärd, Boris Godunov, Giuseppe Martucci, Pianolan, Albert Niemann, Swedish ballet from Queen Christina’s time, Franz Neruda, Svenska Dagbladet.
Johan Helmich Roman 1694−1758: svenska musikens fader, Stockholm: Nordiska bokhandeln, 1914.
Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700-talet, Stockholm, 1918.
Andreas Hallén, Stockholm, 1918.
‘Pergoleses “Stabat mater” inför musikkritiken i Stockholm på 1700-talet’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 2, 1920.
Article series on national music and musical nations (Ungern, Tjeckoslovakien, Polen, Finland, Spanien, Italien, Ryssland, Belgien, Frankrike, Island, Lettland, Litauen, Rumänien, Portugal), 1925–1940.
‘Abbé Vogler som programmusiker’, Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 9, 1927.
Motettaftnarna i Oscars kyrka 1909−1929, Stockholm, 1929. [Together with Carl-Oscar Othzén.]
Den tjeckiska tonkonsten: en översikt, Stockholm: Fritzes, 1930.
Islands musik. Festskrift till högtidlighållande av tusenårsminnet av isländska statens grundande, Lund, 1930.
Orgelregistren: uppslagsbok för organister, orgelbyggare och orgelns vänner, Stockholm: Fritzes, 1932.
Polen i musikhistorien: kortfattad översikt, Stockholm: Fritzes, 1938.
Les relations théâtrales et musicales entre la France et la Suède: l’art scénique français aux théâtres de Stockholm, Stockholm, 1938.
Johan Helmich Roman: minnesteckning, Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1944.
‘Franska tonsättare på orgelbänken’, Kyrkomusikernas tidning, no. 9 1945.
‘Falu gruva i operalitteraturen’, Falu-Kuriren, 19 november 1946.


Svedlund, Karl-Erik: De sågo himmelen öppen: Tjugo snabbporträtt av kristna sångdiktare, kompositörer och sångare, Stockholm: Norman, 1966.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.

Summary list of works

Works for string orchestra, chamber music, piano works, organ works, songs with piano/organ, choral works.

Collected works

String quartet/string orchestra/orchestra
In memoriam for a friend’s funeral, arr. for string quartet or string orchestra, op. 16b,
Från Bellmans tid: two roccoco dances for chamber orchestra, op. 41, 1924. 1. Rigaudon, 2. Menuett.
Allemande, op. 41:3b, arr. for string orchestra, comp. 1925, arr. 1938.
Jul - Meditation över gamla julsånger for organ, op. 47, arr. for string quartet.
Jul - Meditation över gamla julsånger for organ, op. 47, arr. for orchestra, 1942.
Théme varié for string quartet G minor, op. 79.
Introduction (Elevation) to a fugue and choral, arr. for orchestra (strings + horn).
Introduction (Elevation) to a fugue and choral, op. 51 and 69, arr. for orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 3 horns in f, trumpets in D, 3 trombones, timpani [D,A], vl. 1 and 2, vla, cello and contrabass.), 1936.
Liten Dalasvit, for violin, cello and piano, Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist. 1. Fäbodvallen, 2. Stämning, 3. Visa, 4. Och inte vill jag sörja, 5. På Leksands brygga.

Meditation for organ, op. 9, 1901. Stockholm: Dahlströms musik- och industrimagasin.
Celebratory prelude to the Swedish hymn 33 [392] for organ, 1917.
Chorale fantasy [Celebratory prelude], op. 40, no. 1 [E-flat major], 1921. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1930.
Chorale fantasy [Symphonische Phantasie], op. 40, no. 2, 1922.
Jul - Meditation över gamla julsånger for organ, op. 47, 1927, rev. 1937. Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1929, 1984.
Fugue and chorale on a Bohemian theme for large organ, op. 51 [D major]. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1931.
Fugue et choral sur en thême tchèque, 1931.
Communion op. 53, 1932.
Elevation (Prelude to op. 51, Fugue and chorale) op. 69 [A major]. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht.
Fugue and chorale, op. 78 [D minor], man., 1941.
Prelude and fugue for organ, op. 81, comp. 1901, rev. 1942. Stockholm: Gehrmans, 1942.
Zuom pastores laudavere.
Symphonic fantasy for organ.
Marcia solenne per organo.

Menuet à la Haydn [A major] op. 1a.
Sketches for piano, op. 3. Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist, 1900. 1. Albumblad, 2. Canzona och 3. Intermezzo.
Albumblad [E-flat major], in: Damernas musikblad, nos 13–14 1905.
Three lyrical pieces, op. 12 nos 1–3. Stockholm: Dahlströms musik- och industrimagasin. 1. Nocturne, 2. Humoresk, 3. Ballad.
Sommarminnen for piano op. 13 nos 1 and 2. Stockholm: Elkan och Schildknecht, 1907. 1. Mélodie och 2. Pensée Fugitive.
Humoresque in a folk tone, op. 15.
Albumblad [C major], 1941.
Impromptu, op. 67a, 1935.
Mazurek for piano, op. 68b, 1935.
I folkton, op. 68c, 1935.
Introduction/Elevation op. 69. [Also called Elévation Preludium to op. 51, Fugue and chorale op. 69.]
På fäbodvallen, in: Omtyckta melodier for piano, Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist.
Tre dalalåtar, arranged for piano. Stockholm: Gehrman, 1943.

Solo voice and piano
Majvisa for voice and piano, op. 2b. Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist.
Nu løftes laft og løfte sång, for one voice and piano [E-flat major], op. 1c (H. Ibsen), 1901.
O vor jag ett minne (Zacharias Topelius), for one voice and piano [E-flat major], op. 4. Stockholm: Elkan och Schildknecht, 1950.
Psalm 117, 1905.
Nejlikan, for Mrs. Dagmar Möller op. 7 (von Storm). Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist.
Pingstpsalm (Natanael Beskow) for one voice and piano [E-flat major].
Hemvärnets fana (Axel Stålhane). for men’s choir, arr. for voice and piano.

Violin and piano/organ
In memoriam for a friend’s funeral, for violin and organ harmonium, op. 16.
Allemande, op. 41, 1925.
Rigaudon for violin and piano, op. 41a. [Arr. 1950 by Från Bellmans tid, suite for string orchestra, 1. Rigaudon, 1924.]
Fantasy on Hungarian folk melodies, op. 48 [G minor], ms.
Sarabande in a nordic tone.
Meditation for violin and piano or organ, 1925.

Cello and piano
Sonata for cello and piano, 1899.

Gud bevare Konung och fädernesland! Swedish hymn 305. Stockholm: Centraltryckeriet, 1914.
Hymnus, 1915.
Chorale-cantata for Oscar’s Church’s 25th anniversary op. 50, 1928.
Choral cantata, composed for the Oscar parish’s 25th anniversary 3 May 1931 op. 51b, 1931.
Hymn/Motet, (E.N. Söderberg), 1935.
Hymn dedicated to Carl-Oscar Othzén for mixed choir op. 67 [E major].
Psalm 46 for mixed choir, op. 88, 1942.
Moteto di primavera in modo antico, canon in super-ottava vol sub-dominante, dedicato al Coro supremo della chiesa Oscar, Estocolma.
Nyårsbön under kriget (Esaias Tegnér).
Hemvärnets fana (Axel Stålhane) for men’s choir.                      

Arrangements of other composers’ works
Vretblad has arranged a quantity of music, mainly that of J.H. Roman. A list of these arrangements that exists in his archive is available in the archive registry at Musik och teaterbiblioteket.