Johan Zander (1752-1796)


Johan David Zander was born on 15 October 1752 in Stockholm, where he lived and worked until his death on 21 February 1796. He was a violinist, conductor and composer. In 1772, he was employed by the Royal Court Orchestra and in 1788 he was named second concertmaster. In 1784, he also became chief conductor at Stenborgska teatern. Zander was employed as a teacher at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1785, and in 1786 employed at the Royal Opera. He became a member of the Academy of Music in 1788. He was also a member of the societies Par Bricole and Utile Dulci. Zander was a versatile musician, but it was mainly as a composer of Swedish comic operas that he made his biggest impact.


Johan David Zander was born into a musical family. His father, Johan David Gottfried Zander (1713−1774), often referred to as Johan David the elder, came to Sweden with Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik’s royal orchestra in 1743. Zander the elder was mainly a bassoonist, but also played oboe and violin. One can, therefore, assume that Zander learned to play the violin from his father. In addition, Zander would eventually learn to play both viola and cello. In 1772, at the age of 20, he was employed as a violinist in Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra), where he was eventually promoted to third concertmaster, and then in 1788, to second concertmaster.

During the 1770s, Zander was employed as kammarmusicus (chamber musician) by Swedish Duke Carl (later Charles XIII, brother to King Gustav III) and was, beginning in 1784, conductor at Carl Stenborg’s theatre. Zander was a prolific teacher as well, and was employed in 1785 as a violin teacher at the educational institution of Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music). One year later, he also became a teacher at the music school started by the hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra), Abbé Vogler, at the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera). It is difficult to determine just how long Zander worked as a teacher. Zander was elected into the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien in 1788, and was a member of the society Par Bricole, and the music and literary society Utile Dulci, playing cello in the orchestra of the latter.


Johan Zander had a diversified career. He was both an orchestra and a chamber ensemble musician, but also appeared frequently as a soloist. It was not at all uncommon, during the latter part of the 18th century, to have such a versatile career in music. Several of Zander’s colleagues in Hovkapellet also played in the orchestra of Stenborgska teatern, and gave solo concerts. However, there were not many like Zander, as he was also a concertmaster, conductor, teacher and composer.

We find Zander fairly often in concert announcements from the middle of the 1700s. He played solo works for violin and viola and performed as a soloist in concertos for violin, viola and cello – several of these concertos were reported to have been written by him. He is also said to have composed an oboe concerto, but it is more likely that his father wrote it. As a part of his duties at Hovkapellet, Zander also conducted concerts, which is confirmed by several concert announcements. But he had other conducting engagements as well. According to records from the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien, Zander was responsible for the academy’s subscription concerts. Unfortunately, no programmes from these concerts in 1793 were saved.

One rather unusual concert was given on 25 January 1784, in the great hall of Riddarhuset (the House of Nobility). In celebration of the birthday of King Gustav III, the hovkapellmästare, Francesco Antonio Uttini, conducted a concert comprised entirely of works by Johan Zander: arias, recitatives, duets, and trios, as well as a violin solo performed by Zander himself. The concert closed with a choir. The programme suggests that Zander was a respected composer also within the court.

Stage music

Zander made his debut as a theatre composer in 1781 at Stenborgska teatern, with an opéra comique in one act, Kopparslagaren, with text by Carl Envallsson. The work became a huge success, playing in several theatres in Sweden, and became a part of the theatre’s repertoire up until 1790. The music demonstrates that Zander was an experienced orchestra musician whose instrumental finesse and singable melodies highlighted the text. Perhaps the success of the piece contributed to the fact that Zander became the leader of the theatre’s orchestra in 1784. He collaborated on several occasions with Carl Envallsson, who was employed at the theatre. Zander wrote the music to the comic opera, Njugg spar och fan tar (1784), and the divertissement Herregårdshögtidligheten. Perhaps Envallsson’s most popular work, the vaudeville Kronfogdarne (1787), begins with an original and characteristically Zander-composed overture. The 19th-century-theatre historian, Johan Flodmark, describes the music as giving ‘this entertaining comic opera an idyllic and cheerful colouring, which lends it a pleasing charm’. This overture is Zander’s most-played work. Zander also collaborated with Didric Gabriel Björn on the comedy Landstigningen (1788) as well as setting music to the comic opera Lisette.

One of Zander’s responsibilities was to contribute incidental music and songs to the plays. In 1788, he wrote a number of pieces for Maskeraden, and a polska (literally Polish dance – couple dancing originating in Poland which spread throughout Europe) for the vaudeville, Tillfälle gör tjuven. François-André Danican Philidor’s Tom Jones was given a new aria in 1790, and in the same year, Zander reworked the music to the first Swedish comic opera, Syrinx (1747), which also received several new song numbers. In 1791, he contributed similarly to Äventyraren eller Resan till månens ö.

In 1791, Zander resumed his collaboration with Envallsson, who had translated the libretto to Carl Ditter von Dittersdorf’s opera, Doktor und Apotheker, which was re-titled as Den tokroliga natte. Zander wrote completely new music for it. This was his most ambitious work, detailed and through-composed with larger and more uniform musical sections. Despite all his work, the performance was a fiasco, and was booed by the audience, who preferred the original music. However, Zander went on to write music for two more stage works. For Den förförda flickan, a drama by Didric Gabriel Björn written in the new ‘bourgeois-sentimental’ style, from 1791, and he once again wrote in a very detailed way, through-composed and dramatic. The year before, he had written couplets and songs for the play Kvinnorna och förtroendet.

It was common to have incidental music at the theatre, and according to the programmes, Zander often played solo pieces for violin or viola – probably his own works – but also conducted the newest symphonies by Haydn and Carl Stamitz. Zander is believed to have left Stenborgska teatern in 1794. A benefit performance was given for him at the theatre on 23 November 1793, and after that, his name disappears from the programme guide. Zander still had his post at Hovkapellet and performed in the autumn of 1794 as a soloist, playing his own violin concerto.

Zander’s stage music was inspired by contemporary French opera composers, especially his overtures. Haydn was another influence. Zander’s theatre music was perhaps not so personal, but shows, with its varying motifs and diverse use of instrumentation, how skilfully it interacted with the text and moved the dramatic action forward.

Orchestra music, chamber works and songs

Unfortunately, all the solo concertos that Zander composed seem to have been lost. The only major orchestral work that is preserved is a symphony in B-flat major in four movements, written for the society Utile Dulci in 1785. Like much of his theatre music, the symphony is inspired by Haydn’s works, which Zander often conducted. But in the symphony, one can even find influences from other composers of the Viennese classical school. With his richly contrasting instrumentation, where the theme switches from the wind instruments to the strings, his careful voice leading and the melodiously rich bass line, a picture of a seasoned and, for his time, very original composer emerges.

Minor works for piano, piano and violin and even one for harp were printed in Olof Åhlströms’s publication, Musikaliskt tidsfördrif. A few songs with piano accompaniment, as well as arias have also been preserved. Chamber music pieces include three string quartets, which were likely written during the 1770s. According to Swedish composer and musicologist Lennart Hedwall, these pieces are ‘pleasant entertaining music’ but they are stylistically fairly immature with lower harmony parts that lack autonomy.


Zander was known and appreciated as a theatre composer in his time. However, his musical comedies and vaudevilles, because of their texts, are closely tied to the era in which they were written. Three of these were still being performed after the composer’s death: Kopparslagaren, Kronfogdarne and Njug spar och fan tar. Kronfogdarne was especially popular and was played as late as in the 1840s. From Zander’s minor works, some of his songs were reproduced in various collections throughout the 1800s and two of his overtures – to Kopparslagaren and Lisette – were published as late as in 1988.

Veslemøy Heintz © 2013
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson


Bengtsson, Britta: 1751 års män: anteckningar om amatörer och hovkapellister vid 'Kongl. Begrafnings och Kongl. Krönings Musiquerne år 1751', Stockholm: Statens musikbibliotek, 2001.
Dahlgren, Fredrik August: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms theatrar 1737−1863 och Kongl. theatrarnes personal 1773−1863 med flera anteckningar, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1866.
Flodmark, Johan
: Stenborgska skådebanorna: bidrag till Stockholms teaterhistoria, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1893.

Hedwall, Lennart: Den svenska symfonin, Stockholm: AWE/Geber, 1983.
−−−: 'Johan David Zander and the Swedish opéra-comique', in: Inger Mattson (ed.), Gustavian opera, Stockholm: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien, 1991, pp. 365−374.
−−−: 'Stenborgs teater och det svenska sångspelet', in: Leif Jonsson and Anna Ivarsdotter-Johnson (eds), Musiken i Sverige: frihetstiden och gustaviansk tid, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993.
Karle, Gunhild: Kungl. Hovkapellet i Stockholm och dess musiker 1772−1818, Uppsala: G. Karle, 2000.
Nisser, Carl: Svensk instrumentalkomposition 1770−1830, Stockholm: Gothia, 1943.
Nyström, Pia & Anne-Marie Elmquist: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien: matrikel 1771−1995, Stockholm: Akademien 1996.
Piscator, Andreas: Historisk öfversigt af musiken i Sverige under Gustaf III, Uppsala, 1860.
Tegen, Martin: 'Den åhlströmska sångrepertoaren 1789−1810', Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 65, 1983.
Walin, Stig: Beiträge sur Geschichte der schwedischen Sinfonik: Studien aus dem Musikleben des 18. und des beginnenden 19. Jahrhunderts, Stockholm: Norstedt 1941.
Van Boer, Bertil H., Jr, (ed.): The symphony in Sweden: Part 2, New York: Garland, 1982.
Vretblad, Patrik, Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700-talet, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1918.
Åkerberg, Bengt: 'Ur Mazers gömmor', in 150 år med kammarmusik. Mazerska kvartettsällskapet, Stockholm: Mazerska kvartettsällskapet, 1999, pp. 173176.


Västerås stadsbibliotek (dep. Stiftsbiblioteket), Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Växjö stadsbibliotek (dep. Stiftsbiblioteket), Blekinge läns museum Karlskrona, Höörs stadsbibliotek

Summary list of works

5 comic operas (Kopparslagaren, Njugg spar och fan tar or Åldrarnes dårskap, Lisette, Syrinx, Den tokroliga natten or Lyckan står den djerfve bi), incidental music for 8 plays, orchestral music (1 symphony, 1 overture), solo concertos (concertos for oboe, violin, viola and cello – an unknown number since the works are lost), chamber music (3 string quartets, Andantino for violin and piano, Rondo for violin and basso continuo), piano music (minor works), Andantino for harp, songs (6 songs with piano accompaniment and 4 with orchestral accompaniment).

Collected works

Comic opera
Njugg spar och fan tar, eller Åldrarnes dårskap.
Den tokroliga natten, eller Lyckan står den djerfve bi.

Reworkings of comic operas

Sophie, eller Den dygdiga landtflickan [original music by Niccolò Piccinni].

Incidental music
Den förförda flickan.
Kronfogdarne, eller Slotterölet.
Qvinnorna och förtroende.

Contributions to incidental music

Tillfälle gör tjufven.
Tom Jones.
Äventyraren eller Resan till månens ö.

Works for orchestra

Sinfonia in B-flat major.
, Kronofogderne.

Chamber music

String quartet in E-flat major.
String quartet in C major.
String quartet in B-flat major.
Andantino violin and piano.
Rondo for violin and b.c.

Works for piano

Tempo di Meneutto.
Andantino for harp


Den belönte soldaten. 'Sedan ryktet börjat tala…', voice, piano.
Diana. 'Så vördom tacksamhetens lag!...', voice, piano.
Mins hur jag älskat dig, voice, piano.
Petronella. 'Så hastar tidens ström…' possibly with the title På födelsedagen, voice, piano.
Såramålet. 'Kärlek, af sin seger drucken …', voice, piano.
Song. 'Jag är lycklig, mina bröder…', voice, piano.
Aria 'Då Gustaf frälste Svea…', voice, orchestra.
Aria 'Hvad en dödlig plär förnöja …', voice, orchestra.
Aria 'Hvad glädje! Jag min Sophia…', voice, orchestra.
Aria 'Sälla folk i Bores Land', voice, orchestra.

Works by Johan Zander

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

Number of works: 10