Wilhelm Bauck (1808−1877)


Carl Wilhelm Bauck, born in Gothenburg on 13 December 1808, died in Stockholm on 8 October 1877. Music critic, music teacher, organist, author and librarian. Worked as a music critic for several Stockholm newspapers. Editor of Ny tidning för musik, 1853−57. Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music 1845. Teacher of the history and aesthetics of music at the academy’s conservatory in Stockholm 1858. From 1860 librarian at the academy’s library. Bauck enjoyed a high status in the Stockholm music scene under much of the 19th century, and his work as a music author and critic combined with his position as a teacher and librarian at the academy made him a central figure in the city’s music circles.

Wilhelm Bauck (1808-1877)

(Statens Musikverk)

Early years and education

Wilhelm Bauck was born in 1808 in Gothenburg, where as a child he came into contact with music through the bourgeois fashion for salon performances in the home. The Baucks were a well-to-do family, with the father being a merchant and Wilhelm’s elder sisters prominent salon musicians. Wilhelm also experienced the city’s public music scene, and as a child became acquainted with French operetta and the Mozart-centred German-Austrian repertoire. It was not until the age of 12 that he took up the salon piano, which he did while teaching himself music theory and composition. He later studied harmony for violinist C. M. (probably Mathias) Lundholm. Bauck began his education with the aim to become a state official, a profession that he would never pursue. In 1828 he was employed as an organist at the Engelska kyrkan (the English Church) in Gothenburg, which for him was the final step from a career as a public official to one in the field of music. When moving to Stockholm in 1830, he made a living as a piano teacher while continuing his music theory studies for Edmund Passy at the same time. Bauck never became a prominent musician, but continued to teach for the rest of his life. He also took an educational tour of Europe, including Germany and France, in 1856.

Bauck at the Kungl. Musikaliska akademien

Bauck was elected as a member of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in 1845, and in 1858 was appointed teacher of ‘the History and Aesthetics of Music’ at its conservatory, in which capacity he held regular lectures, initially for his students but later for the general public as well. His lectures were easy to follow and delightfully illustrated with music played by the conservatory’s pupils and teachers, and they soon attracted large audiences. In 1852, as a complement to his lectures, he published his Handbok i musikens historia från fornverlden intill nutiden (A handbook of music history from antiquity to the present), which enjoyed several reprints. Bauck continued to hold these lectures for the rest of his life, although in the mid–1870s, the reins were tightened, depriving him of the kind of freedom that he had been enjoying. Moreover, not only were performances of major works discontinued, a loss to which Bauck was fiercely opposed, but his subject was removed from the list of compulsory courses on the military music director programme at the conservatory. Bauck continued to fight the conservatory management on behalf of the subject up until his final days.

Alongside his teaching post at the conservatory, Bauck was also a librarian at the Musikaliska akademien from 1860 until his death. His presence at the post raised its status and the library’s collection multiplied, thanks in part to a number of very generous donations but also to Bauck’s own commitment to the library’s expansion.

Bauck also published several textbooks on music theory and a music dictionary. The former comprised two volumes on general music theory that dealt, respectively, with the elementary and fundamental aspects of composition and instrumentation, and a book on the first principles of music theory intended as pre-reading for the conservatory entrance test. His music dictionary too was conceived as an aid to music students and other musically interested readers.

Music critic

Bauck earned most renown, however, as a music writer and critic. In 1842 he was hired as the resident music critic for the newspaper Aftonbladet (under the nom-de-plume − u −), where he remained until 1859. The following year he moved to Dagligt Allehanda and in 1871 to Dagens Nyheter. In addition to his work as a music reviewer for the daily press, he also wrote for several important music magazines, including Ny tidning för musik (1853−57). As a critic he was a zealous advocate of the classical repertoire and scathing of contemporary ideas and practices. He reviewed operas at the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera), concerts and newly published music, but also wrote longer polemics and other kinds of articles, which he would later select and publish in 1868 in his book Musik och teater: samlade kritiska uppsatser (Music and drama: collected critical essays).


As a composer, Bauck adhered to the classical ideal under the influence of the likes of Joseph Haydn and Louis Spohr. He mostly wrote for piano, which after all was his own instrument, but also composed songs and some chamber music. Much of his piano music was written for teaching purposes and was published by several different houses. An example on this page is his Deux Sonates pour le Piano composées à l’usage des jeunes Amateurs at Elèves, which comprised two three-movement piano sonatas composed for students and amateurs. A review in the fifth issue of Ny tidning för musik (1855) described them thus:

As pieces of music, the final movements satisfy the most, the andante movements, especially that in the 1st sonata, which is apparently not an andante but in content and character a minuet, albeit without a trio, the least. The first movements stand out in general for their consistency, although may be criticised for their overly easy transitions from the 1st to the 2nd motifs. One seeks originality here, as in instructive material in general, in vain; the motifs are, however, thoroughly noble and in their entirety bear the stamp of purity and genuineness, which is intended to give the student a grasp of classicicity.

As we may understand from these comments, the primary purpose of his music was to tutor students in the classical style.

The largest work in Bauck’s oeuvre is his string quartet in G major, which was published by the Musikaliska konstföreningen (the Swedish Art Music Society) in 1863. The quartet has four movements: Allegro con brio, Scherzo with trio, Andante (variation movement) and Rondo. All the movements are characterised by equality between the voices and a dialogue-like voice progression. Being relatively simple in structure, it contains no passages of similar virtuosity as, for example, Spohr’s quartets of the same kind. Like so much similar music of the time, the quartet was probably written for the amateur, and was the only work for string quartet, as well as the only larger-scale work, that Bauck ever produced. Over and above the quartet, Bauck wrote four large four-handed piano movements in the polyphonic quartet style (the piano arrangement of the string quartet being a fifth). However, he chose not to publish them since − as he described in his autobiographical sketch − he did not wish to ‘abandon them to an uncertain fate’, opting to keep them within the home amongst his uncritical friends.

His songs are generally lieder-like and are stylistically fairly typical of the time and genre. One example is his song ‘Snön’, which sets to music a poem from Teckningar ur hvardagslifvet by author Fredrika Bremer, to whom the piece was dedicated. The vocal line carries the overall melodic weight, while the accompaniment is largely constructed of broken cords. However, the piano part also has an introduction, interlude and coda which are more melodic. It is obvious that this song, like his others, was written for home performances, as is also clear from his choice of dedicatees for his collections, two of which were inscribed to his sisters, for instance, both of whom were salon musicians.

It was not as a composer that Bauck made his name, and he took a very humble attitude towards his compositions. Despite this, he and his music should not be overlooked, since he was, in his days, a key figure on the Swedish music scene.

Anne Reese © 2013
Trans. Neil Betteridge

Publications by the composer

Allmän musiklära för tonkonstens idkare såväl som för dess vänner : äfvensom till begagnande vid de läroverk der musik odlas, part 1, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1864.
Allmän musiklära för tonkonstens idkare såväl som för dess vänner: äfvensom till begagnande vid de läroverk der musik odlas, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1870−1871 (published in two parts).
Handbok i musikens historia från fornverlden intill nutiden: för tonkonstens idkare såväl som för dess vänner i allmänhet, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1862 (issued later in two rev. editions).
Teoretisk-praktisk modulationslära, Stockholm, 1859.
Musikaliskt real-lexikon : handbok i musikvetenskapen för musikstuderande såväl som för tonkonstens vänner i allmänhet, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1871.
Musikaliska revyer, Stockholm, 1852.
Musiklärans första grunder, bearbetade med hufvudsaklig hänsyn till inträdesexamen i K. Musikkonservatoriet äfvensom till bruk i skolorna samt i allmänhet för nybörjare i musik, Stockholm : Hirsch, 1872 (issued between 1872 and 1924 in 11 eds).
Musik och theater: samlade kritiska uppsatser (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1868.
Sjelfbiografisk skizz 1872, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1878.

Miscellaneous articles and reviews in the newpapers Aftonbladet 1842−59, Nya dagligt allehanda 1860−71, Dagens Nyheter 1871−77 and in the music journals Ny tidning för musik 1853−57 and Tidning för teater och musik 1876.


Bauck, Wilhelm: Sjelfbiografisk skizz, Stockholm: Hirsch 1872.
Henneberg, C. P.: 'C. Wilhelm Bauck', in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 2, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1920, p. 772.
Norlind, Tobias och Olallo Morales: Kungl. Musikaliska Akademien 1771−1921, Stockholm: Lagerström, 1921, pp. 114, 123, 125 etc.
Lindgren, Adolf: 'Karl Wilhelm Bauck', in: Nordisk familjebok, vol. 2, Stockholm: Gernandts boktryckeri-aktiebolag, 1878, p. 59.
Lönn, Anders: 'Bauck, Wilhelm', Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 1, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1975, pp. 340−341.
Pettersson, Tobias: De bildade männens Beethoven. Musikhistorisk kunskap och social formering i Sverige mellan 1850-1940, diss., Göteborgs universitet, 2004, pp. 123−31.
Salmi, Hannu: Wagner and Wagnerism in nineteenth-century Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic provinces : reception, enthusiasm, cult, Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2005, pp. 129−177.

Summary list of works

Chamber music (a string quartet), piano music (sonatas, arrangements, etc.), songs.