Lars Gabriel Branting was born in Grödinge parish, Södermanland on 16 July 1799 and died on 27 March 1881 in Stockholm. He was a gymnastics teacher, composer and amateur French horn player. Branting studied at the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Stockholm where he later worked as a gymnastics instructor and superintendent until 1862. He taught music at the Hillska and Barnängen schools. As a composer, he wrote primarily vocal music. Elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1861. The father of Prime Minister Hjalmar Branting.
Gabriel Branting was born in Grödinge parish, Stockholm County on 16 July 1799 as the third child in the family. His father worked for the police department, but died when Gabriel was still young. Following her husband’s death, his mother supported the family as a shopkeeper. The three Branting brothers suffered from weak lungs and both of Gabriel’s two older brothers died during their school years. His mother did all she could to prevent the same fate from falling to her youngest son. She placed him in Arvid August Afzelius’s school in Stockholm, where he showed great talent. There were also plans for him to pursue medical studies in Uppsala, but a sedentary student lifestyle was considered to be a threat to his fragile health.
In 1813, Pehr Henrik Ling opened a gymnastics institute in Stockholm to which Gabriel was sent by his mother. Gymnastics became a turning point for Gabriel Branting’s health, drawing him to the subject which would occupy him throughout his life. During his time at the institute he studied fencing, physiotherapy, physiology and anatomy, attaining the highest marks in all subjects. In addition to the curriculum at the gymnastic institute, he studied languages and music, and audited lectures in anatomy and physiology at the Karolinska Institute.
Branting also studied composition with Erik Jacob Arrhén von Kapfelman. Branting had been an accomplished French hornist at a young age, but he set this aside when he became interested in gymnastics. It was not until later in life that he came to devote most of his time to writing music.
After Ling died in 1839, Branting succeeded him that very same year as the director of the institute, where he was employed until 1862. In 1839 he married the then 18-year-old Emma af Georgii (1821−1880). She was an accomplished pianist and like Gabriel also became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The couple’s son, Hjalmar Branting, later became the Prime Minister of Sweden and received the 1921 Nobel Peace Prize.
Gabriel Branting was a talented French hornist in his youth, performing as a soloist at public concerts. But after he began studies at Ling’s Royal Gymnastic Central Institute, he ceased playing the horn and began instead to compose solo and choral songs. He preferred to write in a polyphonic style, that is to say his music is fairly linear and borne primarily by independent voices rather than chords.
Both the text and music of the song ‘Afskedet’ are in all likelihood by Branting. The brief text tells of how the body gives way to death and how the song’s angel takes away the pain. The melody is dramatic, the piano part eventful, and the musical motifs picturesque.
In addition to being a disciple of Ling in the field of gymnastics, Branting also arranged music to several of his texts. One of these is ‘Ingeborg och Yngves hamn’ from Ling’s epic poem Tirfing eller Dödssvärdet. The song is a duet in 6/8. The text is clearly inspired by medieval ballads − Ling was a member of the Götiska förbundet (the Gothic Society) which drew attention to the treasure trove of ballads. This work includes a recurring text characteristic of ballads, but lacks a refrain. The piece opens with an energetic piano introduction that might well illustrate Yngve’s ride through the skies. When Ingeborg’s turn comes, it is in the form of something approaching a lesser aria. The melody is in a minor key and its richness of detail does not particularly fit the simplicity of a typical ballad. Later, in the section where Yngve answers, the song is less intricate.
Additionally, ‘Längtan’, a song with piano accompaniment, also deserves mention. Here Branting sets the first stanza of Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s poem ‘Den tvivlande’ to music. Taken out of context, the stanza becomes a beautiful poetic song, lacking the dark feeling the poem as a whole evokes.
Oh, had I a pair of eyes
Far sharper than the falcon,
A glance, that could see, not shuttered, not obscured,
Through height and depth and space
Branting’s choral works include ‘Folkvisa’, a four-part choral arrangement for mixed choir. The title bears interpretation as a nationalistic song, with the text a tribute to the King. The melody is triumphant and not unlike Sweden’s present-day national anthem. The arrangement is based on chords and befitting of a choir rather than a vocal quartet, which Branting expressly stated in a comment to his publisher. It is a singable arrangement with the exception of the tenor part, which is written for an unusually low register.
In Branting’s arrangements for voice with piano accompaniment, both parts are of equal importance, with a great deal of interaction between the two.
Angelina Liljevall © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander
Publications by the composer
Några upplysningar beträffande ortopediens eller sträck- och tryckmethoden med afseende å Svenska läkare-sällskapes protokoll den 11 augusti 1863, Stockholm, 1863.
Årsrapport till Kongl. Sundhets- kollegium öfver sjukvården å Kongl. Gym. Centralinstitutet år 1861, Stockholm, 1863.
Uppsats om svenska kyrkans koraler ur rytmiskt hänseende, 1867.
Delar av L. G. Brantings Efterl. Handskrifter, utgivna av Hj. Ling, Stockholm, 1882.
Drakenberg, S.: ‘Lars Gabriel Branting’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 6, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1926.
Höijer, Johan Leonard: 'Branting, Lars Gabriel', in: Musik-lexikon, Stockholm, 1864.
Jönsson, Nine Christine & Lindblom, Paul: Lilla ljuva Viva!: stiftsjungfru Emerentia af Georgii, mor till Hjalmar Branting, Stockholm: Tiden, 1995.
Ling, Hjalmar: Delar af L. G. Brantings efterlämnade handskrifter, Stockholm, 1882.
Moberg, Gustaf: Svenska gymnastikens märkesmän, Stockholm: Förbundet för fysisk fostran, 1920.
Törnblom, Folke H.: 'Branting, Lars Gabriel', in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1975.
Zanders, Alex: 'Branting, Lars Gabriel', in: Svenska Familj-journalen, vol. 21, 1882.
Summary list of works
Songs with piano accompaniment (Längtan, Afskedet, Det var du, etc.), choral music (Hoppet, Floden, Vårsång, etc.).
Ten songs at the pianoforte (work left unfinished). 1. Afskedet, 2. Välkommen och farväl, 3. Det var du, 4. Längtan (J.L. Runeberg from Den tvivlande), 5. Yngves hamn, (P.H. Ling from Tirfing), 6. Namunas sång (Th. Moore from Lalla Rookh), 7. Alfhilds sång (P.H. Ling, from Asarne), 8. Troubadur sång, 9. Brudens fråga, 10. Aria.
Cantata for funeral celebrations composed for choir and organ, SATB.
Folksång, double choir, Dedicated to Stockholms Gymnasii och Skolungdom, SATB. Stockholm: J. Pettersson, n.d.
Four-part songs, SATB. Stockholm: Ebeling, n.d. 1. Vårsång, 2. Bönen, 3. Floden, 4. Stjernsången, 5. Rosen, 6. Aftonen, 7. Flyttfoglarna, 8. Anakreonisk sång, 9. Stjernorna, 10. Luften, 11. Christi födelsenatt, 12. Hoppet, 13. Den döendes brudsång.
Songs with forte-piano, Stockholm: Östergren-Hirsch, n.d. 1. Aminas sång (E.G. Bulwer ur Granadas belägring), 2. Aftonen (Th. Moore), 3. Svanen (C.W. Böttiger), 4. Vid en jordfästning, 5. Sång af den sköna från Provence (E.G. Bulwer ur Rienzi).