Hans Hagerup Falbe (1772−1830)


Hans Hagerup Falbe, born on 7 February 1772 and died in Stockholm 17 October 1830, was a Danish-Norwegian lawyer who became a Norwegian cabinet minister in Stockholm. He was also quite active as a musician and composer. After a career as a lawyer in Norway, in 1822 he came to work at the office of the Norwegian Prime Minister in Stockholm. He composed in several genres, from comic opera to chamber music.


Background, studies and early career

Hans Hagerup Falbe was largely a Scandinavian composer. He was born on 7 February 1772 in Copenhagen of a Norwegian mother and a German-Danish father, who was a lawyer and government official. Falbe moved to Norway in 1809, but he lived in Stockholm during the larger part of his older years, where he died on 17 October 1830.

Falbe received his education as a lawyer in his birth town of Copenhagen and then received a post there with the Danish foreign office. From 1792 and for the next three years he found himself outside of Scandinavia, including in such cities as Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Rome, and for seven months in Paris. For one of these years he was stationed at the Danish legation of the King of Naples. Once back at home in Copenhagen he continued his work with the Foreign Office until 1799 when he received his first appointment as a judge.

Musical activities in Copenhagen

It is uncertain whether Falbe received his musical education in Copenhagen or outside of Denmark. Judging from his compositions he could have received a basic ‘scholarly’ theoretical education in the German tradition, but also knowledge of the more southern style of the late 1700s. The Danes set a great deal of value on German and French opera and in Naples Falbe could have heard the heroes of composition, Giovanni Paisiello, Niccolò Piccinni and Domenico Cimarosa, who were active there.

In Copenhagen Falbe was active in the Det Kongelige musikalske Akademi (the Royal Danish Academy of Music) that was resurrected in 1790. It was an organization that arranged musical performances and included both prominent professional musicians as well as talented amateurs as members. Falbe played the piano and also had several of his compositions performed by the group, including Natten, ‘a musical painting for orchestra’ (1805) consisting of nine dance movements, and the cantata Fader Vor (1807). He likely had his opera buffa Anglomanien performed, which could be construed as a contemporary satirical, political commentary on the ongoing war. It was presented in 1810 in Christiania (now Oslo), however the work seems to have been lost. The compositions from these years focus on European dances, not least the newly fashionable waltz.

To Norway

The year 1808 brought with it the death of Enevold de Falsen, justitiarius (judge) at Akershus Stiftsoverrett (a high court) in Christiania; he was among other things the librettist for the comic opera Dragedukke with music by F.L.Æ. Kunzen. Norway then received a musical successor in Hans Hagerup Falbe who moved north in 1809. Falbe later became stiftsamtmann (a leadership position within the court) and took part in the constitutional assembly in the parish of Eidsvoll in 1814, at which the constitution of Norway was drafted.

Only a few weeks after arriving, Falbe had the first performance of his music in Christiania. In 1810 he was one of the initiators of Det musikalske Lyceum that had the music academy in Copenhagen as a role model. Another leading name was Paul Thrane who would later become Falbe’s brother-in-law. The Lyceum became an important music institution and a meeting place for merchants and local officials (the nobility in Norway were limited in number). It is possible that Falbe brought with him a large collection of musical scores, since there were many new pieces performed during the Lyceum’s first year. These included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which was presented in its entirety during three performances in 1813. Falbe regularly played piano both during rehearsals and at many concerts. He also became the Lyceum’s most-played composer, even during the time he later lived in Stockholm. Even after Falbe’s death his music was performed, in particular his orchestral work Natten.

In 1814, after a short period of freedom, Norway became subordinate to the Swedish King Karl XIV Johan. Falbe remained in Norway as a Norwegian citizen and public official. In 1822 he was transferred to the Norwegian Prime Minister’s office in Stockholm where he held various ministerial positions. These positions were not so much political as they were official public service jobs. Falbe was respected Stockholm as both a musician and as a man of the world, mastering several languages; he was one of the few northerners who could discuss matters directly in French with the Swedish Bernadotte King.


Some of Hans Hagerup Falbe’s compositions were published in Copenhagen, Christiania and Stockholm. Several dances are specified in Norwegian spelmansböcker (hand-written books of folk music notation) as ‘by Falbe’ so it seems some of his music had also entered the folk music tradition. However, most of Falbe’s extant works exist as manuscripts in various physical states – those found in Oslo have been digitized and are available on the Internet.

Many of the large works were written for special occasions; they were cantatas or cantata-like works that came about for ‘official’ reasons such as the king’s or the queen’s birthdays or celebrations by institutions. The texts are also typical for the time and for the character of the occasions and were often written by public officials. They include poems that honour or tell about the person in question, and in some cases texts about nature that can be connected to the recipient. Some of these poems were published and took on a life of their own. Certain of Falbe’s cantatas were also used in the theatre.

Falbe’s music was popular during his lifetime and was performed relatively often among the upper classes in various parts of Scandinavia. His music encompasses elements from several different historical periods and styles. Falbe must have been familiar with a great quantity of music and he utilised these means to good effect and with a sure hand. Overall he has a penchant for dance pieces and simpler classical Viennese forms, but also weaves in a Baroque fugato where it fits. The text-bearing vocal part can be influenced by (Italian) embellished melodic lines and sometimes an obbligato counter melody. The accompaniment, however, goes more often in the direction of broken chords than that we find in the best German and French comic operas from the same time. The tonal digressions hold themselves to the closely related keys and the harmonies are seldom demanding. It becomes more of an idyll than a drama.

Arvid O. Vollsnes © 2016
Swedish Trans. Erik Wallrup 
English Trans. Jill Ann Johnson


Grinde, Nils: ‘Hans Hagerup Falbe – Statsråd og komponist’, in: Arvid O. Vollsnes (ed.), Norges musikkhistorie, vol. 2, 1814–70, Aschehoug: Oslo, 2000, pp. 91–96.
−−−: ‘Hans Hagerup Falbe : 7.2.1772–17.10.1830’, in: Norsk musikktidsskrift, no. 3 1972, pp. 101–105. 
−−−: Norsk musikkhistorie, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1981, pp. 114−118.
Johnsson, Leif & Aase, Monica: ‘Aage Claudius Schult og hans legat: en notesamling i Universitetsbiblioteket i Trondheim’, in: Til opplysning nr. 17. Universitetsbiblioteket i Trondheim 2007.
Lindstøl, Tallak: ‘Hans Hagerup Falbe’, in: Stortinget og Statsraadet 1814–1914, vol. 1, Steenske Bogtrykerin: Kristiania, 1914.
Michelsen, Karin: ‘Hans Hagerup Falbe’, in: Cappelens musikkleksikon, vol. 2, Cappelen: Oslo, 1978.
Munch, EmerentzeFru Emerentze Munchs Optegnelser – efter originalmanuskriptet, Bogkunst: Kria, 1907.
Nielsen, Yngvar: ‘Falbe, Hans Hagerup’, in: Dansk Biografisk Lexikon, vol. 5, Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Bokhandels Forlag, 1891, 1st ed., pp. 43–44.
−−−: ‘ Træk af Selskabslivet i Kristiania i Aarene 1816-18. III’, in: Ny illustreret Tidende, no. 2, 1874.
Qvamme, Børre: Det musikalske Lyceum og konsertlivet i Christiania 1810–1838, Solum: Oslo, 2002.
−−−: Opera og operette i Kristiania, Solum: Oslo 2004.
Rehbinder, Oberstinde [Carine Mathea Therese]: Barndoms og ungdoms erindringer, Gyldendal: Oslo, 1915.
Roverud, Lars: Et Blik paa Musikens Tilstand i Norge, Christiania, 1815.
Rugstad, Gunnar: ‘Hans Hagerup Falbe’, in: Norsk musikkgransking årbok 1956–1958, Oslo, 1959, pp. 12−77.
Sandvik, O.M.: ‘Hans Hagerup Falbe’, in: Norsk biografisk leksikon, vol. 4, Oslo: Aschehoug, 1929.
Stødle, Håkon: Klarinetten i norsk musikk fram til 1830: spesielt med henblikk på bruken av den hos Hans Hagerup Falbe og Waldemar Thrane, master thesis in musicology, University of Oslo, 1970.
Swalin, Wilhelm: Konungens norska och svenska statsråd 1809 – 1814 – 1881, Ivar Hagströms Boktryckerin: Stockholm, 1881, p. 26.
Vollsnes, Arvid O. (ed.): Norges musikkhistorie, vol. 2, 1814–70. Den nasjonale tone, Aschehoug: Oslo, 2000.

Summary list of works

Comic operas and operettas (Anglomanien, Geheime-Overfinantzraaden, etc.), orchestral works (Natten, Symphonia, 2 overtures), chamber music (3 string quartets etc.), piano works (2 and 4 hand), cantatas (Fader Vor etc.), dances (for various instrumentations).

Collected works

Gunnar Rugstad compiled the first comprehensive works list in his Master thesis on Falbe (Rugstad 1959 s. 66ff). Since then a few works have been discovered. Few of Falbe's works were printed and the majority is in manuscript form at the Nasjonalbiblioteket in Oslo - these are indicated in the list below with the marking [NB]. Most of these manuscripts have been photographed and are available online. Some were transferred from Musikaliska akademien to the Musik- och teaterbiblioteket in Stockholm [MTB]. Additionally there are some located at the Det Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen: [KB]. The work titles are almost exclusively taken from the manuscript. Some titles appear to be written in someone else's hand. Thus there are occasionally works titled Kantate and others Cantate. Multiple dates on a manuscript may indicate that the work was performed on multiple occasions or that the work in questions were performed on the date of the celebration the works was written for (for example, on the King's actual birthday).

Comic operas and music for the stage
Fredsfesten [fragment of a comic opera] 1810 [NB].
Geheime-Overfinantzraaden (H.A. Bjerregaard), comic opera, performed 1829, score lost.
‘Romanse’ and ‘Norsk Balvise’, arranged for soprano, piano, guitar, printed in Den norske Lyra, 1825. ‘Romanse’ was also republished in a modern version in Vollsnes 2000, pp. 93–94. The composer Ragnar Søderlind edited a new orchestra version of ‘Romanse’ for the CD-recording that is appended to Vollsnes 2000.
Music for the play ‘Korsridderne’ (August von Kotzebue), it is not certain that Falbe was the composer, 1830 [NB].
Comic opera, fragment, text in Italian [NB].
Comic opera, fragment [NB].

Cantatas and preludes (soli, choir, orchestra)
Fader Vor (G.H. Olsen), cantata, 1807 [KB].
Prolog ‘Fredshaabet – eller Trillingsøstrene i Nord’ (Ludvig Stoud Platou), choreography: J.P. Strømberg, 1809 [NB].
Cantate ved den nationale Fredsfesten 1810 [in Jönköping] (Hans Iver Horn), 1810 [NB].
Sørge-Cantate over John Collett, 8 February 1810 [NB].
Sørge-Cantate ved Mindefesten for Norges [Prinds] Christian August (Ludvig Stoud Platou), 1810 [NB].
Cantate i Anledning af Universitetets Stiftelse i 1811 (Ludvig Stoud Platou) [NB].
Prolog [for Frederik VI's birthday] 28 January 1812 (Claus Pavels), 1812 [NB].
Sång, till prins Frederik av Hessens födelsedag 24 May 1812, NB].
Prolog [for Frederik VI's birthday] 28 January 1813 (Claus Pavels), some of the music is by W. Thrane, 1812 [NB].
Norske Høstblomster, helligede Landets Moder, Hendes Majestæt Dronning Maria (Ludvig Stoud Platou ), cantata for Queen Maria's birthday 28 October 1813, [UBTh].
Duo (‘Den mørke Sky forsvunden er’), composed on the occasion of unification with Sweden, 1814 [NB].
Choral, 4 November 1815 (‘Oh store Gud, vi love Dig’).
Minnehøytidelighet i Vor Frelses Kirke, 1815 [NB].
Prolog [cantata for Karl Johans birthday] 26 January 1816. Excerpt printed by Lars Møller Ibsen, Kristiania 1825 and in Den norske Lyra, Kristiania, 1825, 1816/1817 [NB] [overture, parts in MTB].
Prolog 26 January 1817 [crown prince Karl Johan's birthday] 1817/1818 [NB].
Cantate afsjungen ved Den Lutherske Reformations Jubelfest, høytideligholdt 3 November 1817 af Det Kongelige Norske Frederiks Universitet (Stener Johannes Stenersen) [NB].
Prolog 26 January 1818 [crown prince Karl Johan's birthday. No. 1 marked ‘Ouv. af Freyas Alter’ (Oehlenschläger), used last year's music?, 1817 [NB].
Cantate 29 April 1818 [Karl 2/13:s death], 1818 [NB].
Cantata for Queen Desideria, 8[9?] November 1816/29 November 1818 [UBTh] .
Motetto scherzando, scritto da Falbe it di 20. maggio 1819 [NB].
Sang 4 [9] November 1819 [for Queen Desideria], 1819 [NB].
Sang 26 January 1821 [King Carl Johan's birthday] (‘Sønner af Norge’, H.A. Bjerregaard), 1821 [NB].
Cantata for King Carl Johan's birthday 1821 [UBTh].
Cantate til Kongens Fødselsdag  [26 January, Johan Storm Munch?] 1822 [NB].
Cantate til Kongens Fødselsdag [26 January] [1823?] [UBTh].
Sørge Cantate 20 December 1824, till Carsten?/Peder? Anker, 1824 [NB].
Rondo (‘Troløse, hvis jeg dig ei kan’), n.d. [NB].
Kantate, church cantata, fragment, n.d. [NB].
Cantate paa Kongens Fødselsdag, dated 10 December 1832, which may refer to the performance date, [NB].

Natten, ‘Et musicalsk Maleri for Orkester’, 9 dance pieces, 1805, + 10 December 1809 [NB]. – A modern version of the introduction ‘Nattens rolighed’ is in Vollsnes 2000 p. 95.
Sinfonia i D [‘Sinfonie – pour 18 instruments’, ‘Nr. 6 Sinfonia’] 1810–12 [NB]. – Transcripts: Gunnar Rugstad [ms NB], Bjarne Kortsen (printed in Norway/USA].
Overture C major, 1825 [NB, parts at MTB]. Transcription: Gunnar Rugstad (ms NB).                         
Overture to ‘Freyas Alter’ (Oehlenschläger), see no. 3 in ‘Prolog 26 January 1817’ [NB].

Chamber music
3 string quartets [NB].
Overture [C major] per il Piano-Forte con accompagnimento di violino [MTB].
Fugue, Allegro, Moderato, for string quartet [NB].
Introduzione, Fuga, Quadrille, strings & b.c., [NB]. Modern edition ‘Introduzione och Fuga’ for keyboard by Per Hjort Albertsen.
Quadrille nos. 1 & 2 for 2 violins and bass [NB].
8 dances for flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 violins and bass [NB].
8 [new] dances for flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 violins and bass [NB].
6 dances for 2 violins, clarinet, 2 horns and bass.
Small pieces for strings, dances, 1820 [NB].
Music for sextet, dances, 1820 [NB].
Music for sextet, dances, to Charlotta Mørner. 1821 [NB].

Piano, four hands
Wals à quatre mains [for piano-forte; by Falbe], printed by Müller, Stockholm n.d., [NB].
Deux valses à quatre mains, printed by C. Lose, Copenhagen n.d., 1817.
Grand valse pour le piano-forte arrangées à quatre mains, printed in Den Norske Lyra, Ibsen, Kristiania 1825, by Winther, Kristiania and by Müller, Stockholm.
Six Eccosaises pour le Piano-Forte à quatre mains, printed by Winther, Kristiania, 1826, by Ibsen and in Musikalsk Nytaarsgave 1827.
Waltzes [two fragments] [NB]

Piano, solo
Stor vals for keyboard, printed by C.C. Lose, Copenhagen, 1803.
6 éccossaiser for pianoforte, printed by C.C. Lose, Copenhagen, 1804.
Natten, udtog for klaver, printed in Nordens Apollo year 4, Schall, Copenhagen, 1809.
Natten, udtog for klaver, printed by C.C. Lose, Copenhagen n.d.
En ny stor Vals for Fortepiano, printed by Roverud, Kristiania. 1814.
6 valser for klaver, 1817?, dedicated to Louise Clausen/Clasen.
Ouverture pour Pianoforte, printed in Den Norske Lyra, Ibsen, Kristiania, 1825.
Figaro no 2 [NB].
5 dances and 2 songs [NB].

Samlingar for violin [NB].
Samlingar for keyboard [NB].
Toner av Oberons Horn [KB].
27 dances and an aria [fragment] [KB].
6 av Hr. Falbes nyeste Dandse, [printed by Roverud, Kristiania, 1811].
6 dandse satte for 7 Stemmer, H. 2, [printed by Roverud, Kristiania, 1812].
Rill [arr. for violin, piano, cornet, printed by Olsen, Kristiania. 1875].
Vals for pianoforte [arr. for violin, piano, cornet, printed by Olsen, Kristiania. 1875].
88 of Falbe's dance pieces are preserved in various collections.

Orchesterprøven [SATB] [NB].

‘Romanse’ and ‘Norsk Balvise’ [from Geheime Oberfinantzraaden.], voice and keyboard. Tex: H.A. Bjerregaard. Printed by Ibsen, Kristiania 1825. Additional guitar part by L.M. Ibsen.

The above list includes only extant works. Below is a list of works that have been named but which are lost.

Lost works
Anglomanien, operetta buffa, partially performed in Norway, 1808/1810.
6 nye engelske Dandse og en Vals for stort Orchester, 1800.
6 nye Skotske Dandse, for 7 instruments, printed by Haly, Copenhagen, 1800.
6 éccossaiser for pianoforte, named as having been printed in Kristiania 1826, may be identical to the collection printed by C.C. Lose, Copenhagen. 1804.
Cantate paa H.M. Kongens [Frederik VI] Fødselsdag (Claus Pavels), 1811.
Duet, copy?, Hammer, Kristiania, 1811.
Modtag den Blomst Forglemmigei, song, copy?, Hammer, Kristiania, ca 1811.
Sang til Norges Vel (Ludvig Stoud Platou), 1813.
Theme and Variations for bassoon and orchestra by Mr. Etatsraad Falbe, premiered 19 December 1814 (24/1 1813?).
Music for ‘Fru Rosenkrantz' Begravelse’ 2/3 1815.
Prolog til Prindsens [Carl Johans] Theateraften 4/10 1815 (Claus Pavels).
Song for Prince Carl Johan 4/11 1815 (L. Stoud Platou).
March and five dances for the play Selim, Prinds af Algier [John Brown, performed in Copenhagen 1805/06, Kristiania 1816], for keyboard, copy?, Hammer. Kristiania, 1816.
Prolog [for King Karl XIII/II's birthday, 14 November], 1817.
Farvel til Norge (C. Hansson), premiered 22 August 1829.

Works by Hans Hagerup Falbe

There are no works by the composer registered