Carl Gottfried Grahl (1803−1884)


Carl Gottfried Grahl was born on 25 (or 26) April 1803 in Reinsberg west of Dresden and died on 17 November 1884 in Nyköping. At the age of 20 he travelled to Stockholm, where he was employed as a woodwind musician in the music corps of the 2nd Life Guard before becoming music director of the music corps of the Södermanland regiment in 1826−59. His works largely comprise music for wind instruments and dances.

The story of Carl Gottfried Grahl and his life as a musician and composer is yet another reminder of the seminal role that military music played in the history of Swedish music. Like all other military musicians, he was an active part of the civilian music scene, which benefited greatly from the contributions of these professional instrumentalists. In consequence, military musicians had command of a wide spectrum of styles, played several instruments and could sometimes, like Grahl, even compose.


While nothing is known about Carl Gottfried Grahl’s family background, it can be assumed that there was music in the home and that he began to play at an early age. He began his real musical schooling in 1817 in the nearby town of Dippoldiswalde.  In July 1822, the 20-year-old Grahl arrived with a friend named Hönicke in Stockholm, apparently on the recommendation of Carl Maria von Weber. Here, he was taken on as a ‘hautboist’ with the music corps of the 2nd Life Guard, a title that referred to all woodwind, not specifically the oboe. Grahl and his colleagues mastered several instruments, which they played on and off duty. Grahl was purportedly a virtuoso bassoonist and violinist, his employment in the Kungliga Hovkapellet (the Swedish Royal Court Orchestra) for the 1822−23 season being testimony to his proficiency. Since neither position was full-time, he was able to combine them.

Carl Gottfried Grahl arrived in Sweden with musical skills that were at once broad and modern − as we are informed, indirectly, by an advertisement he posted in Post och Inrikes Tidningar, the government’s official national newspaper, in 1825:

Regiments wishing the newest dance music, composed this year for wind and string instruments by me, C.G. Grahl, are politely requested to apply by letter to Stockholm, addressed to the Royal 2nd Life Guard.

Grahl’s career in military music took a decisive turn for him when he accepted the post of pro tem music director of the music corps of the Royal Dalecarlian Regiment one spring month in 1825. He stayed in Falun for the remainder of the year and into the next, whereupon he took up a position − for one year, initially, but subsequently repeatedly extended − that he would hold until his retirement in 1859: as director of the Södermanland Regiment music corps. Meanwhile, on account of being able to combine both positions, he continued to live in the capital and work as hautboist with the 2nd Life Guard’s music corps. In 1839, Grahl was granted the title of ‘Director of Music’ by King Karl IV Johan − a title by which he had already been known, to be sure, but never with the official royal seal of approval.

The main duties of a regimental music corps were performed at its annual meetings, which the Södermanland Regiment held on a large sandy heath called Malmahed. However, the director of music was not just required to conduct; he was also to teach the orphan boys that made up the corps’ young music students. The necrologist writing after Grahl’s death reports that he ‘was a strict but very able teacher. His teaching was of the old school and he did not spare the rod, yet he also looked after his apprentices’ best interests with genuine paternal concern’ (Blekingsposten 25/11 1884). Grahl realised that his pupils had no highly valued career ahead of them, which is why he made sure that ‘besides their music studies they were also taught some genteel and cleanly craft upon which they might make a living’.

Alongside his regimental duties Grahl also composed, writing music related to his service, mostly wind music, as well as works for other contexts, both public and private. He appears to have had a particular penchant for dance music.

In 1834, Carl Gottfried Grahl married Therese Slöör (b. 1811 in Stockholm) in Stockholm; Therese died six years later – ‘poor’, according to the church records, which says something about the financial status a regimental director of music could expect to attain. The couple set up home in Nyköping and had two children: a son Traugott Leberecht (b. 1835) and a daughter Teresia Troglusia Freude (b. 1837), both with remarkably German names given their Swedish surroundings. In 1853 Carl Gottfried Grahl remarried, this time wedding Christina Catharina Eriksson (b. 1813 in Stigtomta), who went on to survive him. The couple lived for a while in Östtorp, a village outside the town of Nyköping. In 1874, they moved back to Nyköping, where Carl Gottfried Grahl died in 1884.


It is not easy to build up a picture of Carl Gottfried Grahl as a composer. The main problem is that his musical output was much richer than the extant material would suggest, largely because his dance music was not saved with the kind methodical care given to the music he wrote in other, higher status genres. This is aggravated by the fact that his son Traugott Grahl also composed music, making it impossible at times to attribute their works to the right Grahl. Traugott also vanishes from the historical record, and the course of his life will have to be investigated further if we are to learn more about his achievements.  The strongest evidence that his son was a composer is an advertisement in the newspaper Kalmar on 21 June 1865 for works by Traugott Grahl: ‘Musical album, containing quartets and quintets arranged for brass instruments’ that, as a guarantee of musical quality, had apparently been ‘inspected and approved by Director of Music C. G. Grahl of Nyköping’! Traugott was 30 years old at the time.

With reservations for the uncertainty about what in the Grahls’ musical legacy comes from the father, we can say that Carl Gottfried Grahl’s production is divided amongst different kinds of work and settings, which demonstrates his versatility as a composer and hints at the different musical milieu in which he moved. Not unexpectedly, he wrote a number of works for wind ensemble, although not, oddly enough, explicitly for military functions. (Military pieces might possibly exist in the Södermanland Regiment’s archives in the Military Archives of Sweden in Stockholm.) Instead, there are several works of a tone-painting nature, musical images of pitched battles and other historical events. ‘Battle piece’ is a common appellation, and some of them seem also to have been followed by a firework display.

Conventional chamber music does not, however, feature in Grahl’s oeuvre, and it is likely he did not himself cultivate this sort of musicianship. He did, on the other hand, compose a number of works for voice and piano, even writing the lyrics to at least one of them, which attests to his fluent command of Swedish. One work stands out from the dominant pattern of smaller compositions:  Jesu Christi Leiden und Tod, an oratorio for choir and orchestra. The context of its genesis is unknown, unfortunately, but it is worth noting that its words are in the composer’s mother tongue.

Even though many composers of the time wrote dance music, it seems that Carl Gottfried Grahl was particularly passionate about this genre of composition, and probably played regularly for dancing audiences. He also appears to have sustained his love of dance music for many years and consequently kept up with its capricious fashions. This we can tell from Grahl’s many waltzes, a modern partner dance at the time, as opposed to the older but still danced four-person quadrille and English country dance, which also appeared in Grahl’s work list. His works for dance accompaniment are written for both wind ensemble and piano, which reflects the instruments that could be heard during balls and so-called assemblées. Sales of his printed dance pieces no doubt rose with his partiality for naming them after something royal or a current event. A case in point is the melodious and very Strauss-like waltz Sveas helsning till Nore, which is still perfectly danceable to, and which was written in 1871 for the opening of the first rail link between Sweden and Norway. Whether the waltz had already been composed and given a post hoc title or was actually inspired by the opening of the railway is something that will have to remain a matter for conjecture, although the former possibility is most likely.

Grahl’s dance music must have reached a wide audience through the printed works which were, of course, copied and learned by experienced festival musicians. Their spread is clearly illustrated by a verse from an occasional poem that appears in a reader’s letter on social life in Ulricehamn in the newspaper Tidning för Wenersborgs stad och land on 2 February 1872:

The music it blew so many quintets
waltzes and polkas and Hambo polketts
Why, even a waltz was performed by old Grahl
though none were seen dancing in Bergström’s hall.

To sum up: even if Carl Gottfried Grahl composed music for several musical fields, he was almost completely uninterested in the kinds of work to which posterity has ascribed high cultural status. It is this that accounts for Grahl’s absence from the annals of music history, and so it is not surprising that this potted biography is the first to be written about him since the obituary composed on his death in 1884.  

Gunnar Ternhag © 2015
Trans. Neil Betteridge


Andersson, Greger: Vad slags musik spelade nykterhetslogens mässingssextett?, i Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, 1982, p. 53.
Nisser, Carl: Svensk Instrumentalkomposition 1770−1830, Nominalkatalog, 1943.
Söderlundh, Per-Ola & Franzén, Lennart: Kungl. Dalregementets musikkår 1776−1971, 2013, p. 165.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Krigsarkivet (Södermanlands regementes arkiv)

Summary list of works

Oratorio (Jesu Christi Leiden und Tod), works for wind ensembles, piano works, songs.

Collected works

Swedish folk melodies, arranged by C. G.

Solo instrument and orchestra.
Concert for horn in E.

Choir and orchestra
Oratorium Jesu Christi Leiden und Tod.
Sorgmusik vid Friherrinnan Peyrons begravning den 9 november 1851, vid ingången till kyrkan [Funeral March].

Wind ensemble
Adagio et Polonais, solo for Royal Kent horn or cornetti on 25 October 1825.
Aria for E-flat cornetto.
Danskarnes tappra utfall och seger vid fästningen Fredericie den 6 July 1849.
Emigrantresan till Californien.
Gustav Wasas befrielse ur Danska fångenskapen 1520. Romantiserad musikalisk målning med fyrverkeri.
Middsommersdagen 1843 och Konung Carl Johans sista revue å Ladugårdsgärdet.
Hymn for wind instruments, according to Norrköpingskuriren 16/9 1862.
Musical album. Quartets and quintets for brass instruments published by A.F. Lundberg and Traugott Grahl. 1865 [although composed by TG=CGG]
Terzetto for E-flat and B-flat Cornetti and Tenor horn, Aug. 1874.
Slaget vid Lützen, 'battle piece' according to Dalpilen 28/11 1884.
Polacca, song to Runeberg, according to Ekenäs Notisblad 16/9 1887.

Voice and piano
Song at the pianoforte, words by a Swedish spinster, 1869.
Song to HRH Princess Lovisa on 28 July 1869 ('Med hjertat rent som nordens snö').
Brudgumssällsamheten. Song at the pianoforte. Words by Johan Gabriel Carlén, music by T.G., 1869.
Carl XV:s död ('Hvem rider bland moln och dimma', V.S.). Ett minne ur Nordens konungasaga. Ballad for voice and piano. Stockholm 1872, Leufenmark & C:o Stentryckeri.
Three songs by [Elias] Sehlstedt, composed for one voice with piano. 1. Den glada sångaren ('Jag är så glad, jag sjunga vill'), 2. Det rätta sättet ('Det är ett bråk i denna världen'), 3. Fly! eller Fågeln i september ('Hör du liten fogel som i trädet sitter'), also printed in Svenska Familje-journalen, vol. 17, 1878:2. Publ. by Abraham Lundqvist, no. 1745, 1878.

Male quartet/choir
Hjertats bön ('När morgonsolen sprider sin purpur'). Serenade. Words and music by Traugott Grahl. Printed in Svenska Familje-journalen, vol. 12, 1873.

Waltz by C.G. Grahl, danced in Stockholm in 1829. Stockholm 1829, litographic print by C. von Scheele.
Quadrilles, walztes and anglaises danced in 1831, composed and arranged for  pianoforte by C.G. Grahl. Stockholm 1831, litographic print by Eberling.
En blomma på Högstsalig H.M. Drottning Lovisas graf for pianoforte.
Familjeglädjen, dance music for pianoforte by Traugott Grahl. Stockholm, n.d.
Minne från Bäckaskog den 15 juli 1868, vals komponerad och HKH Kronprinsen Fredrik af Danmark samt HKH Prinsessan Lovisa af Sverige i djupaste underdånighet tillegnad af Traugott Grahl [waltz by T. Grahl]. Stockholm 1868, F.G. Särnblom.
Efterklang af 'Andersson, Pettersson och Lundström', francaise för pianoforte af Traugott Grahl, uppförd vid de populära konserterna vid Berns salong [Francaise by T. Grahl]. Stockholm 1870, printed at J.A. Riis 1870.
Minne af Sångaren på Haga (melodier af Prins Gustaf af Uppland). Potpourri for pianoforte. Stockholm 1871, Abraham Hirsch.
Minnen från studenttiden, dansmusik for piano komponerad och fordna kamrater tillegnad af Traugott Grahl [dance music by T. Grahl]. Stockholm, C.F. Ström.
Sveas helsning till Nore, vals componerad med anledning av järnvägsforbindelsen emellan Sverige och Norge samt Norges ungdom tillegnad af Traugott Grahl [waltz by T. Grahl]. Self-published, 1871.

Works by Carl Gottfried Grahl

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

Number of works: 7