Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg (1824−1883)


Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg was born on 13 May 1824 and died 4 May 1883. He received degrees as organist and church singer in 1845, cantor scholae in 1848 and music teacher in 1849, all at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and he also studied composition under Franz Berwald. From 1852 he was organist and music teacher in Landskrona. Hallberg was also a prominent hymnologist. In 1882 he published a proposal for a chorale book for the Church of Sweden. As a composer he is known mainly for his sacred vocal works in strict polyphony.



Childhood and Studies

Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg was born in Asmundtorp outside of Landskrona on 13 May 1824, where his father Carl Wilhelm Hallberg, was the parish clerk and organist. Bengt Wilhelm showed early signs of musicality and from the age of 10 he began to serve as organist. After the premature death of Carl Wilhelm in 1837 his son took over as organist. The position had thus been passed down three generations. At the beginning of the 1840s he began his studies at Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) where he graduated with degrees as an organist and church singer (both in 1845), as cantor scholae (1848) and music teacher (1849).

His organ teacher, the well-known music printer, publisher, and pedagogue Abraham Mankell, was the organist at Klara Church, and Hallberg had the opportunity during his time as a student to substitute for him. Under Mankell’s supervision he also taught music at Klara Secondary School. He was also active as a voice teacher in Stockholm at Stockholm’s Education Circle, among others, where he was the choir director. At the conservatory Hallberg was also a student of Andreas Randel (violin) and Jan van Boom (piano). Upon graduation he continued studies in composition under Franz Berwald, whom he seems to have regarded as an unusually inspiring teacher. ‘A candle is lit for every word he says’, writes Hallberg enthusiastically in a letter.

Church Musician

The substantial education and experience of practical musical work Hallberg had received in the capital city qualified him for professional duty in larger contexts than that in Asmundtorp. In 1850 he was appointed organist in Landskrona, but did not assume his duties until May of 1852, when he was also appointed cantor scholae, that is, music teacher at the city’s secondary school.

Hallberg put in a lot of care and effort into his work as church musician, which he regarded as a sacred calling. He became engaged early on with the issue of chorales and announced already in 1845 his plans to publish ‘Chorale Melodies, in Accordance with the Singing of the Swedish Congregation’. Hallberg rejected rhythmic chorales as too difficult and therefore unfit for congregational use, and promoted instead a moderate reform to Haeffner’s foundation, which is reflected in his publication in 1857 of the collection Choralmelodier, till Svenska Församlingens tjenst (Chorale Melodies, for the Use of the Swedish Congregation). Hallberg’s work with chorales stretched over his entire adult life and culminated in Förslag till koralbok för svenska kyrkan (Proposal for a Chorale Book for the Swedish Church), which was published in 1882. Hallberg was also interested in popular chorale variations; in his collection Folk-Choraler (not printed) there are sketches of popular chorale songs, both by him and others. His interest for church musician education resulted in Handbok för blifvande organister (Handbook for Up-and-Coming Organists), which was published posthumously in 1885.

As a leading musical personality Hallberg managed comprehensive activities in and around Landskrona, even on the side of his regular work duties: he started and led many choirs − both mixed and male choirs − within, among others, the Skarpskytterörelsen, (a volunteer, public defence movement). He was enthusiastically involved in the movement as a commander, and organised a respected concert series with the help of students from the secondary school. In 1872 he started a music society with 55 active members, which was only in operation for a few years.

Researcher and Pedagogue

Hallberg was highly active for several decades as a researcher in hymnology, and within this context he made several study and research trips, first within Scandinavia (Stockholm, Uppsala, Skokloster Castle, and Copenhagen), and later even to Scotland (1860), as well as Austria and Italy (1871), where he was granted access to, among other collections, the Vatican Library. His main interest was breviary hymns, and his goal was to publish a ‘Scandinavian Hymnal’. This goal was never realised and the material he left behind was evidence to the fact that much work remained unfinished at the time of Hallberg’s death.

Hallberg was also eagerly engaged as a music pedagogue. Among other things he pioneered the Scottish solfège method in Sweden − the main purpose of his trip to Scotland in 1860 was to deepen his knowledge of solfège. Upon his return home to Skåne Hallberg organized courses in the method for music teachers, and in 1868 he published Handbok för undervisning i sång enligt det skottska sol−fa systemet (Handbook for Teaching Song According to the Scottish Solfège System) in two volumes, one ‘Elementary Instruction’ and a guide for teachers. The same year he began publishing the music journal Cecilia, and one of the objectives of this was to spread knowledge about solfège; each issue contained a music supplement with compositions in solfège notation (a notation system using letters on a five-lined staff). Publication of the journal was discontinued already in 1869 and the solfège method never really caught on in Sweden.

Life’s Work

Towards the end of his life Hallberg was sickly, but continued his work to the extent his condition allowed. One final source of pleasure, in late 1882, was the delivery of his proposal for a chorale book to King Oscar II, who had been president of Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) and had a great interest in hymns. According to Hallberg’s diary, the king immediately sat down at the harmonium and played through a few of the chorales. It was, however, a great disappointment that the chorale book was not officially adopted for use in the Swedish Church. After a winter of steadily declining health Hallberg passed away on 4 May 1883.

Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg was a richly gifted personality with multiple musical interests and an energy and work capacity that exceeded the average. He must be considered a learned man within the domain of church music, but even the ‘folky’ is important for him (perhaps an interest inherited from his mentors and teachers Abraham Mankell and Andreas Randel). The latter characteristic would express itself in Hallberg’s work with chorales, where the phrase ‘In accordance with the people’s song’ would show up in many places. It would also be expressed in his interest for popular musical education; the journal Cecilia had the subtitle ‘Music Journal for the People’.

In spite of the significant contributions he made to many areas, not least as a leading musical personality in his hometown, a sense of tragedy blankets his life’s work in the sense that much of that which he started and worked towards was never realised or lasted only for a short time. This is true of his promise as a composer which stagnated, the one-year attempt at establishing a music journal, and the equally short-lived musical society, the failure to establish solfège as a method in music education, and not least his two great life works in church music: the rejected and soon forgotten chorale book, and the great hymnal, that never made it beyond a collection of loose papers.

More recently, however, Hallberg has been recognised for his efforts in one area that he, as far as is known, never sought public recognition: the notation and collection of folk chorales. A thread of his influence can also be traced from Hallberg’s pedagogical and scholarly work via his daughter Johanna (Hanna), organist and among other things co-founder of what is today the College of Music in Malmö, and her husband, music educator and organologist Nils Petter Norlind, to the latter’s nephew Tobias Norlind, pioneer of modern Swedish research in music.


Hallberg’s earliest preserved composition, Elegy for piano from 1843, is followed by a series of piano pieces. One important success for Hallberg was when his song collection, Songs at the Piano, dedicated to Jan van Boom, was printed. A reviewer in the newspaper Stockholms Dagblad placed the composer in the category ‘skilled composer’. The following year his sacred aria ‘Kommer till mig’ was performed by no less than Jenny Lind. His first larger musical work for the church, a mass in Latin, was dedicated to the Queen Dowager Desirée (Desideria). The dedication was accepted graciously and Hallberg was awarded a royal gold medal in connection with its performance. The queen was also in attendance when an ensuing mass was presented in Stockholm’s Catholic Chapel in 1857.

Hallberg’s path as a composer never attained the status of outstanding. Although a few other songs and collections of utility music for organ were printed, most of his work, including two symphonies (of which one is incomplete) and five string quartets remain only in manuscript form. His foremost contribution as a composer is seen to be his a cappella choral works in strict polyphony. His sacred vocal music is characterised not only by Cecilian-inspired purism but also by broad stylistic influences, including Mozart’s church music.

Sverker Jullander © 2014
Trans. Nicole Vickers

Publications by the composer

Pedagogical works
Handbok för undervisning i sång enligt det skottska sol-fa-systemet
, 2 vol. (1. Elementarlära, 2. Anvisningar för läraren), Malmö: Beijer 1868.
, 1876.
Om kyrkotonarterna
, 1879.
Handbok för blifvande organister
, Norrköping: Hallberg, 1885.
Teoretisk-praktisk orgelskola till seminariernas och de privata organistskolornas tjenst
, second and third section.

Cecilia. Musiktidning för folket
, no. 1−14, July 1868−August 1869.


Helmer, Axel: Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 18, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1969−71
Hedwall, Lennart: Den svenska symfonin, Stockholm: AWE/Gebergs, 1983, pp. 161−163.
Höijer, Johan Leonard
: 'Hallberg', in: Musiklexikon, Stockholm: Lundquist, 1864, pp. 176−177
Lagerholm, Nils
: 'Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg: en musikens man i Landskrona på 1800-talet', bachelor's thesis in musicology, Lunds universitet, 1993
Lundholm, Lennart
: Musiken i Landskrona. En kortfattad översikt av Landskronas musikliv från 1300-tal till 1990-tal, Landskrona, 1995
Moberg, Carl-Allan
: Kyrkomusikens historia, Stockholm: Diakonistyrelsens bokförlag, 1932
Morales, Olallo,
and Tobias Norlind: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien 1771−1921. Minnesskrift, Stockholm: Bröderna Lagerström, 1921
Wentz-Janacek, Elisabet
: Folk-choraler. Bengt Wilhelm Hallbergs samling, Slite: Wessmans, 2000
Wentz-Janacek, Elisabet:
'Ett brobygge: Bengt Wilhelm Hallbergs "Koralskat" för den danske [sic] kyrkan 1882', in Hymnologiske meddelelser, vol. 30, no. 4, 2001


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Lunds universitetsbibliotek

Summary list of works

1 work with arrangements of stage music (17 songs and chants to George Stephens’ melodrama Revenge, or Woman’s Love), 5 works for orchestra (2 symphonies, of which one is incomplete, 2 overtures, 1 scherzo), chamber music (5 string quartets, a string sextet, 3 piano trios, of which one with flute, etc.), piano music (Theme with variations, Toner från Kullaberg), organ works (Easy chorale preludes, 2 collections), songs, choral music, larger church music compositions (among others 3 masses, of which one is incomplete), chorales.

Collected works

Preserved complete compositions.

Stage music
Seventeen songs and chants to George Stephens melodrama Revenge, or Woman's Love (arr.), 1856. Printed in London, n.d.

Orchestral music
Concert-Ouverture, D major, 1855?
Symphony in F major, 1870.
Scherzo in B-flat major, 1870.
Overture no. 2 in F major (also in arrangement for flute, 2 violins, viola, violoncello, piano).

Chamber music
String quartet
Rondo in C major, 1850.
Scherzo in C major, 1851.
String quartet no. 1 in C major, 1850−52.
String quartet no. 2 in G major, 1858.
String quartet no. 3 in F major, 1858 (finale rev. in 1872).
String quartet no. 4 in D minor, 1859.
String quartet no. 5 in D major, 1859.
Canon: Menuetto.

String sextet
Sextet in C major for 2 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos, 1855.
Piano trio: 2nd Romance pour violon, violoncelle et piano, 1851.
Trio in C minor for violin, violoncello and piano, 1853.
Romanza for flute, violoncello and piano, 1860.

Piano quintet
Divertissement of Swedish Folk Melodies for Quintet of flute, violin, violoncello and piano, 1854.

Piano septet
Waltz in D major for flute, 2 violinss, viola, violoncello, double-bass and piano, 1874.
Amicitia − Waltz in D major, instrumentation as above, 1874.

Violoncello and piano
Romanza, 1872.

Violoncello solo
Melodie in C major, per violoncello a piacere no. 1, 'Hemmets stjerna'.

Chamber music with organ
Adagio religioso in C minor for organ and strings, 1852.
Adagio in F major for violin, violoncello and organ.

Piano music
Elegie in C minor, 1843.
Nattlig Fantasie (Two nocturnos for pianoforte), op. 24 no. 1 in C-sharp major, no. 2 in G major, 1844.
Deux nocturnes in F minor, 1844, and E-flat major.
6ème nocturne in F major op. 33, 1845.
Notturno religioso in D minor op. 35, for left hand, 1846.
Theme with variations, 1847.
Toner från Kullaberg, 1847.
Notturno: Hafvet och stjernhimmeln (sketch), 1848.
Sylvias visa, 1871.
Flickans längtan till stranden: Melodi till ett Nocturne af Willmers.
Meditations religieuses.
Romance religieuse in A-flat major.
Dramatisk fantasie [potpourri on opera melodies].

Organ music
14 easy chorale preludes, Helsingborg 1854.
21 easy chorale preludes for organ, Stockholm [1878?].
Några anspråkslösa tonföljder för orgel [tones for organ].
Chorale preludes in the old church modes.

Chorales and mass music (compositions, editions and collections)
Choral-bok. Choralmelodier componerade af [BWH], 1843.
Choralmelodier, till svenska församlingens tjenst, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1857.
Cantica sacra. Koralmelodier, bearbetade till svenska församlingens tjänst, 1859.
Samling av de oftast förekommande koraler, 1861.
Svensk koralbok i sol-fa-notation, Landskrona, 1867.
Koraler till svenska kyrkans psalmer, jemte messans responsorier [i sol–fa-notation], Stockholm, 1870.
Förslag till koralbok för svenska kyrkan, 1881, Norrköping, 1882.
Koralmelodier till svenska kyrkans psalmer med särskild hänsyn till skolornas och menighetens behof, Norrköping, 1883.
Folk-Choraler, Bengt Wilhelm Hallbergs samling (ed. Elisabeth Wentz-Janacek), Slite: Wessmans, 2000.
Choral-bok. De oftast förekommande choralmelodier omarbetade af [BWH].
Femstämmiga choraler (with obligato pedal).
Fyrstämmiga choraler.
191 Koraler.

Stinas visa, 1846.
Blinda mannens visa, 1846.
Songs at the piano (Tonernas wälde, En winterqväll, Svanen), 1847−49. Stockholm, 1849.
Till kärleken, 1849.
Till den försvunna, 1849.
Kommer till mig, church aria op. 4, 1850. Pinted in 1892.
O godborn spring!. Recitativo cavatina ed aria per soprano e tenore col accompagnemento del violino, cello e piano, 1851.
Sanctus and Benedictus for soprano, organ, strings, 1851.
Sanctus, o salutaris for tenor solo, violoncello and organ, 1851.
Ave Maria, for song, violoncello and piano, 1851 Printed in 1857.
Tiggargossen, melodrama for voice, violin and piano, 1853.
Den blinde sångaren, 1853, in Förgät mig ej! Album för sång vid piano, innehållande hittills otryckta arbeten, tillegnade Sveriges unga damer; första årgången; af svenska tonsättare. Stockholm: Svanberg, 1855; new print Hans Ahlborg Musik, 2008.
Aftonklockan, romance for mezzosoprano with obligato violoncello and piano, 1860.
En tragedi, for song, violoncello and piano, 1861.
Under rönn och syrén for male voice, violoncello and piano, 1861.
Hvad skall jag blifva, 1872. In Hvitsippan 13/12 1872 (test no.), and in Bihang till Nyaste Öresunds-Posten 13/12 1872.
Das Saitenspiel for voice, violin and piano, 1874.
Drömmen for soprano, baritone and piano.
Engelens kallelse, three parts.

Choral works
Mixed choir a cappella 
Chorale to the psalm Jag lyfter mina händer, 1848, Landskrona 1883.
Hostias och Quam olim, from Requiem for 8 part mixed choir, 1851−54.
Skånemännens land for tenor solo and choir, 1861.
Motett öfver text ur Davids 147 psalm, Davids 122 psalm, Julpsalm av Biskop H.A. Brorson. Landskrona: Cecilia (musik attachment) [motet], 1868/69.
Vid dagens slut: Tusen, tusen stjärnor glimma, in Valda kvartetter, samlade av C. Nilsson, Stockholm 1909.
Davids 92 Psalm [in sol-fa notation].
Davids 112 Psalm [in sol-fa notation].

Male choir a cappella 
Davids 95 Psalm, motet, 1850.
Dalen, 1855, in De skånska sångföreningarnes album, 1864.
Mitt hem, in De skånska sångföreningarnes album, 1864.
Wid Eyra sund, in De skånska sångföreningarnes album, 1864.
Under rönn och syrén, 1875.
Dejlig är Guds himmel blå.
Vid magister John Broomés graf.

Choir and instrument 
From Davids 89 Psalm for soli, mixed choir, strings and organ, 1849.
Mass no. 3 in C major for mixed choir and organ, 1857.
Davids 100 Psalm for soli, mixed choir and organ, 1868.
Kantat för kyrkoherdeinvigningen i Landskrona pingstdagen 1875 [cantata] for mixed choir and organ.
Davids 99 Psalm for soli, choir and orchestra.

Works by Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg

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

Number of works: 6