Gustaf Heintze d.y. (1879−1946)


Gustaf Hjalmar Heintze, born on 22 July 1879 in Jönköping and died on 4 March 1946 in Saltsjöbaden (Stockholm), was a composer, pianist, organist and music teacher. He worked as a piano teacher at Richard Andersson’s School of Music in Stockholm and later founded his own music school. From 1910 he was organist at Maria Magdalena Church. His compositional style was a blend of influences from late romanticism and impressionism. He composed mainly instrumental music including five solo concertos and a number of chamber music works. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1943.

(Svenskt Porträttarkiv)


Background, education and career

Gustaf Hjalmar Heintze was born in Jönköping on 22 July 1879 and already in 1881, the family moved to Stockholm where his father, Wilhelm Heintze (1849−1895), had been appointed as organist at St James’s Church. In 1889 there was yet again a move, this time to southern Sweden when Wilhelm Heintze became the organist at the cathedral in Lund. It was here that Gustaf Heintze began to study music seriously. It is reasonable to think that he received his first music lessons from his father, and he took his organist degree in 1896, with Nils Peter Norlind as examiner.

Gustaf Heintze then moved to Stockholm to attend the Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) where he graduated with degrees in organ and as a precentor in 1899. He continued with private lessons under Joseph Dente in composition and orchestration from 1900 to 1902, and Richard Andersson on piano in 1901. Andersson employed Heintze as a teacher in his well-known music school in 1902, where he continued until 1918 when he started his own piano school. In 1910 Heintze was appointed organist at Maria Magdalena Church where he remained until his death.

Organist, pianist, composer

Gustaf Heintze became known early on as an eminent pianist and organist − the latter especially with his liturgical playing in which his perfectly formed preludes aroused admiration. As a person, he was described as reserved and unassuming: ‘The mild-mannered organist at Maria Magdalena Church lives his own life, rarely attends concerts, instead staying far away from crowds in his house out in “Solsidan”, Saltsjöbaden’, wrote the composer William Seymer in a review in 1936. However, there was no lack of colleagues and others who were enamoured with his music. Seymer was among them and he pleaded for Heintze to be able to represent Sweden in international musical contexts.

Pianist and music journalist, Yngve Flyckt, was also a warm advocate for Gustaf Heintze’s music − as well as the music of his brother, John Heintze − and included several of Gustaf’s works in his concert programmes. The cellist Gunnar Norrby is also numbered among Gustaf Heintze’s proponents, convincing the latter to arrange several of his violin compositions for cello, which Norrby gladly performed in his concerts. It is also possible that it was Norrby who encouraged him to orchestrate the piano part in his Fantasy for cello and piano.

A wealth of productivity, few published works

Gustaf Heintze was one of the founders of the Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare (the Society of Swedish Composers) in 1918 and received the government’s composer’s grant from 1920 to 1924. However, despite a wealth of creative productivity of recognised high quality, he never came to be considered among the leaders of his generation. An indication of this may be the fact that he was not elected to the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) until 1943. Although all of his larger works were performed − several even abroad in Berlin and Bournemouth − and essentially were favourably received, it is striking how few of his compositions came to be published. Except for his second piano trio that was printed by the Musikaliska Konstföreningen (the Swedish Art Music Society) in 1944 (almost a quarter century after its creation), his published works are confined to some piano pieces, a solo song and one choral piece. His only organ work, Fantasy in C minor, was published in 1995.

Even though it is natural that the publishing market for piano concertos and the like is limited, it is nonetheless surprising that, for example, none of his smaller, one-movement pieces for violin and piano came into print. One explanation can be that Heintze’s interest lay in the actual process of composing and that, quite simply, it was not so important for him to have his works published. One newspaper wrote in 1938:

The actual composing has for him [Heintze] always been the main thing, and when his compositions are completed he has quietly and unassumingly pointed out this fact, but then preferred to withdraw in order to devote his interest toward some new idea.


Gustaf Heintze was a prolific composer who focused mainly on larger instrumental forms. It was not, however, the symphony orchestra itself that attracted him − there are no symphonies or other ‘pure’ orchestral pieces to be found among his works. But rather he was interested in the combination of the piano (his main instrument) and orchestral instruments in the form of the symphony orchestra, chamber music ensemble or individual instruments. Because if his prioritisation of the solo concerto form he is, in his own way, unique among Swedish composers.

Early compositions

His first expression of this special interest was not one of his own compositions, but a piano arrangement from 1904 of the orchestral part of Franz Berwald’s piano concerto. Otherwise, there is nothing in Heintze’s early works, which consist mostly of piano pieces in a smaller form, that hint at this later direction. The sombre Ballad for piano from 1913, with a playing time of around 13 minutes, is a transition to these larger forms. The Ballad was also his first published composition. After an introduction that is somewhat reminiscent of Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie, the piece is developed in a more traditional late romantic direction, dominated by a heavy chordal structure and an almost total absence of virtuosic effects.

Concertante works and chamber music

Four years later, close to his 40th year of age, Heintze was ready for his first work in a larger form − the first piano concerto in F minor. Sometime around 1920, his productivity explodes: alongside two piano trios, one piano quintet and his only violin sonata, came the first violin concerto, his first really successful work, which had its premier in Berlin in 1922 and was later picked up by Radiotjänst (Sweden’s national radio) as well as the Konsertföreningen (the Concert Society) in Stockholm.

During the following decade or so, Heintze continued to engage himself in the solo concerto form, including the second piano concerto that was completed in 1925. Six years later he created one more violin concerto and a third work for piano and orchestra (a two-movement ‘concert piece’ with chamber ensemble), to eventually write a grandiose finish to this portion of his creativity with the concerto for two pianos and orchestra in 1933.

Heintze continued to compose for the chamber music format but with a different focus. During the 1930s, he moved away from the large cyclical forms and concentrated on the smaller form, in single-movement character pieces for violin or cello, and piano.

Liturgical music and works for organ

In stark contrast to the wealth of instrumental compositions, Heintze’s works within the religious music domain are scarce, even though this was his main field of activity as a practicing musician. Most noteworthy are five cantatas and a few choral hymns. His production of other vocal works is very small including a couple of solo songs and a cantata written for the inauguration of a girl’s school.

Gustaf Heintze had a prominent reputation as an improviser on the organ. Thus, it is all the more surprising (disregarding an elegy for a friend who passed away) that he only composed a single work for organ, the Fantasy in C minor. This work originated in 1932, probably initiated by his colleague at St James’ Church, composer and organist Waldemar Åhlén, to whom the piece was dedicated. The main theme is proclaimed in a powerful pedal solo with a pregnant rhythmicity that runs throughout the work. It is characterised by a compositional style reminiscent of the newer French organ music by the likes of Louis Vierne and Marcel Dupré, while at the same time the dramatic facture with a massive chordal structure that alternates with virtuosic runs, interspersed with lyrical sections, reveals inspiration from the German composer and keyboardist Max Reger.

Final words

Gustaf Hjalmar Heintze was not a modernist, but rather remained faithful to the late romantic tradition, yet with a personal impressionistically coloured tone. He does not seem to be easily placed in any ‘school’: noted possible influences include such diverse greats as Christian Sinding, César Franck, Johannes Brahms, Jean Sibelius, Max Reger, Ture Rangström and French neo-classicism.

Sverker Jullander © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson


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'Heintze, släkt', in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 18, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1969−71.
Jönsson, Svante: 'Komponisterna i släkten Heintze: Deras liv samt stiliakttagelser i några representativa verk', 60 credit thesis in musicology, Stockholm University, 1988.
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Percy, Gösta: 'Heintze, Gustaf Hjalmar', in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 2, Stockholm: Sohlmans, 1950.
Suttner, Carl-Erik: 'Heintze' [family article], in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 3, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1976.
Uppström, Tore: Pianister i Sverige, Stockholm: Nordiska Musikförlaget, 1973.
Waldenby, Michael: Människor, myter och musik. Senromantikens inflytande på kyrkomusikens utveckling i Stockholm under 1900-talet, Stockholm: Verbum, 2002.

Summary list of works

Orchestral works with solo instruments (3 piano concertos, of which 1 for 2 pianos, concert piece for piano and orchestra, 2 violin concertos), chamber music (3 piano quintets, 2 piano trios, works for violin and piano, works for cello and piano), piano music (Ballad etc.), songs, cantatas (including for Mary Magdalene Church’s 300th anniversary), choral works.

Collected works

Works for solo instrument and orchestra
Concerto no. 1 in F minor for piano and orchestra op. 15, 1917.
Concerto no. 2 in E minor for piano and orchestra op. 21, 1924−25.
Concert piece in F-sharp minor for piano and small orchestra, 1931.
Concerto in A minor for two pianos and orchestra, 1933.
Concerto no. 1 in B minor for violin and orchestra op. 18. 1921.
Concerto no. 2 in E minor for violin and orchestra, 1931.

Chamber music
Piano quintet no. 1 in A minor op. 19, 1922?.
Piano quintet no. 2 in D minor op. 22, 1926−1927?.
Piano quintet no. 3 in B minor.
Piano trio no. 1 in A major op. 16, 1919?. [Mov. 2 (Largo) also arranged for violin, violoncello and organ.]
Piano trio no. 2 in B minor op 17, 1920. Stockholm: Musikaliska Konstföreningen, 1944.
Sonata for violin and piano in E minor, op. 20, 1922.
Afton, for violin and piano, 1932. Also in a version for violoncello and piano, 1941.
Allegro in old style for violin and piano, 1932.
Andante in E major for violin and piano. [Also in a version for violoncello and piano.]
Elegy in E minor for violin and piano, 1932. [Also in a version for violoncello and piano.]
Elegy in C-sharp minor for violin and piano, 1932.
Toccata in E minor for violin and piano, 1932.
Fantasy in A major for violin and piano, 1936.
Nocturne in D minor for violin and piano, 1942. [Also in a version for violoncello and piano.]
Impromptu in D minor for violin and piano.
Canto funèbre for violoncello and piano, 1911.
Fantasy in A minor for violoncello and piano, 1935. [Also arranged for violoncello and orchestra.]
Nocturne in D minor for violoncello and piano, 1935.
Skymning, for violoncello and piano.

Aftonbön, 1898.
Ballade in D-flat major op. 11, 1913. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1916.
Ballade in E minor op. 14.
Elegy in B minor.
Etude un E minor op. 7.
Fantasy in D minor, 1924.
Fantasie à la Ballata in D minor. Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, [1928].
Four piano pieces op. 12: Visa, Sorg, Impromptu, Berceuse. Stockholm, Elkan & Schildknecht, 1916.
Höst, fantasy piece.
Prélude in A-flat major op. 6 no. 1.
Prélude in C major op. 13 no. 1. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1917.
Romans Ass-dur op. 6 no. 2. [Simplified version in Svensk pianomusik, Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1944.]
Suite in B minor, 1912.
Suite in B-flat minor op 9.
Toccata in C-sharp minor op. 5, 1913.
Toccata in B-flat minor.
Three simple etudes.
Visa in A minor op. 6 no. 3, 1937.

Arrangement for piano
Berwald: Piano concerto, orchestra parts arranged for piano.

Fantasy in C minor, 1932. Stockholm: Runa Nototext, 1995.
Elegy in D minor.

Arioso, 'Högtlovad vare du' for baritone and organ, piano [or string orchestra], 1934. In: Svensk romanssång, Stockholm: Sveriges Körförbunds förlag, 1937.
En ängel jag hörde (Lord Lytton).
Sista toner, for 1 voice and piano.

Kantat vid Högalidskyrkans invigning 1923 for soli, mixed choir, children's choir and organ, 1923. [From here 'Jesu, du mildaste barnavän' for children's choir, in: De ungas hymnarium, Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1935.]
Kantat till Maria Magdalena kyrkas återinvigning 1927 for soli, mixed choir, children's choir and organ.
Kantat till Maria Magdalena kyrkas 300 års jubileum 1934 for soli, choir, string orchestra and organ, 1934.
Kantat vid invigningen av Södermalms högre läroanstalts för flickor nybyggnad, 1937.
Kantat till kyrkoherdeinstallationen i Maria kyrka den 6 oktober 1940 for soli, choir, strings and organ, 1940.
Kantat till Maria kyrkliga ungdomsförening for soli, mixed choir, strings and organ or piano.

Other choral music
Hymn: En dyr klenod, en klar och ren, for mixed choir. In: Laudamus, Andliga hymner. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, 1934.
O Gud, vår hjälp i forna år, for mixed choir, 1934.

Works by Gustaf Heintze d.y.

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

Number of works: 12