John Heintze (1886-1937)


John Wilhelm Heintze, born in Stockholm on 6 August 1886 and died also in Stockholm 7 May 1937, was a pianist, piano teacher and composer. He taught at Richard Andersson’s School of Music in Stockholm from 1907−10 and from 1911 at the conservatory in Malmö. He composed mainly for piano, but his works also include songs and choral pieces. His music is stylistically late romantic with some impressionistic characteristics.


Childhood and student years

John Wilhelm Heintze was born in Stockholm where his father, Wilhelm Heintze (1849−95) was organist at St James’s Church. When John was three years old the family moved to Lund, where Wilhelm had been named Cathedral Organist. John Heintze may have had his very first musical education from his father, who, however, passed away when John was merely 8 years old. From 1902 John Heintze studied at Nils Peter Norlind’s School of Music in Lund. In 1904 he graduated with the degree of organist, with Norlind as his examiner. From there he worked for a time as a musician and was hired in 1905 as piano accompanist for Sydsvenska filharmoniska förening (the Southern Sweden Philharmonic Society).

In 1906 John Heintze moved to Stockholm for further studies under the tutelage of Richard Andersson, and he was hired as a piano teacher at Andersson’s School of Music as early as in 1907. His studies under Andersson were concluded with a debut concert with orchestra in April 1910. Heintze’s performance as a soloist in Ignaz Paderewski’s piano concerto in A minor was well received and was his gateway to further work as a musician and teacher.

Career as pianist and pedagogue

In January 1911 John Heintze returned to southern Sweden, this time to Malmö as a teacher at the conservatory of music, and the following year he gave a second debut concert, this time in Copenhagen. Parallel to his teaching position he was active as a touring piano soloist and enjoyed a good reputation as an interpreter of Chopin, although more modern music such as works by Sergei Rachmaninoff was also part of his repertory.

Heintze was also active as a chamber musician. In 1914 he started Malmö’s first piano trio together with two colleagues at the conservatory: violinist Ernesto Ballarini and cellist Gottardo Vecchi. John Heintze was also a member of Malmö’s music society, and was otherwise actively engaged in the city’s musical life. Although the Malmö piano trio was relatively short-lived (it was dissolved in 1918), Heintze was an active chamber musician for many years in various constellations, among others, at concerts in Malmö kammarmusikförening (Malmö’s Chamber Music Society − later known as Salomon Smith’s Chamber Music Society) from 1911−24.

In 1924 Heintze moved to Stockholm for unknown reasons. From what we know he did not hold any position similar to that held at the conservatory in Malmö. He may have wanted to expand his work as a pianist − he had up until then performed mainly in southern Sweden. He never attained an established position as a musician in the capital city; rather, he was plagued by problems with his nerves and was forced to withdraw from his career as a concert pianist. His ability to work was further reduced by a cardiovascular illness that eventually ended his life at the age of 50.

A characteristic

Like his brother and composer colleague Gustaf Hjalmar, John Heintze is portrayed as a withdrawn personality, with little capability − or interest − in marketing himself and his works. But like his brother, he found a warm advocate in the feisty pianist and music journalist, Yngve Flyckt, who, among other things, premiered Heintze’s second piano concerto in Helsingborg in 1935. Flyckt struggled in vain to excite interest in Heintze’s music among the Stockholm music establishment, including the Konsertföreningen (the Stockholm Concert Society). In his book Svenskt Musikliv from 1939 − a scathing critique of the period’s Swedish musical institutions − Flyckt gives a humorous depiction of how he, in the autumn of 1937 after years of fruitless prompting and hinting, receives notice from the public radio service that they intend to ‘get in contact’ with the composer. They had completely missed that John Heintze had passed away a half year earlier!


As a composer John Heintze primarily − but not exclusively − focused on his main instrument, the piano. His total output is rather limited (to the extent that it is known in its totality). His greatest instrumental works are the two piano concertos, in addition to which he composed a piano trio, a few smaller piano works, and a couple of preludes for organ. He also composed vocal music, both solo songs and choral works, one of which is the oratorio Satan. It is unclear what is behind his choice of theme for the oratorio, and it is also unknown who wrote the text. The choral song Hosiannah with text by Gustaf Fröding, has an air of the advent season and is based on the words of Psalm 24: ‘Görer portarna höga’ (‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates’), a text which was also set to music by, among others, Wennerberg.

John Heintze remained true to his original late romantic style, even though it was gradually enriched with impressionistic and other more modern features. His facture is distinctively homophonic, perhaps as a result of his lack of formal training in composition; in the choral work Hosiannah the voices enter successively, but without any sort of imitation. In the piano pieces there are Chopin and Rachmaninoff-like traits.

Sverker Jullander © 2015
Trans. Nicole Vickers


Connor, Herbert: Svensk musik, vol. 2, Från Midsommarvaka till Aniara, Stockholm: Bonniers, 1977.
Flyckt, Yngve: Svenskt musikliv, Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1939.
'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.
Sjöqvist, Gunnar: 'Kammarmusik i Malmö med omnejd från 1820 till 2004', (latest accessed 2015-05-16).
Suttner, Carl-Erik: 'Heintze' [family article], in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 3, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1976.
Uppström, Tore: Pianister i Sverige, Stockholm: Nordiska Musikförlaget, 1973.

Summary list of works

2 piano concertos, the oratorio Satan, chamber music (piano trios, etc.), piano music (4 preludes, etc.), organ pieces (2 preludes, etc.), songs, choral music (Hosiannah etc.).

Collected works

Solo instrument with orchestra
Concert no. 1 in E-flat minor for piano and orchestra, 1919.
Concert no. 2 in E minor for piano and orchestra, 1927−28.

Vocal works with orchestra
Satan, oratorio.

Chamber music
Piano trio C-sharp minor, between 1914 and 1918.
Malinconia, for violoncello [and piano?].
Vaggvisa, for violin and piano, 1934.

Andante con variatione.
Ecossaise B-flat major.
Etude E major.
Melodie A-flat majorr [by G.Hj. Heintze?].
Preludium A major.
Preludium E major, 1902?.
Preludium D minor.
Preludium B-flat minor.

Prelude in E-flat major.
Prelude in G major.
Funeral march in F minor.

Chrysantemum (Gustaf Fröding).
Violin (Astrid Gullstrand), for soprano, violin and piano.
Vårregn (Hsu-Fu).
Ödesvisan (Bo Bergman), 1909.

Choral music
Hosiannah (Fröding), for mixed choir and organ, before 1924.
Helige Ande, sanningens Ande (Swedish psalm 1819:131) for unison girls' choir and solo with organ, 1928.