Leonard Höijer (1815-1884)


Johan Leonard Höijer was born in Stockholm on 1 February 1815 and died on 11 July 1884 in Helgest, Södermanland. Today he is best known for his music dictionary, but during his multifaceted life he also composed, arranged the music of other composers, worked as a music critic, as an organist and a physical education teacher. Through his involvement in the publication, Andeliga sånger, Höijer can be said to have contributed to the musical style of Sweden’s Free Church (a Christian Protestant denomination separate from the Church of Sweden).

Johan Leonard Höijer is unusually hard to depict. Very little is known about his childhood and his upbringing, and the same is true of his last ten to fifteen years of life. However, the period in which he was most productive was so filled with various activities that a detailed description carries the risk of being a boring catalogue. Leonard Höijer, as he is most often called, was a central figure in Sweden’s music life during the middle of the nineteenth century, while his creation of music made up only a part of his overall achievement. The versatility that characterises his working life also influenced him as a composer. He wrote music within several genres and for different contexts, composed secular as well as religious pieces and arranged many of his colleagues’ works. He is best known for his dictionary of music, Musik-Lexikon, published in 1864 and the first in Sweden to include biographical entries.


His younger years

Johan Leonard Höijer was born out of wedlock and was placed in a children’s orphanage. Lars Cronholm, a recording secretary for the Ministry of Justice, became his foster father. Höijer showed an early propensity for music and is said to have written compositions already in his teens. His first known teacher was Pehr Sandbom who played double bass in the Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra). Lars Cronholm fell victim to the cholera epidemic and died in 1834, when Höijer was just nineteen years old. On Cronholm’s advice, Höijer had taken a job at a trading office, but gave it up to study music that same year − under harsh conditions − at the educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music). He completed his organ examination in 1835 and graduated in harmony, organ playing and singing in 1842. He concluded his education with good grades even though, concurrent with music studies, he had to support himself by working as a music teacher.

And so in 1841, he took a job as organist at the French Reformed Church in Stockholm. The following year he took a similar position at Katarina Church, something he continued with until 1880. Since the job of organist at that time was neither particularly well-paid nor full time employment, Höijer took on other jobs. For the most part, he wrote about music, but parallel to this, he worked as a composer and arranger. 

Marriage, criticism and academic work

Leonard Höijer and Julia Westée (1814−1900) were wed in 1843. According to his friend, Richard Bergström, Höijer managed to find ‘a wife who understood him and laid her diligence beside his, so that the economic pressures gradually eased’. The couple never had children.

Together with Erik Drake, Leonard Höijer organised the Musikaliska akademien’s library and after hand, in 1845, he was named as an associé (a non-voting member) of the academy. As an author, Höijer was a regular music reviewer for the Dagligt Allehanda during the years 1848−49, for Bore 1850−51, Svenska Tidningen 1853−59, and he also contributed to Stockholms Figaro, Aftonbladet and Post- och Inrikes Tidningar. In addition he wrote for Tidning för musik and was the publication’s editor from 1853 until 1859.

Music’s factotum − and author

During this very active period in Höijer’s multifaceted career he also was a physical education teacher at the Orthopaedic Institute from 1852 to 1867 where Herman Sätherberg was director. Sätherberg was active as a poet and Höijer was one of many composers who wrote music to his poems. Höijer’s contribution was Slottern, for voice and orchestra (this was the same text used by Valborg Aulin in a choral work). Pedagogical writings on harmony and piano playing, as well as translations of lessons from foreign music schools for both violin and vocal training, were also a part of Höijer’s musical activities. Besides these music-related works, he wrote literary works, in part inspired by author Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, whom he met during his student years and whom he assisted on a song collection, Songes, from 1849. ‘When he played Almqvist [in the music salons), he could almost reconcile the listeners to Almqvist’s idiosyncrasies and banalities’, writes the previously quoted Bergström in his memoir.

Höijer’s huge capacity for working within different realms of music included writing a music dictionary (Musik-Lexikon, published in 1864 with a supplement in 1867), which was the first published in Sweden to include biographies.

Leonard Höijer as a music arranger is a separate chapter in his life. He was behind most of the arrangements of composer Oscar Ahnfelt’s widely disseminated Andeliga sånger (spiritual songs) that was published in instalments during the years 1850−1877. He arranged songs and tunes for folk music collector Richard Dybeck’s publications Runa and Svenska gånglåtar, among several others. And together with librarian Richard Bergström, Höijer published a second edition of Erik Gustaf Geijer and Arvid August Afzelius’s classic ballad collection Svenska folk-visor från forntiden − the title being changed to Svenska folkvisor in 1880. In the first edition the music was arranged by Christian Friedrich Haeffner. In the preface, Höijer explains his own 134 adaptations by stating that ‘new demands asserted themselves, not least because of the richer tonal material that today’s salon instruments offer’. This quote clearly describes for which group of users both editions were intended.

At the end of the 1860s, Leonard Höijer became ill. He retired from public life and devoted himself mainly to composing and arranging. He died in 1884, at the age of 69 at his country house in Helgesta, west of Stockholm near Flen.


Leonard Höijer’s output of compositions and arrangements is quite large, especially considering all the other activities he was engaged in. That he was able to write so many works parallel to all his other duties can be partially explained by the fact that most of his compositions were minor works. Piano and vocal pieces comprise a large part of his oeuvre, which still includes several orchestral compositions.

A significant portion of his songs was published during his lifetime, thereby achieving a wide distribution. This fact says a great deal about his status in the music circles at the time, but also about the publishing contacts he would have had through his authorship.

One is inclined to agree with the previously mentioned collaborator, Richard Bergström, who points out Höijer’s ‘melodic facility’ as a prominent feature in his song writing. Höijer wrote sing-able melodies that followed the words with sensitivity. The arrangements are adroit − that is to say, well crafted without being conspicuously personal. His songs were undoubtedly appreciated at the time, functioning as an accessible form of art music.

A particular number of Höijer’s songs were written for Oscar Ahnfelt’s publication Andeliga sånger. Considering the impact of this publication, one can argue that, as both a composer and arranger, Höijer helped create the music style associated with the Free Church (a Christian Protestant denomination separate from the Church of Sweden). Although Höijer certainly was commissioned, and paid, to write these compositions, his engagement in their creation is quite obvious.

Leonard Höijer’s compositions are generally well written and nicely adapted to their respective contexts − characteristics that certainly caused them to be much in demand. Written in the musical style of their time, with a few exceptions, their popularity has not, however, survived their author. It is therefore not the composer Leonard Höijer, but the author of the country’s first ambitious music dictionary, and of a string of classic folk music publications, who survives in Swedish music history.

Gunnar Ternhag © 2014
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Musiklexikon, 1864, with supplement 1867.
Kort och lättfattlig harmonilära för dilettanter, 1846.
Konstnärens stierna novell, 1844.
Accorder från hemmet: till min dotter efter hennes första nattvardsgång. Stockholm, 1849.
Italienska sångens grunder praktiskt framställda efter Vaccais "Metodo pratico di canto italiano per camera" och för den enskilda undervisningen med hufvudsakligt afseende på röstens esthetiska behandling bearbetade. Stockholm, 1853.
Carl Hennings praktiska violin-skola, efter pedagogiska grunder utarbetad. (Trans. by J L Höijer). Stockholm n.d.
Vid Fyris´ strand: dikt i nio sånger. Stockholm, 1872.
En musikalisk kulturbild från Ulrika Eleonora den yngres dagar, in Förr och nu, 1873.
Narva-marschen. En musikhistorisk studie, in Förr och nu, 1875, p. 148f.

Höijers folk music arrangements in:
Hyltén-Cavallius, G & Stephens, G: Sveriges historiska och politiska visor. Örebro, 1853.
Dybeck, RIchard: Swenska wisor. No. 182, Stockholm.
Dybeck, RIchard: Svenska visor. No. 265, Stockholm.
Dybeck. Richard: Svenska gång-låtar. No. 309, Stockholm: Abr Hirsch.
Dybeck, Richard: Svenska folkmelodier. First collection, 1−100. Stockholm, 1853−56.
Afzelius, Arvid August & Geijer, Erik Gustaf: Svenska folkvisor. Ny betydligt tillökad uppl. Stockholm, 1880 (utgivare av denna upplaga tillsammans med Richard Bergström).


Bergström, Richard: 'Johan Leonard Höijer', Nyare bidrag till kännedomen om de svenska landsmålen, no. 7, 1888.
Bergström, Richard: 'J .L. Höijer', in Svalan, no. 37, 1873.
Edholm, Dag: S:ta Cecilias tjänare: Om kyrkomusikens utövare i Stockholm under gem århundraden, Sköndal: Edward Vincents orgelstiftelse, 2002, pp. 117, 182.
Helmer, Axel: Leonard Höijer, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 19, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1971/73. [With list of works.]
Helmer, Axel: Svensk solosång 1850−1890. En genrehistorisk studie, diss. in musicology, Uppsala universitet, 1972.
Lindgren, Adolf: 'Leonard Höijer', Svensk Musiktidning, 1884.
Morin, Gösta: article in Svenska Män och Kvinnor, vol. 3, p. 609, Stockholm: Bonniers förlag, 1946.
Stahre, Ivar: 'Johan Leonard Höijer', in: Sohlmans Musiklexikon, vol. 3, p. 532, 1976.


Göteborgs universitetsbibliotek, Lunds universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teatermuseet Stockholm, Oslo universitetsbibliotek, Riksarkivet, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket

Summary list of works

Stage works (1 comic opera), orchestral works, works for piano, songs, choral works and 5 declamations.

Collected works

Mainly after Helmer 1971/73.

Orchestral works

Overture to Signora Luna.
Serenade [C] for harmony music [wind instruments].
Frithiof på hafvet for soli, choir and orchestra (Esaias Tegnér), 1833 (incomplete).
Slottern for song and orchestra (Herman Sätherberg).
Vieni amore, canzona for song and orchestra.

Piano works
Fantasia fugata, dedicated to P. Sandbom, 1830s.
Första utflygten i tonernas verld. Printed n.d. [under the pseudonyme 'L. Helmers']. 
4 lighter pieces for piano, 4 hands, 1830.
Several smaller pieces in Samling af diverse musik compositioner from year 1829. 

Incidental music
Masken, comic opera in 3 acts (C. Lindegren) [one Serenade dated 1839]. 

Works for male choir/quartet
Charlottes fantasivals. Printed n.d. 
Pyrola uniflora. Printed in Samling af qvartetter . . . sjungne af de Svenska nationalsångarne, pp. 68−71, 1874.
Scandinavian song (J Nybom). Printed n.d. 
Stella jucunda [Stjärn-kören, mentioned Höijer's novel Konstnärens stjerna; from C.J.L. Almqvist's Signora Luna].
Sång för Jemtlands fältjägare, song with piano accompaniment, 1830.
Sång vid afskedsfesten för Professor Stephens 30/9 1851.
Behagen ('Jag blickar på tärnornas skara', J.L. Runeberg) for tenor 1, tenor 2 and bass.
Concert-serenade ('Herrliga natt, med ditt himlaloft', text by the composer).
Ett mindre antal verk till dikter av Atterbom, Beskow, Franzén, Runeberg samt till egna texter.

Mixed choir
Soli Deo gloria! Gudi allena äran! ('Gud, Dig allena vare pris'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 164−165.
Cantate (J.L. Höijer). Printed in Prins Gustafs minne i Konstnärs-gillet, 1852.
Din vilja ske ('Min Gud och Far!').
O, hur lång är stunden. 
Ära vare Gud i höjden.
Amen, Halleluja ('Gud, Dig allena vare ära')
Dans kring majstången ('När den sköna Maj med sippor kommit', J.L. Runeberg).

Voice and piano
Aftonen (text: Lea). Printed in Svalan, 1874, no. 44, p. 1.
Gullvifvan ('Den späda sylphiden med lockar af guld', P.D.A. Atterbom). Printed in Förgät mig ej, album för sång vid piano innehållande hittills otryckta arbeten, tillegnade Sveriges unga damer, 1855, annual volume 1, book 1, pp. 12−13.
Hvad jag älskar ('Jag älskar solen, så skönt den strålar', A. von Zweigbergk). Composed in Tomestorp 16/8 1878. Printed in Svenska familj-journalen 1879, pp. 318−319
Lifvets jernbana ('Jag vaknade upp', J.L. Höijer under the pseud. Helmer). Printed in Svalan, 1874, no. 4, pp. 2−3.
Grafven och rosen ('Säg mig du kärleksblomma', Victor Hugo). Printed in I sommarqvällen, Grafven och rosen: Tvenne poemer af G C Norling, satte i musik för röst och piano af Johan Leonard Höijer, Stockholm: J.P. Meyer, 1856.
I sommarqvällen ('Se naturen huru ljuft hon hvilar'). Printed in I sommarqvällen, Grafven och rosen: Tvenne poemer af G C Norling, satte i musik för röst och piano af Johan Leonard Höijer, Stockholm 1856: J.P. Meyer.
Snällposten ('Min lilla dufva'). Printed in Fem sånger för en röst med accompagnement af piano, ord och musik af J L Höijer, no. 2, Stockholm: I. Meisel.
Svärmeri (J.L. Höijer). Printed in Lithografiskt allehanda, 1864, pp. 42−43.
Sippan ('Härold för den unga Flora', P.D.A. Atterbom. Printed in Svalan 1874, no. 16, p. 3.
Vaggvisa ('Jag sjunger för min lilla', F.M. Franzén). Printed in J.L. Höijer, 4 sånger vid pianoforte, Stockholm: Julius Bagge, 1885, p. 2. Also printed in Svalan, 1873, no. 46, p. 1.
Första ordet ('Kväll och morgon jag glad', A.-M. Lenngren). Printed in J.L. Höijer, 4 sånger vid pianoforte, Stockholm: Julius Bagge, 1885, pp. 3−5.
Vårblomman ('Kalla drifva smält', text: Esther). Printed in J.L. Höijer: 4 sånger vid pianoforte, Stockholm: Julius Bagge, 1885, pp. 6. Also printed in Svalan 1875, pp. 83.
Trollrunan ('Färdas jag världen kring', J. Holmlund). Printed in J.L. Höijer, 4 sånger vid pianoforte, Stockholm: Julius Bagge, 1885, p. 7
Vårbäcken (C.F. Dahlgren). Printed in Lithografiskt allehanda, 1864, no. 2, pp. 10-11.
Polens frihetsbön ('Boże coś Polske'), for one voice at the piano, Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, ca 1850. 
När natten stundar ('Somna i ro, somna i ro', J.L. Höijer. Printed in Svenska familje-journalen, vol. 18, 1879.
Ca 35 unprinted songs: Blommernes blomme (J. Moe), 15/9 1879); Första vårdagen (F.A. Dahlgren), 1836; Gondolier-sång (P.D.A. Atterbom), probably 1830s; Hörningsholmsvisan, 1834−36; Min flicka, 9/2 1835; Min hjärtekär, 25/8 1860); Romance ('Han smög sig obemärkt på tå', J. de La Fontaine) ca 1840?; Romance ('Vid hemlandstoner vill han dö', R. Dybeck), 1864; 'Hvi prisas så högt våra fäder' (A.-M.Lenngren), 1829−30; Ögat (D. Althén), with obligato violin; 'Hvi suckar du, flicka' (E.J. Stagnelius) for soprano, tenor and piano; Lärkröster i maj ('O, du lummiga lund!', Z. Topelius); Almina (J.L. Höijer), etc.

Andliga sånger [Spiritual songs] for voice and piano/organ
Fröjdernas morgon ('Hur blir oss då'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 11, pp. 130−139.
Jag får det allt. Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, p. 161
Jesus, min sång ('Om Dig, om Dig, O Jesu vill jag sjunga'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 152−153.
Jultankar ('Visste naturen att verldarnes Herre'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 9, pp. 95−96.
Närmare till Dig ('Närmare, o Jesu Christ'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 10, pp. 120-121. Även i Musikbilaga till Sångarbladet, 1929, p. 2.
Riktningen ('Ofta, ofta uppstår frågan'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 146−148.
Sånger om Jesu namn af G.E. Beskow, satta i musik af Leonard Höijer, Stockholm: Tidskriften Fridsbudets exp.
Hvem klappar? Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 10, pp. 110−112.
Vi hasta till vägs. Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 157−159. 
Den öppna fadersfamnen ('Se öppen står Guds fadersfamn'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 11, p. 125.
Bön att få tjena Herren ('O Herre, Herre, led du mina steg'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 143−144.
Densamme än ('Ack, kände du, Herre'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 154−155
Fröjdernas morgon ('Hur blir oss då, när Gud oss ändtligt låter'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 11, pp. 130−139. 
Jag får det allt. Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, p. 161.
Jesu min sång ('Om Dig, om Dig, o Jesu vill jag sjunga'). Printed in Oscar Ahnfelt, Andeliga sånger ..., book 12, pp. 152−153. Also in Musikbilaga till Sången, 1931, book 2, no. 217. 
När kvällen kommer ('Somna i ro trygg i ditt bo'). Arranged by Emil Anjou. Printed in Musikbilaga till Sången, 1932, book 1, no. 228.

Declamatations (for spoken voice and piano)
Almina (J.L. Höijer)
Fragment ur Gylfe (P.H. Ling)
From Goethes Faust (J.W. v.Goethe, Gretchen vid spinnrocken)
From Ingemar, melodrama (F. Halm)
Vargens dotter, Clairobscur (C.J.L. Almqvist)

Works by Leonard Höijer

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

Number of works: 21