Nils Kjellander (1859−1911)


Nils Theodor Salomon Kjellander was born in Karlskrona on 3 July 1859. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm from 1878−80. From the beginning of the 1880s until his death on 22 March 1911 he was a music teacher in Motala. His compositions include piano pieces and songs, music for the play Prinsessan Törnrosa as well as the two operettas Don Ranudo de Colibrados and Figaro i slyngelåren.


Nils Kjellander was born in Karlskrona on 3 July 1859 as the son of the merchant Nils Fredrik Kjellander and Hedvig Kjellander (née von Schantz). Even though detailed facts about his life are lacking, information about his godparents from his baptism on 7 July that same year suggests that the family belonged to the bourgeoisie of the city. The six godparents included a schoolmaster, two pastors, a wholesaler, a doctor and maiden.

Kjellander was educated at the Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Stockholm between 1878 and 1880. He moved to the town of Motala in 1882, returning to Stockholm again in 1887. He participated in the music life of Stockholm mainly as a composer of songs and piano pieces.

Many of Kjellander’s works were published, sometimes under the pseudonym ‘Keiner’. Judging from advertisements in the daily newspapers of the time, the scores that can be found in libraries today are only a part of his total creative output. According to the press, it appears that the public mostly knew him by his dance music.

In the beginning of 1893 Kjellander moved back to Motala and lived there for the rest of his life. Except for his time in Stockholm, Kjellander was, from the 1880s until his death, active as a music teacher in Motala, which included providing piano lessons for many of the city’s children. He died there on 22 March 1911.


Piano pieces and songs

Many of Kjellander’s compositions have been published in various collections. For example, both of his dances for piano, Polka and Vals, were published in the first issue of the journal Musik för hemmet in 1889. The journal’s ambition was to publish newly written compositions and the editors promised that the composers Erik Åkerberg and Emil Sjögren would review the works. The journal was, however, short-lived. Even in its second season, it had problems delivering the planned issues, and the journal was discontinued.

Kjellander’s songs include ‘Hvor tindrer nu min Stjerne?’, which is dedicated to the opera singer Dina Edling, who was employed at the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera) from 1877 until 1892. It is possible that Kjellander came into contact with her during his time in Stockholm.

Stage music

Kjellander composed three songs for the play Prinsessan Törnrosa (Sleeping Beauty), with texts by Zacharias Topelius. Despite the small format, the play’s different characters are portrayed in the songs. Not least are the evil Mörköga, the friendly Dorina and the stressed kitchen boy Sam; each given their distinctive characteristics through the harmony and the shaping of the accompaniment. The songs are dedicated to the author Josefin Wettergrund, who was known during her lifetime by the pseudonym ‘Lea’, and who was appreciated by a large readership. Topelius’ play in three acts was published in 1870. It is plausible that Kjellander made use of the play in his work as a teacher, however, nothing is known about any performances.

At the end of the 1880s Kjellander wrote two operettas. The libretto for Don Ranudo de Colibrados was written by Ernst Wallmark and is an adaptation of Ludvig Holberg’s comedy of the same name. Holberg would have been particularly relevant at the time. In 1884 the 250th anniversary of his birth was celebrated with a jubilee concert at the Kungliga Teatern. The operetta premiered in 1889 at the Vasateatern in Stockholm. It was called an ‘opera buffa in one act’ and was not the only piece that was performed during the evening, being combined with another play or with a concert. The reviews talk about melodious music that works well within its context, without being original.

No sheet music for this operetta has been preserved, and the same pertains to the other operetta that Kjellander wrote, which also was in collaboration Ernst Wallmark. Figaro i slyngelåren is an adaptation of a play by Victorien Sardou, one of the most successful French playwrights during the last half of the 19th century. The operetta is a comedy in three acts and portrays the well-known character of Figaro in his youth. All of the characters are taken from The Marriage of Figaro, however, the plot is simpler and reviews refer to it as a farce. Even with this operetta, the composer is spoken of as having the ability to write melodies with beautiful motifs, however, without any particular originality. Several of the numbers Kjellander wrote have been associated with what the reviews call a ‘Spanish character’. It is possible that several of the piano pieces that were published under the title Spanska danser för piano came from this operetta.

Originally the operetta was to have been presented at the Vasateatern in 1889, however, for unknown reasons the premier never occurred. Another planned production at Djurgårdsteatern in the summer of 1890 was never manifested either. It was not until January 1894 the operetta had its premier at Vasateatern.

Karin Hallgren © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Genom minnesrik bygd till Omberg och Alvastra: reseskizz af Theodor, Motala, 1894.


Helmer, Axel: Svensk solosång 1850−1890, vol. 1, En genrehistorisk studie, diss., Stockholm: Svenskt musikhistoriskt arkiv, 1972.
Helmer, Axel
: Svensk solosång 1850−1890, vol. 2, Sångförteckning, diss., Stockholm: Svenskt musikhistoriskt arkiv, 1972.
Hildebrand, Albin
: Svenskt porträttgalleri 21: Tonkonstnärer och sceniska artister, Stockholm: Tullberg, 1897.
Lewenhaupt, Inga
: ‘Teatermusiken’, in: Leif Jonsson & Martin Tegen (eds), Musiken i Sverige, vol. 3, Den nationella identiteten 1810−1920, Stockholm: Fischer & Co, 1992, pp. 399−412.
Norlind, Tobias
: ‘Nils Kjellander’, in: Allmänt musiklexikon, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1916.
Stieger, Franz
: Opernlexikon, vol. 1, Titelkatalog, Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1975.
Stieger, Franz:
‘Nils Kjellander’, in: Opernlexikon, vol. 2, Komponisten, Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1977.

Summary list of works

2 operettas (Don Ranudo de Colibrados, Figaro i slyngelåren), music for one play (Prinsessan Törnrosa), piano music (dance music, Spanish dances, marches), songs.

Collected works

Music dramatic works
Don Ranudo de Colibrados, opera buffa in 1 act, libretto by Ernst Wallmark after Ludvig Holberg’s play with the same name, first performed in 1889.
Figaro i slyngelåren, vaudeville-operetta in three acts, libretto by Ernst Wallmark after a play by Victorien Sardou, first performed in 1894.
Prinsessan Törnrosa, play by Zacharias Topelius. Three songs composed for one voice and piano. Stockholm, Elkan & Schildknecht, n.d. [Including the songs Mörkögas spinnvisa, Dorinas visa, Mästerkockspojken Sams visa.]

Piano pieces
I Stjernans spår. Triumph March.
Lilla blomma hur ensam du är, published in Ungdomens melodibok, vol. 2, Stockholm, Elkan & Schildknecht, 1900.
Polka, puablished in Musik för hemmet, annual vol. 1, no. 10 & 11, 1889.
Spanska danser, Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht. n.d. 1.  Seguidilla, 2. Miradas amorosas, 3. Las ninas morenas.
Utställningsmarsch i Minne från Stockholm. Compositions for piano. Stockholm: Carl Johnn’s musikhandel. [n.d.]
Vals, published in Musik för hemmet, vol. 1, no. 10 & 11, 1889.

Songs for one voice and piano
Betlehems stjärna.
Hvor tindrer nu min Stjerne? Songs from Hjortens Flugt by Christian Winther. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht [n.d., added note ‘1886’].
Miranda (Zacharias Topelius). Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht Stockholm [n.d., added note: (e. 1897)].
Respolska (Zacharias Topelius). Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht [n.d., added note ‘1884’].
Tyst, det är lärkan, from Frithiofs lycka by Esaias Tegnér. Utgiven i samlingen Bas-sångarens album: Vald samling ballader och romanser för bas eller baryton vid piano, Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht, [n.d.].
Vårluft. Text av Zacharias Topelius. Stockholm: Elkan & Schildknecht Stockholm [n.d., added note ‘1883’].

Works by Nils Kjellander

There are no works by the composer registered