Fredrik Kjellstrand (1826−1898)


Fredrik Kjellstrand was born in Julsta, not far from Örebro, on 8 September 1826 and died in Skara 24 January 1898. In 1861 he became supervisor of music at the Skaraborg regiment, and in 1865 music director. His composing was not limited to military music but extended into many contemporary genres of that time in Sweden. He was also active as a music teacher both in Stockholm and at the secondary school in Skövde.

The story of Fredrik Kjellstrand's career as musician, music director and composer is a testament to what military music has meant for music life in Sweden. This institution, evenly dispersed throughout the country, has for a long time supplied many regions with musical expertise. The often versatile musicians played their instruments not only while in uniform; many have alongside their duties played at dances, soirees, concerts and similar venues.


Childhood, education and professional life

Information on Fredrik Kjellstrand's life and works is scarce in literature. He is mentioned in very few music reference works, and is completely absent from the biographical dictionaries − a very telling factor in his modest place in historical music literature. However, as a composer his production is impressive. The discrepancy between his obscure role in music literature, and the expanse of his output raises the question of the arbitrary nature over which names figure prominently in music history. 

Fredrik Kjellstrand was born in Julsta, not far from Örebro, on 8 September 1826.  His father is recorded in the parish register as being attached to the light cavalry − that is, he was a mounted soldier but served as such only at regiment meetings; the rest of the time he worked on his farm. Fredrik was the oldest of seven siblings. In 1841 he left his childhood home for Örebro where he became a trumpet student with the music corps. In 1849 he was accepted into the Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Stockholm but had already begun working as a music teacher the year before at the Manilla Institute (‘the institute for the deaf and blind’).

Kjellstrand was appointed supervisor of music at the Skaraborg Regiment in 1861, and music director in 1865 − the regiment meetings taking place at the legendary Axevalla drill field, which the regiment had been using as compound since 1745. The leader for military music had two tasks: he would literally lead the corps, but also teach students in the regiment. Kjellstrand was active in this role until his retirement in 1895, yet he did not seem to have been a resident of Skara, at least not full time. Rather his actual domicile was apparently in Stockholm where he was also active. A regiment music director was foremost on duty in connection with regimental meetings, which took place a few times per year. So it was not unusual that a director lived outside of the area − and moreover held other positions. Fredrik Kjellstrand was also a music teacher at the secondary school in Skövde beginning in 1869.

Composer activities

In addition to his salaried employment Fredrik Kjellstrand composed music. In many instances his composing was intertwined with his other occupations. He wrote music to be performed by the musicians of the regiment, both ceremonial and lighter works. To judge from his musical output he was further involved in chamber music, which gave him impetus to compose. As a composer Kjellstrand combined practical composition, for specific occasions and for given performers, with creating music on his own initiative. In fact this was the case for nearly all composers of the time, but in Fredrik Kjellstrand's instance the combination was more apparent. Thus his list of works presents a comprehensive overview of Swedish music styles at the end of the 19th century. In this light, his musical output is characterised by a remarkable range − from light dance music to ambitious orchestral pieces. This broad scope illuminates firstly the varied contexts of Kjellstrand's activity. But it is also indicative of his ability to adapt to, as well as his knowledge about, different styles of music. If one adds to this his literary production, which was just as diverse, an image forms of a talented and not least productive individual. In short he was a keen ‘busy bee’.

Fredrik Kjellstrand died of a stroke in Skara on 4 January 1898, where he had moved a year earlier from Vadstena. His marriage, apparently childless, had dissolved in 1884.


Fredrik Kjellstrand did not shy away from large formats. He composed a symphony in 1880, but whether it was ever performed is not known. However, the ‘Nordic tone painting’ Tomtelek (op. 31, 1880) was written in the tradition of single movement works with references to folk music, which arose in the latter half of the 19th century and culminated with Hugo Alfvén's Midsommarvaka. Tomtelek was premiered in 1881 by the Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) under the direction of Ludvig Norman. The music historian Lennart Hedwall is of the opinion that Kjellstrand wrote ‘a driven, effective and fine sounding orchestral piece’.

However, many orchestral pieces have their origin as a need for musical accompaniment in social life. He wrote several françaises, or a type of group dance that would open a ball or so-called assemblées. That these dance works exist are indicative of a musical venue not foreign to the multifaceted Kjellstrand.

The chamber pieces show this same mixture of light entertainment and more ambitious works that characterise his production as a whole. Fredrik Kjellstrand definitely tested his proficiency in classical music formats: four string quartets, several trios and five violin sonatas. The number of works is in itself remarkable for a composer who did not rank among the most sought after at the time. But then he also wrote lighter pieces for chamber music ensembles.

The author Fredrik Kjellstrand is actually worth a chapter in itself even though his compositions carry more weight than the literary texts. He had poems published: Sånger i skogen − poetiska försök,1854, (Songs in the forest − poetic endeavours). He also wrote the libretto for two operas, Irene and Fiskarflickan (The fisher girl). The latter narrative drew August Söderman 1853 to begin a composition which was never completed. ‘Nothing of literary value is found in Kjellstrand's text’, states Söderman biographer Gunner Jeanson decidedly. At least one piece from this opera fragment, ‘Hymn till Natten’ (‘Bästa tröst för ett såradt hjärta’), has been performed separately. With regard to stage music Kjellstrand wrote some of the music to the popular comedy Löjen och tårar (Laughter and tears), originally a German play adapted by Johan Jolin and produced at Södermalmsteatern in 1862.

Gunnar Ternhag © 2014
Trans. Rolf Thunander

Publications by the composer

Sånger i skogen: poetiska försök, Stockholm, 1854.


Höijer, Johan Leonard: artikel i Musik-Lexikon, Stockholm, 1864.
Norlind, Tobias
: article in Allmänt Musiklexikon, vol. 1, Stockholm: Wahlström och Widstrand, 1927, pp. 616.

Summary list of works

Orchestral works (Tomtelek and others), chamber music, works for piano, songs with piano, military music, parts of the music to the popular comedy Löjen och tårar.

Collected works

Incidental music
Löjen och tårar: Dimbilder ur Stockholmslifvet. First performed at Södermalmsteatern 1862.

Orchestral works
Nyårsönskningar, waltz.
Festival march.
Three francaises for large orchestra. 1. Helgdagsfrancaise, 2. Laura-francaise, 3. Pounschiologen.
Three character pieces for orchestra. 1. I jullen, 2. Resignation, 3. Titt ut.
Overture in B-flat major.
Overture in C major.
Ouverture al Fresco for orchestra.
Sorgetoner, overture in B-flat major.
Symphony for large orchestra in D major, 1880.
Tomtelek, 'Nordic tone painting for orchestra', op. 31, 1880.
Concert polonaise for orchestra.

Wind orchestra
March to Prince Carl, Duke of Westergötland.
March solonelle for military band.
March on the 22 June 1884 for military band.

Chamber music
Trio for violin, clarinet and pianoforte.
3 little duets for violin and pianoforte.
Folksongs for violin piano.
String quartet no. 1.
String quartet no. 2.
String quartet no. 3.
String quartet no. 4.
Likväl!, I jullen, Undergifven, Danse caracteristique, Tittut!, Frågas, Tomtelek for violin and piano.
Overture solennelle for pianoforte 4 hands, violin 1 and 2, clarinet, flute and trombone ad lib.
Overture for violin 1 and 2, viola, violoncell, basso.
På vandring, På berget, Marciale mod for violin and pianoforte.
Quintet for 2 violins, 2 viola and violoncello.
Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet in B-flat, French horn in F and bassoon.
Romance élégique for violin and piano.
Romance for violin and piano.
Sextet for flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon.
Sonata no. 3 for violin and pianoforte.
Sonata no. 4 for violin and pianoforte.
Sonata no. 5 for violin and pianoforte.
Souvenir de Bellman for violin and pianoforte.
Trio for violin, viola and pianoforte.

Festival march in E-flat major.
March to Prince Carl, Duke of Westergötland, arranged for piano, 2 hands/4 hands.
Seglaren for pianoforte.
2 military marches for pianoforte.
Fantasy for pianoforte.
Francaise for pianoforte.
Tomtelek, 'Nordic tone painting' for pianoforte 4 hands.

Voices(s) and piano

Two erotic songs for tenor or bass and pianoforte. 1. Vallkullans sång (F. Hedberg), 2. Längtan (V. Öhman).
Three songs at the piano. Stockholm, 1877. 1. Mitt hjerta klappar (C.F. Ridderstad), 2. Våren (G.L. Sommelius), 3. Egde jag vingar (C.F. Ridderstad).
Trollhättan for voice and pianoforte (O. Odd).
Jag vet en sorg for voice and pianoforte.
Herdestunder fo voice and pianoforte.
Four songs from [Carl Fredrik] Ridderstad's Midsommardrömmar for voice and pianoforte.
Saknaden for voice and pianoforte.
Bergvandraren fo voice and pianoforte.
Den lycklige, romance for soprano or tenor and pianoforte.
Vallkullans sång for voice and pianoforte.
Mitt fosterland, Våren, Grenadieren for voice and pianoforte.
Tamburmajoren for baritone or bass and pianoforte.
Canon af Johan Olof Wallin ('Fulla glas') for 3 voices and pianoforte.
Korsarens avsked for voice and pianoforte.
Zigeunarflickan for voice and pianoforte.
Grenadieren for bass and pianoforte.
Seglaren for voice and pianoforte.

Mixed choir
Three choirs a cappella for mixed voices. blandade röster. 1. Morgonbetraktelse, 2. Hoppet, 3. Edelweiss.
Motett, the Psalter 68:5, for mixed choir and organ.
Edelweiss for choir a cappella.
Morgonbetraktelser for choir a cappella.
Sångens makt for choir a cappella.
Det ligger en tjusande rosengård for choir a cappella.
Frågor, Hoppet for choir a cappella.
Dödsön for choir a cappella.
Gossen och vårbäcken ('O, njut din fröjd', J.G. Karlén) for mixed choir and pianoforte.

Male choir/quartet
Three quartets (happier) for male voices.
Friheten for male quintet.
Juninatten, Sommarqvällen, De tu for male quartet.
Herr Sten, ballad for male quartet.
Four male quartets.

Works by Fredrik Kjellstrand

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

Number of works: 17