Carl Ludvig Lithander (1773-1843)


Carl Ludvig Lithander, was born on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa in 1773, where his father was a church pastor, and died in Greifswald, Germany in 1843. Before becoming a pianist, music teacher and composer, he had a military career in which he, among other things, taught mathematics at the Swedish Military Academy in Karlberg, Stockholm. He later began earning his livelihood through music. Between 1814 and 1818 he lived in London, working as a piano teacher while, at the same time, publishing his own compositions. He later embarked on several long European concert tours, among them to Berlin, the Netherlands and Denmark in the years 1821−24. His compositions were highly valued during his lifetime. From 1824 he was organist at St Nicolai Church in Greifswald, a coastal city on the Baltic Sea.


Carl Ludvig Lithander (1773−1843) is not easy to capture in just a few words. He had several occupations and a varied life. Was he Swedish? Yes, in that he spoke Swedish and worked a number of years in Stockholm. However, it was likely that he was equally at home in both German and English-speaking circles.

Carl Ludvig Lithander was born in Röicks parish on the island of Hiiumaa (called Dagö by Swedish speakers), off the Estonian coast. At that time, the island had a predominantly Swedish-speaking population and Lithander’s father, Johan Lithander (1742−1789), was church vicar for the congregation. One year after Carl Ludvig’s birth, the family moved to the Estonian mainland peninsula of Noarootsi (Nuckö in Swedish), where his father was also the parish vicar.

Vicar Lithander and his wife had a large family with no fewer than 11 children, seven sons and four daughters. Their home in Noarootsi must have been an intellectually stimulating atmosphere, and also an environment that provided good contacts with the outside world. Several of their sons were learned men with good careers for that time. A strong interest in music united several of them, something which emanated from their father whose religious education at Åbo Akademi University also included music. Several sons would come to devote themselves to writing music and Carl Ludvig Lithander became, without a doubt, the most successful composer of them all.

It was a hard blow for the siblings when both parents died within a few months of each other − the mother in November 1788 and the father just after the beginning of the new year in 1789. As a means of survival, they sought contact with close relatives in Stockholm and Turku. Because of the continuing Russo-Swedish War, the travel to Stockholm, where the sisters and brothers were to gather, went around the southern end of the Baltic Sea. They passed by the German city of Königsberg (today Russia’s Kaliningrad) where Carl Ludvig Lithander, according to available sources, remained in order to study. In 1790, he continued his studies at Sweden’s Uppsala University. In 1791 he went to Stockholm and embarked on a military career in an artillery regiment. He was employed as a mathematics teacher in 1804 at Krigsakademien (the Swedish Military Academy) at Karlberg Palace in Stockholm, and in 1809 became a lecturer of geometry and trigonometry. In 1812, Lithander was promoted to lieutenant in the corps of engineer’s fortification’s brigade.

In parallel with his military duties, none of which were fulltime, he took music lessons from Abbé Vogler, a German musician who was hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra) of Swedish King Gustav III, and who also established a music school in Stockholm. Lithander studied as well with Johann Christian Friedrich Haeffner (a German-born composer well established in Sweden). Both teachers were well versed in German musical life and German music and it is likely that the lessons were conducted in German. One composition published in the music journal Musikaliskt tidsfördrif in 1798 gives proof to Lithander’s contacts within Stockholm’s main music circles. During the years 1801−1814 he served as organist for Church of St Clare in Stockholm. Then in 1814, he left Stockholm and moved his family to London in order to earn his living as a keyboardist and music teacher. He is said to have lived there for four years. In that case, he must have returned to Stockholm − at least for some period in 1817 − as he is proven to have composed music for a play and an operetta in Stockholm some time that year.

During his years in London he composed extensively, producing several works composed for piano, as well as for flute and piano. There is some evidence that suggests he visited Berlin, and also spent time in Denmark and the Netherlands. In 1824 he was appointed organist at St Nikolai Church in Greifswald, Germany, the largest cathedral in this Hanseatic League city. There, he continued to compose, including a cantata for the inauguration of the church’s new organ in 1833. Illness forced him to leave his position in 1839. He died in Greifswald in 1843.


It is difficult to talk about Carl Ludvig Lithander’s productivity as a composer, for the simple reason that, almost all the preserved works are found only in printed form. These published works can very well have been composed with the thought of giving him, and the publishers, income from the sales and may not resemble his actual body of work that went unpublished.

Carl Ludvig Lithander’s published works are, on the other hand, quite numerous. In addition, they were published not only in Sweden, but in London, Leipzig, Hamburg and St Petersburg as well. Lithander’s works were, in short, unusually well disseminated.

The published works were clearly intended for use in the home and salons, in other words, written for a public audience eager for new pieces. The music bears witness to a composer with a high level of knowledge of contemporary styles. A clear example is a compelling piece of variations built upon a theme by Haydn. Lithander was unquestionably a skilful composer, with the necessary knowledge to, not least, adapt compositions to the tastes of both the publishers and the music-buying public.

There are a several preserved works that, in and of themselves, can be thought to be for use in the salon, but these have a significantly higher level of difficulty. In these works, Lithander used his richly resourceful ideas and his expressive abilities to create something that can be compared with highly regarded coeval works.

Gunnar Ternhag © 2014
Trans. Jill Ann Johnsen

Publications by the composer

Aritmetik och Euklides' elementer uti geometrien, C.L. Lithander (ed.), Stockholm: Delén, 1814.


Edholm Dag: S:ta Cecilias tjänare. Om kyrkomusikens utövare i Stockholm under fem århundraden, Stockholm, 2002, p. 39.
Forslin, Alfhild: 
Musikbröderna Lithander, in Musikaliska sällskapet i Åbo 1790−1965. Festskrift till 175-årsjubileet, Åbo: Musikaliska sällskapet i Åbo, pp. 129−150.
Forslin, Alfhild
: article in Sohlmans Musiklexikon, vol. 4, Stockholm, 1977, pp. 348−349.
Forslin, Alfhild: 'Carl Ludvig Lithander', in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 23, 1980−81.
Hundra vägar har min tanke. Festskrift till Fabian Dahlström, Helsingfors, 2000.
Schneider, Matthias (ed.): Die Buchholz-Orgel im Greifswalder Dom St. Nikolai, Schwerin, 2013.
Winkler, Lutz: Tempelweihe: A cantata by Carl Ludwig Lithander for the inauguration of the new Buchholz organ and the restored church of St. Nikolai on 20 January 1833 in Greifswald, in Schneider, Matthias & Werbeck, Walter (eds), Orgelbau, Orgelmusik und Organisten des Ostseeraums im 17. und 19. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt am Main, 2006, pp. 115−134.

Summary list of works

Works for piano (including Sonata in C minor, Sonata in F-sharp minor, Variations on a theme by Goes, waltzes, rondos, etc.), Divertissement for flute and piano, songs with piano (including Der Zigeunerknabe im Norden and Vid lilla Ludvigs graf), comic operas (Lantara, eller Målaren i pant på krogen [Stockholm 1817] and Säckpiparen).

Collected works

Incidental music
Lantara eller Målaren i pant, comedy in 1 act with minor vocal pieces, by Picard, Barré, Radet and Desfontaines, trans. by C G Nordforss, music by Carl Ludvig Lithander. Arsenalsteatern, 16 September 1817.
Säckpiparen, operetta in 1 act. Instrumentation: 2222 2200 10 0, str, 2 sopr, 2 ten, 2 barit. Performed in Stockholm in 1817. Published by Music Finland, Helsinki.

Voice and piano
Romance avec accompagnement de pianoforte. Paroles de Monsieur Yves de Guiraud. Published by J. Brieff, St Petersburg ca 1815.
Den ensammes sång ('Ja, du har rätt, de komma icke åter'). 14 December 1816.
Andante af C L Lithander.
Der Zigeunerknabe in Norden ('Fern im Süd das schöne Spanien', Emil Geibel). Published by Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 5971.
Hosianna, med chör av Vogler, varierad av C L Lithander. According to Jonsson: Offentligt musikliv i Uppsala 1747−1854, 1998, p. 233.

Thema af Haydn, with variations. Published in 1978 by Documenta Musicae Fennicae. Helsinki: Fazer.
Sonata in C major for pianoforte.
Sonata for the pianoforte in which is introduced a Swedish national air. Published by Clementi & Co, London.
Allegretto with variations. Printed in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif 1798, pp. 49−59.
La delicatésse, a waltz rondo for the pianoforte. Published by Fitzpatrick & Coles, London 1817(?).
L´allegrezza, rondino for the pianoforte. Published in London 1818.
Introduction & rondo, for the pianoforte op. 6. Composed and dedicated to Miss Ann Smith. Published by Clementi, London 1818.
Easy duet (no. 1) for the pianoforte op. 7:1, in which is introduced a Swedish popular dance. Composed & dedicated to Miss Bloxam. Published in London 1818.
Easy duet (no. 2) for the pianoforte op. 7:2. Composed & dedicated to Miss Gisborn (of Enfield). Published by the composer in London 1818.
Donald, a favorite Scotch air, with variations for the pianoforte op. 11. Pulished by Fitzpatrick & Coles, London.
Fantasia for the pianoforte in which are introduced several favorite airs op. 12. Published by E. Weller, London/Edinburgh: Robert Purdie, ca 1820.
Le colibri. Introduction and rondo for the pianoforte op. 14. Published by I. Monro, London.
Sonate for the pianoforte F-sharp minor op. 15. Composée e dedicée tres humblement à son Excellence Monsieur de Hauch, etc. Published by Jean Aug. Böhme, Hamburg.
L´amitié, a French quadrille, arranged as rondo for the pianoforte. Published in London 1818 (?).
King William the fourth´s quadrilles. Published in London 1831.

Melody instrument and piano
Divertimento no. 1, for flute and pianoforte, in which is introduced an ancient Swedish national melody called Neck's polonoise. Published by Monzani & Hill, London 1815.
Second divertimento, a Swedish air, with variations for the pianoforte and flute. Published by C. Guichard at Bossange & Massons, London 1816
La reminiscence, a rondo for flute and pianoforte op. 8. Composed & dedicated to Frederic Ulfsparre, Esq,r. Published by Fitzpatrick and Coles, London 1818.
La delicatésse, a waltz rondo for the pianoforte, with an accompaniment for the flute. Published by Fitzpatrick & Coles, London 1818.
A first set of twenty four favourite Melodies arranged as Trios for two flutes and pianoforte. Published by Monzani & Hill, London ca 1820.
A second set of twenty four favourite Melodies arranged as Trios for two flutes and pianoforte. Published by Monzani & Hill, London ca 1825.
A third set of twenty four favourite Melodies arranged as Trios for two flutes and pianoforte. Published by Monzani & Hill, London ca 1825.

Several instruments
Tempelweihe, cantata for soloists, four part mixed choir and organ (Florello [pseudonym for Friedrich Franz von Kosegarten]). Written on account of the inauguration of the new Buchholz organ and the renovated St Nikolai Church in Greifswald on the 20 January 1833. Extant score in the  partitur i Dome archive in Greifswald.