Christlieb Samuel Lithander (1778−1823)


Christlieb Samuel Lithander was born on 25 April 25 1778 in Noarootsi, then part of the Russian Governorate of Livonia, and died in Falun on 18 December 1823. He was from a very musical family, with several siblings who were also composers. He first studied in Borgå, followed by Turku and Uppsala, which led to a geological engineering degree in 1802. This was followed by a position as a prosecutor for the mining industry in Falun, where he also took part in the local music scene.

Background and upbringing in Noarootsi

Only a single work of music by Christlieb Lithander exists today: a piano piece. The qualities of this work, in addition to the fact that he belonged to a family of composers, testify to his abilities as a composer. And, he surely must have written additional works.

Christlieb Lithander was born on 25 April 1778 in Noarootsi, on the Estonian coast, just north of the town of Haapsalu. At this time the town consisted of a predominantly Swedish-speaking population and Lithander’s father, Johan Lithander (1742−1789), was the parish vicar. Noarootsi is the Estonian name for ‘New Sweden’. Christlieb Lithander’s mother was Christina Lithander (née Hollming, d. 1788).

Pastor Lithander’s family was quite large − consisting of not less than eleven children − seven sons and four daughters. Only one of the daughters is known by name. One son died early. The other six sons were born during Christina Lithander’s eight intensive childbearing years: Carl Ludwig (1773−1843), Ernst Gabriel (1774−1803), Gustav Daniel (1776−?), Fredrik Emanuel (1777−1823), Christlieb (or Christophylos, as he called in older sources) Samuel and David Wilhelm (1780−1807). The pastor’s home in Noarootsi must have been an intellectually stimulating milieu, besides being an environment which included strong contacts with the outside world. Many of the sons were well-educated  and acheived what was considered to be good careers at the time. Their strong interest in music, emanating from their father’s ecumenical training, which included music at Åbo akademi (the Royal Academy in Turku), unified several of them. At least four of his sons would come to devote themselves to composing.

Studies in Porvoo followed by Turku and Uppsala

It was a hard blow for Christlieb Lithander and his siblings when both parents passed away within just a few months of each other − their mother in November of 1788 and their father shortly after the New Year of 1789. As a matter of survival, they contacted close relatives in Stockholm and Turku − Christlieb Lithander traveled together with four of his brothers to the latter city.

Christlieb Lithander was provided with an opportunity to study in Porvoo at the same time as his one year younger brother Frederick during 1793−96. His older brother Ernst Gabriel was already rector cantus (cantor) at the school at this time, certainly influencing their choice to study there. In 1796 Christlieb Lithander began higher  studies at Åbo akademi (The Royal Academy of Turku). There he joined the lively Music Society. In 1799 he moved to Uppsala for continued studies at Uppsala University. Within the year he had completed a degree in law, which was a requirement in order to obtain his geological engineering degree, which was Lithander’s final goal. He then returned to Turku in order to complete his degree in 1802, after which he immediately left for Stockholm.

Aided by his uncle, Christlieb Lithander was hired on 10 May 1802 as a trainee at the Bergskollegium (the Swedish Board of Mines), which was an entry job at this important place of employment. On 24 April 1809 the Stockholm Post-Tidningar newspaper announced that His Majesty the King had appointed Christlieb Lithander to be bergsfiskal at the Stora Kopparberget (The copper mine in Falun, now called Falu gruva). A bergsfiskal was a prosecutor for the special court for mining, a judicial body located in the mining towns of Falun and Sala. The bergsfiskal's responsibilities included not only prosecuting for offenses related to the mining industry in each city, but also overseeing the forests which were of course important for both mining and manufacturing related processes.

Falun bergsfiskal

At age 31, Christlieb Lithander arrived in Falun a single man. But already on 22 October 1811 the wedding between him and Falun native Margareta Hellström (b. 1790) took place. The marriage was childless.

Christlieb Lithander worked in Falun during a problematic period for the Falun Mine. As the main ore body diminished, mining was expanded to surrounding areas. Then the price of copper fell.

Around the same time the external political situation improved as a result of the 1809 peace treaty between Sweden and Russia. However, Sweden was forced to cede its eastern half, which was then constituted by Russia to become the Grand Duchy of Finland. As welcome as the peace must have been, Lithander was probably personally adversely affected by the settlement since travel to Turku and Finland became difficult.

Christlieb Lithander lived in Falun for 14 years. He died on 18 December 1823, shortly after turning 45. The parish death records list his cause of death as ‘consumption’ − a term often used for tuberculosis.

Musicians and composers in the social life

Unfortunately, there are few traces of Christlieb Lithander the musician in Falun. But this does not mean that his work as a musician and composer was insignificant. There are many indications that he was a very active participant in the local music scene. He certainly participated in public concerts and the so-called assembléer, in which the city’s burghers gathered for dancing. He was also involved with making music in the ample society life. Viewed from a distant time perspective, Lithander’s most important contribution was his own involvement in the budding concert activities, in which his past experiences aided in the development of the city’s offerings. His musical involvement in society life was probably of primary importance during those times, where his skills and familiarity with the repertoire enhanced the city’s social life.

The only surviving work by Christlieb Lithander is a polonaise which was printed in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif  (no. 17, 1807). The work is intended as dance music − the polonaise was a popular contradance, that is a dance made up of long lines of couples dancing in various patterns. Lithander’s polonaise consists of more or less constant semiquavers. His composition is thus similar to the Swedish semiquaver polska dance still performed today.

Gunnar Ternhag © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Forslin, Alfhild: Musikbröderna Lithander, i Musikaliska sällskapet i Åbo 1790-1965. Festskrift till 175-årsjubileet. Åbo: Musikaliska sällskapet i Åbo, pp. 129−150

Summary list of works

Piano work (a polonaise, the only preserved work).

Works by Christlieb Samuel Lithander

There are no works by the composer registered