Nils Möller (1803-1860)


Nils Peter Möller was born in Helsingborg, Sweden on 5 april 1803 and died in Lund on 7 October 1860. He was employed as music director for the Scanian Hussar Regiment from 1827 to 1837, and then worked as cantor and organist at the cathedral in Lund from 1838 to 1860. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in1843. As a military musician, an active member in several music societies in Karlskrona and Malmö, and as a church musician and music teacher at the teachers’ college in Lund, he played an important role during his lifetime in southern Swedish music life. He was a versatile musician, a skilful cellist, pianist and organist, who composed a long list of works within various genres.


Nils Peter Möller (1803−1860) was the son of brewer and retailer Jöns Bengtsson Möller and Benedikta Nilsdotter in Helsingborg, Sweden. He was placed in school in Helsingborg, and in 1818 took his higher education examinations in Lund. In 1820 he became music teacher at Helsingborg’s school and in 1825 a working member in the Karlskrona Music Society. One year later he studied in Copenhagen where, according to a preserved progress report from his time as a student under ‘professor [Friedrich] Kuhlau he sought instruction in Harmoni-Läran (theory of harmony)’. That same year in 1826, he became a working member of the music society in Malmö, and then was appointed music director for the Scanian Hussar Regiment in 1827. In addition, in 1833 he was involved in the formation of a music society in Helsingborg, heading the organization for five years. His main instrument was cello, however he was also a good organist and music leader.

Nils Möller was employed in 1838 as klockare (church teacher and leader of song, as well as reading and writing for children) in nearby Kvidinge. However, that post was short-lived as he, that same year, sought and obtained a position as klockare and singer at the cathedral in Lund. His time as cathedral musician gradually came to be marred by conflicts with the cathedral organist and university orchestra conductor, Emanuel Wenster (1785−1856). Wenster had initiated the installation of an organ in the cathedral in 1836 − the largest organ in Sweden at that time. The conflict between the two musicians concerned who had the right to play that organ, as well as the teaching and examinations of klockare, church singers and organists in Lund, for which the cathedral was responsible. There are many indications that Möller outshone Wenster in both areas; early on, Möller became responsible for both the care of the organ and for the organ accompaniment of hymn singing during church services. He was also mentioned several times in the church records during the 1840s as cathedral cantor and organist. Unlike Wenster, Möller was also a very prolific composer.

During Nils Möller’s time in Lund, in addition to sacred works, he wrote several songs for male quartet. He also tried periodically to compete with the student singers’ leader, Otto Lindblad, regarding the favourability of the songs. In 1842, during Lindblad’s long period of illness, Möller gathered 12 student singers with whom he gave concerts − and continued to do so over several years. In 1843 he was elected into the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music). Two years later he was selected to compose a work celebrating the cathedral’s 700th anniversary. After the establishment of new regulations regarding who had the right to give examinations in music at institutes of higher education, Möller sought and obtained permission to do so from the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien in 1847. However, his basic obligation was that of klockare at the cathedral, including the requirement that he teach ‘the parish’s children to read in a book and with all diligence and faithfulness pursue the children’s learning of religious doctrine’. In the spring of 1860, he made an attempt to free himself from this teaching duty in order to be able to devote more of his time to ‘spiritual compositions’, but this request was refused. A few months later he passed away.


Nils Möller was a particularly productive composer of occasional works, in other words, he composed music for occasions in which he, as a musician and director, took part and for which there was a need for newly composed music. This was the case for example, with the music societies he belonged to in Karlskrona and Malmö during the 1820s, as well as upon his own initiative in Helsingborg in the 1830s. During his time in Lund he produced chamber music, music for various tribute events, songs, organ works and liturgical music. A commonality among many of the compositions is that they were meant to be performed by amateurs. The works are relatively short, have a clear structure and are easily comprehended. Neither do they require a great amount of playing skill. The tonality is readily accessible with singable lines and harmonies that were easy to follow. Several of the extant works, such as Hymn uppförd i Lunds Domkyrka vid Dess Sjuhundra åriga jubileum (1845) or Gradus ad parnassum  (1853), contain passages that are filled with rhythmic and energetic music that are indicative of Möller’s early music career in the Scanian Hussar Regiment.

During his lifetime, Möller was well known outside of Scania (Skåne) for his musical setting of ten songs by the romantic Swedish poet, Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom, titled Lycksalighetens ö and published in 1829. One of the songs − ’Vindarnas kör’, with the beginning text, ‘Upp genom luften, bort öfver hafven, / Hän öfver jorden i stormande färd’ (’Up through the air, away over the sea, / Away over the earth in a tempestuous journey’), early on became a treasured song for male choirs. This song appeared in Swedish composer, Jacob Axel Josephson’s 1861 publication, En och flerstämmiga sångstycken (Single and multi-part song pieces), published in Uppsala. It later appeared in, for example, Fredrik Eggeling’s songbook, which circulated in many editions until the 1930s. Then in 1885, labour-poet, Henrik Menander, became fixated by Möller’s powerful melody and used it for the poem, ‘Till arbetarne!’ (‘To the workers!’). The song, which begins with the words, ‘Arbetets söner, sluten er alla’ (‘The sons of work, closed off are they all’), quickly became popular within the labour movement. The Salvation Army also used the melody for the song, ‘Brusten är snaran’ (‘Broken is the noose’). Another of Möller’s choral pieces that quickly became a part of the school song repertoire is ‘Skytten’ (‘The shooter’) with text by Esaias Tegnér, and composed in 1833 for Kristianstad’s rifle club. This song also was included in several editions of Eggeling’s songbook.

At the cathedral in Lund, one of Möller’s edited renditions of the Swedish official Lutheran mass was used from 1841 until his death in 1860. ‘Möllers Messa’ (‘Möller’s Mass’) was mentioned in a dictionary article from 1864. The mass is made up of a codification and reworking of certain liturgical-musical traditions from Lund cathedral. The tonality seems relatively modern or in a more popular style compared to the Gregorian melodic types that characterise the official mass commonly used in the Swedish Lutheran church to the present day. The Kyrie part has, for example, a completely different type of melody that is a variant of one occurring traditionally in the Kyrie of the Danish church.

Boel Lindberg © 2014
Trans. Jill Ann Johnsen

Publications by the composer

Kort undervisning i kyrkosång, grundad på andras och egen erfarenhet, Lund, 1839.
Lärobok i kyrkosång för skolor och dem som taga kyrko-sångare-examen, grundad på andras och egen erfarenhet,
2nd ed., Lund, 1849.
Kort undervisning om orgelns inredning och dess användande, grundad på andras och egen erfarenhet,
Lund, 1839; 2nd ed. (?) 1859.
Orgelns Temperatur eller Modulationer med en Accord till och från alla Dur- och Moll-tonarter,
Lund, 1844.


Anon.: 'En tidig svensk orgellärobok', Orgelforum, vol. 26, no. 3, 2004, pp. 118−127.
: 'Direktör N. Möllers begrafning Onsdags 8 dagar sedan […]', Lunds Weckoblad, 18 October 1860, p. 1.
Bohlin, Folke
: 'Liturgisk sång i svenska kyrkan 1697−1897', diss. in musicology, Uppsala universitet, Lund: Gleerups, 1970, p. 34 f.
Feuk, Gustav Adolf
: Otto Lindblad och hans sångare, Lund, 1882.
Gullander, P.E.G.
och J.A. Asping
: Matrikel öfver Lunds Stift […] jemte Supplement rörande Stiftets Klockare-lägenheter, Lund, 1842.
Höijer, Johan Leonard: Möller, Nils Peter, in Musik-Lexikon, Stockholm 1864.
Josephsson, J. A.: En och flerstämmiga sångstycken, book 1, Uppsala, 1861.
Lovén, Nils E.
: Landskrona under svenska tiden. Historiska anteckningar. III, Landskrona, 1909, p. 99.
Möller, Bert
: Lundensisk studentsång under ett sekel, Lund: Gleerups, 1931.
Norlind, Tobias
: Allmänt musiklexikon, vol. 2, 2nd rev. ed., Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1928, p. 194 f.
Sjöström, Carl
: Blekingska nationen. Biografiska och genealogiska anteckningar jemte historik, Lund, 1901.


Arkivcentrum Syd, Lund
Cathedral chapter archive in Lund: FIIe. Klockarhandlingar, vol. 62, 1845−1846, 63, 1847, och 72, 1860.
The cathedral archive in Lund: A. Records and documents, vol. 83−103, 1838−1860; H VIII Övriga ämnesordnade handlingar [other documents], vol. 7, 1845, autograph by Möller.

Cathedral, Lund
Musical score archive.

Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen
Printed works by N. Möller that no longer are available in Swedish libraries: Sång på Oscarsdagen då Academiska Föreningen i Lund invigdes 1830, Lund, 1830; 25 organ preludes, part 1 and del 2., Copenhagen, n.d.

Kvinnliga akademikers förening, Stockholm
Karolina Widerström's library.

Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Stockholm
Kungliga Musikaliska akademin's records.

Summary list of works

Operetta (Adilbert och Amanda), orchestral works (2 symphonies, potpourri for orchestra, 2 solo pieces for cello and orchestra), vocal works with orchestra or smaller ensemble (including Hymn uppförd vid Lunds domkyrkas 700-årsjubileum, and 2 larger religious cantatas), chamber music (2 string quartets, 1 quintet for flute and strings, 1 quartet for piano, flute, clarinet and French horn, as well as other chamber pieces), works for piano, organ works, vocal pieces (male quartets, songs, choral music, liturgical music), military music, dance music. Unfortunately, a great number of Möller’s works have been lost.

Collected works

Rediscovered prints and autographs, arranged chronologically
Sorgmusik vid parentationen över e.o. adjunkten vid Lunds Akademi Sven Hylander (E. Tegnér) [Funeral music]. Copenhagen, 1825.
Ten songs from Lycksalighetens Ö (P.D.A. Atterbom). Stockholm, 1829,

Sång på Oscarsdagen då Academiska Föreningen i Lund invigdes 1830 [Song]. Lund, 1830
Song for Skyttsällskapet in Christianstad (E. Tegnér). Lund, 1833
Ny musik till den Svenska Messan efter den antagna ritualen. Lund, 1841 (2nd ed.)
Stor kyrkokantat över Davids 150de Psalm med orgel, violinkvartett, harpa, basuner och pukor [Cantata with organ, violin quartet, harp, trombones and kettledrums], (autograph, Lunds Domkyrka, before 1843).
Hymn uppförd i Lunds Domkyrka vid Dess Sjuhundra åriga jubileum den 1ste [Hymn], September 1845 (autograph, Domkapitlets i Lund archive).
Gradus ad parnassum och Nocturno vid Tegnérs byst componerade vid Magisters Promotionen i Lund 1853. Lund, 1853.
Seven songs from Fänriks Ståls sägner (J.L. Runeberg), Lund, 1859
Music to 3 songs by Stagnelius with Piano-forte or Harp, Helsingborg, 1864
25 organ preludes, 2 parts, Copenhagen, n.d.
Menuet from Symphony in E-flat major, arranged for piano, Helsingborg, n.d.
Marche à six mains pour le pianoforte composé & dedicé à mademoiselles Sophie, Louise & Charlotte Davidsson, Helsingborg, n.d.

Works by Nils Möller

There are no works by the composer registered