Edmond Passy (1789−1870)


Ludvig Anton Edmond (Edmund) Passy was born in Stockholm on 3 September 1789 and died at Drottningholm on 16 August 1870. He was Sweden’s first international piano virtuoso and his op. 1 from 1812 is likely the first Swedish piano concerto. In this work, as well as in some of his other works, one finds early traces of romantic sensibilities. His creative productivity also includes chamber music, vocal works, piano pieces and stage music.


Studies and early career

Edmond Passy was born in Stockholm on 3 September 1789 of French parents who had a background in acting. He studied composition under Joachim Nicolas Eggert as well as piano with Luigi Piccinni, who was the son of Italian composer Niccolò Piccinni.

His first compositions made accessible to the public consisted of three piano pieces, which were published in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif in 1811, 1812 and 1813. At that time Passy lived in Gothenburg where one of his most important works, the piano concerto op. 1, was premiered on Easter Sunday in 1814. Thereafter he studied with Irish pianist and composer John Field in St Petersburg until 1817. It was here that Passy honed his mastery of the piano.

Passy’s stay in the then Russian capital was also a productive period for his composing: two songs were printed by a St Petersburg publisher and he composed the second piano concerto op. 2, together with a fantasy for piano six hands and orchestra. Passy, together with Field and Eugenie Gabrielle Tardif, performed the latter. Passy married Eugenie Tardif in 1817.

Composer and pianist in Stockholm and abroad

At the end of 1817 Passy returned to Stockholm and on 6 December he performed with the Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra) under the leadership of Edouard Du Puy. On the programme were two of Passy’s own compositions – an orchestral overture and a piano concerto − as well as a concerto for two pianos by Jan Ladislav Dussek, with Edmond and Eugenie Gabrielle Passy as soloists. For two decades Passy came to occupy an important position as a pianist in the music life of the city. He appeared several times as a soloist with the Hovkapellet playing works of Beethoven, Dussek, Field, Hummel, Mendelssohn, Aloys Schmidt and Daniel Steibelt, and during four seasons (1820, 1826, 1827 and 1835) he took part in the organisation of musical soirée series in Stockholm.

In 1819 Passy received a permanent job as pianist for the Kungliga Stora Teatern (the Royal Opera), a position that involved soloist duties, accompanying rehearsals and giving song lessons three hours every week. However, he only stayed there for 18 months. Instead, in the autumn of 1820 he went on a more than two-year long trip through Europe. In Berlin, Dresden, Paris and probably Cologne, he played his fantasy on Swedish folk songs − a piece that was evidently a favourite part of his repertoire and that could be heard in Stockholm both before and after the trip.

Contemporaries of Passy described him as an outstanding representative of the Fieldian piano tradition. After a concert in Berlin, it was written in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung 21/2 1821: ‘He played with remarkable precision and ease, especially his elastic touch is very pleasurable. The elegant performance style was completely that of Field, his teacher’. And from 1841, in Gustav Schilling’s Encyclopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften, Passy is described as being ‘known in Germany as Field’s most brilliant student and a truly excellent piano virtuoso’.

Teacher and church musician

Like many musicians, Passy devoted a part of his life to teaching. His most well known disciples include Otto Daniel Winge and Ivar Hallström, who were his piano students, as well as Wilhelm Bauck, who was a composition student of his. The latter states that he took music theory lessons from Passy after 1830 and in his autobiography characterises him a thoroughly educated man.

It may come as a surprise that Passy was never employed as a piano teacher at the educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music), given the special status he had as a pianist in the early 19th-century Sweden. He was 18 years older than Jan van Boom, the great pianist in the following generation, and he stood alone for a number of years as a pianist of the highest grade in Stockholm. However, there are reasons leading one to believe that his relationship to the Musikaliska akademien was not entirely free of friction. In connection to Passy being elected into the membership of the Musikaliska akademien in 1840, the academy’s meeting minutes from 14 December 1839 indicate that he was the object of re-voting more than ten times, which suggests that within the academy there were both stubborn adherents as well as opponents of Passy.

From the middle of the 1830s less and less was heard of Passy. A contributing factor to this decline in musical activity may be a prolonged depression at the beginning of the decade when, according to the Vikarbynteckningen (a collection of biographical facts on Passy’s life by an unknown instigator), he was overtaken by ‘such disgust for music, that he didn’t open his piano for several years’. It is said that Passy’s despondency was related to his inability to get his stage music performed and that he was dismissed as piano teacher to the crown prince and princess.

For around 30 years during the latter part of his life, Passy was, despite his Catholic origins, employed as the organist at the royal chapel (from 1832 or 1833). Neither sacred music nor the organ seems to have interested him particularly deeply. Church music is completely missing in his list of works and he apparently composed only two organ works, fugues op. 11.

Passy died on 16 August 1870 at his country home Canton no. 3 at Drottningholm outside of Stockholm. His first wife, the pianist Eugenie Gabrielle, died in 1818 and seven years later he married Carolina Christina Estenberg. Both marriages were childless.


Edmond Passy’s musical output includes compositions for large as well as small instrumentations: piano pieces, songs, chamber music, orchestral works and stage music. The majority of his music is based on the piano or is some form of vocal music. Numerous songs and some piano works were published during the 19th century, however, none of his larger compositions saw the printed page.

Passy wrote both of his most ambitious works for piano early in his career: piano concerto no. 1 in 1812 and no. 2 no later than 1817. Manifestations of the composer’s finest qualities were evident even at this early stage. His well-developed harmonic imagination often finds expressive shadings by using the notes of the minor key scale in major scale passages. One also sees Passy’s interest in slightly asymmetrical phrase constructions − for example in compound 5+4 bars − that avoid an overly predictable balance.

Every so often one can hear influences of Field in Passy’s composing. This applies even to the first concerto, despite the fact that it was written before he studied with Field in St Petersburg. Passy’s compositions moved early on in the direction of romanticism.

Composer Johan Peter Cronhamn acknowledges the composer’s ability to build rich harmonies during a commemorative speech in 1871 upon Passy’s death, and he also points out ‘a thorough, often polyphonic style’ as being characteristic of his music. The inclination that Passy had for harmonic development is seen in the first piano trio in which the C major allegro unexpectedly ends in C minor. Shifts between major and minor in a smaller scale can be heard in one Schubert-like second subject, and in the second movement one hears a mystical mediant chordal passage in bars 28−29 (prepared in bars 5−6) that anticipates Liszt’s harmonic workings. Those contrapuntal elements that Cronhamn spoke of emerge with particular clarity in the string quartet in D major with the self-ironic title ‘Monotono’. Here one finds a tightly connected weave of voices that include passages in a double canon, with the answer in the fifth in an invertible counterpoint. A richly elaborated movement is to be found also in the Piano Trio no. 2. The solo piano works are of a slightly different nature and can be described partly like virtuoso compositions in the Hummerl-Kalkbrenner tradition, and partly like simpler pieces for amateurs. A nocturne in B-flat major is related to Field’s music.

Passy’s better vocal compositions are characterised, according to Cronhamn, as ‘being strongly characteristic music containing a lively musical painting’. Among the 30 or so songs, Cronhamn maintains that ‘Kolarflickan i skogen’, from Musikalisk målning (musical painting), was ‘a masterpiece’. Here the piano part actively contributes to the music’s expressive value.

Two major works for the stage have been preserved. One, Den nordiska qvinnan (The Nordic woman), is Passy’s music to ‘Forn-Historiskt skådespel […] af P. A. Granberg’ (An ancient historical play by Per Adolf Granberg). The work includes an orchestral overture, vocal numbers, dance, melodrama, pantomime, and a Swedish polska (couple dance in ¾ metre) with an embedded rhythmic section in the score called ‘weapon crash’. In addition there is an early example of the artistic concept of having instruments and singers heard play and sing from backstage − in this case, two hunting horns, a bass trombone and a ‘choir of fighters’ − the latter – possibly modelled after the Overture no. 2 and 3 to Beethoven’s Leonore, in which a hidden trumpet creates an effect of distance. A preserved score has notes about a rehearsal ‘at the Theatre’ on 29 May 1836, but the work was probably never performed. The same is likely also true of Passy’s second major work for the stage, the one-act comic opera Inbillning och verklighet (Imagination and reality).

A symphonic movement in C minor containing fugato parts may be part of an unfinished symphony. It is orchestrated for strings, winds and percussion. The score, however, notes that the string parts should be arranged for wind instruments – probably in order to have the work performed in some specific context.

Martin Edin © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Reflexions sur La Composition et l'improvisation, handwritten manuscript.


Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 20, no. 9, 4 March 1818, p. 170.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 23, no. 8, 21 February 1821, p. 120.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 25, no. 19, 7 May 1823, p. 303.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 29, no. 14, 4 April 1827, pp. 240-42.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 33, no. 44, 2 November 1831, pp. 726−27.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 49, no. 40, 6 October 1847, pp. 690.
Ander, Owe: An inventory of Swedish music vol. III: Twenty 19th-century composers from Du Puy to Söderman, Stockholm: Owe Ander, 2013, pp. 41−45.
Andersson, Greger: 'Passy, Edmund', in: Ludwig Finscher (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Personenteil, vol. 13, 2. ed., Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2005.
Bauck, Wilhelm: Sjelfbiografisk skizz 1872, Stockholm: Hirsch, 1878.
Boström, Mattias: 'Edmund Passy − pianist och kompositör: en biografisk skiss', Bachelor's thesis, Stockholm University, musicological department, 2005.
Cronhamn, Johan Peter: 'Ludvig Anton Edmond Passy', in: Kongl. Musikaliska akademiens handlingar: 1870−71, annual volume. 6 & 7, Stockholm: Hirsch 1872, pp. 46−8.
Dagligt allehanda, 6 December 1817.
Dagligt allehanda, 4 May, 5 May, 10 May, 12 May 1830.
Heijne, Ingemar von: 'Edmund Passy, liv och verk', Bachelor's thesis in musicology, Uppsala University, 1953.
Heimdall, 22 May 1830, p. 87.
Karle, Gunhild: Kungl. hovkapellet i Stockholm och dess musiker 1818−61: med utblickar, Uppsala: self-published, 2005, pp. 142−154 et passim.
Kungl. Musikaliska akademiens protokoll, 14 December 1839.
Nisser, Carl: Svensk instrumentalkomposition 1770−1830: Nominalkatalog, Stockholm: Gothia, 1943, pp. 304−313.
Norlind, Tobias: 'Passy, Ludvig Anton Edvard', in: Allmänt musiklexikon, 2nd rev. ed., vol. 2, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1928, pp. 288−9.
Nya Extra Posten, 4 November 1819.
Nya Extra Posten, 25 November 1819.
'Passy', in: Gustav Schilling (ed.), Encyclopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften, oder Universal-Lexicon der Tonkunst, vol. 5, Stuttgart: Köhler, 1841, p. 389.
'Passy, Ludvig Anton Edmund, 1789−1870', in: Frimureriska tonsättare och frimurerisk musik, Uppsala: Forskningslogen Carl Friedrich Eckleff, 2006, p. 299.
Uppström, Tore: Pianister i Sverige, Stockholm: Nordiska musikförlaget, 1973, pp. 17−25.
Vikarbynteckningen [Biographical texts on Passy's life by unknown author from 12 February 1865. The texts were found in Vikarbyn. Mathias Boström has thus suggested the assigned name. Copy exists at Musik- och teaterbiblioteket in the 'Lilla skandinaviska serien'.]
Wikman, Bertil: 'Passy, Edmond', in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 5, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1979, p. 17.


Musik- och teaterbiblioteket

Summary list of works

Opera (Inbillning och verklighet), incidental music (Den nordiska qvinnan), 1 symphonic movement, 2 piano concertos, vocal works with orchestra, 2 marches for wind orchestra, chamber music (3 string quartets, 2 piano trios, 3 duos), piano works (character pieces, variations etc. and pieces for piano four hands), 2 fugues for organ, some 30 songs, choral music.

Collected works

Inbillning och Verklighet, Opera-Comique (Swedish translation of French text by E. Aignan) op. 10, one act. (Piano vocal scores by the composer exist for: Overture, Aria in Arte di Cavatina, Romance.)

Incidental music
Den Nordiska Qvinnan [alternative title: Hilda] (P. A. Granberg) op. 9, three acts, 1834. (Overture and march exist in arr. for piano, violin, cello and clarinet. Krigsdans exists in arr. for piano solo. Ouvertyr, krigsdans, brottningsutmaning, kämpalek, afskedstagande and fäktning exists in arr. for piano 4 h.)

Other orchestral music
Piano concerto no. 1 in D major op. 1, 1812.
Piano concerto no. 2 in G major op. 2, ca 1817.
Fantasy for piano six hands with orchestra [mentioned in biographical texts, no sheet music found] ca 1817.
Overture [mentioned in concert programmes, sheet music not found] performed on 6 Dec. 1817.
Fantasy for piano over Swedish national melodies with orchestra, possibly 1819.
Introduction and rondo for piano [and probably orchestra or quartet arrangement; mentioned in concert programmes, sheet music not found] performed on 27 Apr. 1823.
Overture to De bägge gemålerna [music reused in the overture to Den nordiska kvinnan] performed on 15 May 1830.
Sinfonia movement [has been designated both as op. 11 and op. 23], Nov. 1837.
Fantasy for large orchestra [mentioned in concert programmes, sheet music not found] performed on 10 Dec. 1842.

Wind orchestra
Marcia Maestoso for wind instruments, organ and timpani, 'Performed at H.R.H. Crown Princess Josephines churching in the Great Church', 1826. (Piano version printed in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif 1829: 3−5.)
Grande Marche pour Musique d'Harmonie op. 25 [sometimes designated as op. 21], 1859. (Version for piano 4 h mentioned by Nisser, no sheet music found.)

Vocal works with orchestra
Recitative and aria from Pygmalion, performed on 15 May 1830.
Romantic song with choir and obligato harp from De bägge gemålerna [mentioned in concert programmes, sheet music not found], performed on 15 May 1830.
Scene and aria from Pimmalione [mentioned in concert programmes, sheet music not found], performed on3 Apr. 1838.
Neckens Polska, S + orchestra, 1856?.
Ballad, from Den heliga Birgitta (P. H. Ling), T + orchestra (also piano vocal score).
Le Pirate (V. Hugo), T solo + BBB + orchestra.
Vapensång eller Chor af Hussarer (K. A. Nicander) op. 14, TTBB + orchestra.

Chamber music
Piano trio no. 1 C major op. 5, performed in 1822.
String quartet no. 1 in A minor.
String quartet no. 3 in D major op. 15 no. 2, 'Monotono', Sep. 1828.
String quartet no. 4 in E-flat major op. 15 no. 3.
Piano trio no. 2 in G minor op. 24.
Duo pour piano et violon sur des motifs de la Norma, 16 Sep. 1859.
Duet for fortepiano and claviharpe/harmonichord/physharmonica/aeolicon.
Duo for clarinet and piano (alternatively for horn and piano) in E-flat major.

Piano music
Marche in F major, printed in 1811.
La Poste Angelaise B-flat major, printed in 1812.
Theme and variations in G minor, printed in 1813 in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif [slightly revised version printed by Breitkopf & Härtel ca 1826 as 'Variations et fugue pour le pianoforte sur un thème de Claudine de Bruni'].
Grande Fantaisie Suivie d'un Rondo Allegretto Vivace [...] Sur des Airs Nationaux Suédois op. 6 [title from autograph at MTB; printed by Breitkopf & Härtel ca 1825-6 as 'Fantaisie et fugue sur des airs nationaux suédois', the work does not however include a fugue], possibly in 1819.
Potpourri, Composé des Motifs du Trio d'Agander et Pagander D major, ca 1819.
Rondo con brio B-flat major, printed in 1819.
Trois etudes d'une difficulté extrême, printed in 1822. 1. Moderato C major, 2. D major, 3. Grazioso con delicatezza F major.
Notturno B-flat major, printed in 1834.
Esquisse pour la main droite seule D-flat major op. 20, 1856.
Exercice pour la main gauche seule G major op. 21.
Gigue after J. S. Bach's Clavier Pieces, Allegretto Gigue [also: Gigue Allegretto D'après les Oeuvres de Clavecin de S. Bach], 14 Oct. 1856.
Réminiscence de l'air, au Clair de la Lune dans les Voitures Versées, Variations Brillantes G major op. 15.
Souvenirs de Copenague, Rondo Brillant C-flat major op. 19.
Fantaisie brillante et variations pour piano seul sur des motifs de Robert le Diable op. 30.
Souvenirs Tegnériens à Lund en 1830, Rondo Caratteristico G minor op. 35.
Diverses Danses Composées pour Mes demoiselles Murray. 1. Augusta Valz moderato, E-flat major, 2. Waltz F major, 3. Anglais comique B-flat major, 4. Quadrille C major, 5. Valz B-flat major, 6. Anglaise Jeanne Louise F major, 7. Quadrille Christiana F major.
Exercice D major.

Arrangements for piano
Anglaise, comp. för H. E. Löfvenskjölds Bal, den 10 Febr. 1835, piano arr. printed at the latest in 1837.
From Beethoven's string quartets.

Piano music for four hands
Bachanale pour le Piano à Quatre Mains avec Accompagnemènt Obligé de Tambour de Basque A major [=last movement in Polyaædéide].
Sonata in C major.
Variations over a Swedish tune in F major.

Fuga quatuor Vocum & duplicis Argumenti pro Organo vel Clavicymbalum C major op. 11 no. 1.
Fuga No 2 quatuor Vocum pro Organo Majori F major [also: Fuga a 4 Voci for Complete Organ] op. 11 no. 2, 1 Aug. 1850.

Honneur Patrie, printed by Brieff, St Petersburg, 1816.
Romance, printed by Brieff, St Petersburg, 1816.
Aria ('När i mitt sorgsna bröst...'), printed in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif 1817: 28−30.
Wisa till en Yngling af Tegnér ('Bryt blomman, o Yngling!'), printed in Musikaliskt tidsfördrif 1832: 8.
Musikalisk Målning öfver Åtskilliga Natur-scener, printed in 1831?. 1. Vall-Gossen (Euphrosyne/J. C. Nyberg), 2. Echo (B** */Bjurström) [simpler version printed in Det sjungande Sverige, h. 2], 3. Göken (St:), 4. Kolarflickan i Skogen (Euphrosyne/J. C. Nyberg).
Melodiska pleiader, Svenska sånger, 2nd book, printed at the latest in 1839. [Nos 1−3 exist under Choral music with accompaniment below.] 1. Wagg-Sång tillegnad Hertigen af Skåne (Euphrosyne/J. C. Nyberg), 2. Drömmen (B. Beskow), 3. Emmas Stjerna (C. W. Böttiger), 4. November Quällen (C. W. Böttiger).
Swedish songs for one and several voices, 3rd book, printed at the latest in 1844. 1. Nymphæa alba (G.), duet SA + piano, 2. Svanen (C. W. Böttiger), 3. En Löfsal om hösten (St:), duet SA + piano, 4. Tåren (After Thomas Moore) (St:), 5. Swedish songs for one and several voices [exists under Choral music with accompaniment below].
Swedish songs for one and several voices, 4th book. 1. Näktergalen, 2. Djupaforss (A. Lindeblad), 3. Afton-Phantasie, 4. I en ung sångerskas stambok, 5. Fiskarflickan, duet SS + piano.
A ma Laurette.
C'est un Canon.
Gentil Aymar.
Le Jardinier Fleuriste.
Nocturne ('Toi qui me répetait...') Andantino Espressivo, duet ST + piano.
Nocturne ('Quels tourments...') Andante Agitato, duet ST + piano.
Romance de La Bergère Chatelaine.
Till Hans Majestät Konungen, bass aria.
'Tu ne viens pas...', Andante con anima.

Choral music with accompaniment
Verser af H. E. Grefve Wetterstedt, afsjungne den 4 juli 1822 i Aix-la-Chapelle på H. K. H. Kron-Prinsens födelsedag, solo + choir + piano.
From Melodiska pleiader, printed between 1827 and 1844. 1. Den 4 Julii 1822 i Aachen (H. E. Wetterstedt), T solo + TTBB + piano, 2. Den 21 Augusti 1824 i Christiania, solo + choir + piano, 3. Till H. K. H. Prinsessan Sophia Albertina på Sällskapets S.Ö. högtidsdag, A solo + SSTB + pi.
From Swedish songs for one and several voices, 3rd book. Notturno, Drömmen (St:), SATB soli + SATB choir + piano.
Cantate på Sällskapet Nya Nytta och Nöjes Högtidsdag [also: Jubel-Cantate], solo quartet + choir + piano, 1842.

Choir a cappella
From Runorna (Nicander), SSTB.
Solo qvartett och chor skrifven för Tyska Lieder Taffeln ('Der Taucher öffnet...'), TTBB soli + TTBB choir.
Svensk Artillerist-Sång (K. A. Nicander), male voice quartet.
'Dunkle Trauer lag auf Erden', vocal work [complete instrumentation unclear, SAT parts preserved].

Pedagogical material
Grundlig Elementar Undervisning eller Samling af Skalor och Öfningar för Forte Piano.
Handbok för Lärare på Forte Piano, Som Åminnelse till O Winge af Författaren d 11 Oct: 1856 Berlin.
Öfning för att ernå lika Fingerstyrka, Efter Clementi.

Works by Edmond Passy

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

Number of works: 11