Sam Rydberg (1885−1956)


Sam Rydberg, who was born on 27 October 1885 in Nyköping and died on 25 March 1956 in Stockholm, was a military musician, conductor, music director and composer. He is one of Sweden’s most noted march composers, but he also composed piano music and chamber music. Director of Music degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1926. From 1906−35 he was a band member of the Svea Engineer Regiment (Ing 1), where he was promoted to conductor in 1928, and director of music in 1932


Path to a career in military music

Sam Hjalmar Rydberg was born in Nyköping on 27 October 1885 and died on 25 March 1956 in Stockholm. In 1899, when he was 13 years old, he was accepted as a music pupil (drummer) to Södermanlands regemente (the 10th Infantry Regiment, I 10) where he learned to play the E-flat cornet (the Swedish kornett, a rotary valved soprano instrument), which then became his main instrument, and the cello. His training included instruction in military signals such as bugle calls and drum cadences, which by 1901 had become mandatory for all musicians in the Swedish infantry bands.

In 1906 Rydberg was transferred to the Kungliga Svea ingenjörkår (an engineer Regiment, Ing 1) in Stockholm. He remained there until his retirement in 1935. From 1928 he was leader of the regimental band and was promoted to the position of musikdirektör (band master) in 1932.

Following the 1925 Swedish military reform, Ing 1 employed one of the smallest types of regimental bands (‘Type 4’) which consisted of a core of 8 musicians. With the addition of volunteers and music pupils, the band could be enlarged to comprise at most 12 musicians, often including Rydberg himself playing the E-flat cornet. 1928−37 the Ing 1 regimental band, made up of 10 to 12 musicians including 3 or 4 drummers, performed in the Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace in Stockholm (without a drum major). Rydberg’s scores are either composed for the Ing 1 brass ensemble or for the traditional Swedish wind ensemble, which included a flute, clarinets, E-flat and B-flat cornets, tenor valved trombone, and other Swedish brass instruments (‘Type 2’ ensemble). Rydberg also played the cello in community orchestras and with the Ing 1 band, which like several other military bands, occasionally performed as a string orchestra.

Continued studies

As did several other Swedish military musicians, Sam Rydberg received his education at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm, where he studied his principle instrument, the Swedish cornet (1907−09), and orchestration (1910−12) in addition to taking lessons in cello and oboe. He also studied instrumentation and other subjects with Ernst Ellberg. Sam Rydberg graduated in 1926 with a degree as Director of Music with high marks in oboe, harmony and conducting, and with the highest possible marks in cornet and orchestration. He performed his own piece, Consertino for E-flat cornet with piano accompaniment, at his final graduation recital.

Rydberg the musician

Rydberg is said to have been one of the most talented Swedish instrumentalists of his generation and he was frequently engaged by many of the Stockholm ensembles, such as Folkteaterns (‘Folkans’) orchestra, as both cornetist, trumpeter and cellist. According to various sources he was a member of the Stockholms blåsorkester (Stockholm Wind Ensemble, E-flat cornet), the Konsertföreningen (precursor to the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra) and Svensk Filmindustris orkester (the Swedish film production company SF Studios’ orchestra, trumpet) 1927−30, of the ‘Elitorkestern’ and the Oscarsteatern and Folkteatern theatre orchestras in 1937. He also played the cello in several orchestras. From 1927 until 1952 Rydberg served as the instrumental teacher at the Högalid School in Stockholm; after retirement and until his death in 1956 he worked as an arranger and sheet music copyist at Radiotjänst (the Swedish broadcasting company).


Works other than marches

In addition to his marches Rydberg composed over fifty works for various ensembles, mostly chamber music: over a dozen ‘Boston’ waltzes for piano, short pieces for violin and piano or salon orchestra with titles such as Chanson, Novellett and Humoresk, solo songs with piano accompaniment, several works for mens’ choir (drinking tunes). Several of his compositions exist in versions for both piano and other arrangements, for example, the Csárdás-inspired concert overture for wind band. His Kärleksmystär romance for orchestra (1914) was published under the title Kärlekens mystär.

Rydberg also arranged music for the films Charlotte Löwensköld (1930), Söder om landsvägen (1936) and Elvira Madigan (1943). Several of his compositions have been used in additional films, but there are no known original film scores that can be attributed to him. In 1916 two of his pieces were included in Emil Norlander’s New Year’s show at Södra teatern (A theatre venue in Stockholm). Several of his works were composed with the Swedish Film Industry’s composition competition of 1936 in mind. Rydberg dedicated his polka Klätterstedt och Klåberg to his lively young sons.


Sam Rydberg’s true legacy is his circa 70 marches. They came to fill the need for new music within the Swedish Armed Forces, for school wind bands, and for various civilian events. Rydberg is said to have composed marches already as a student, but his breakthrough was Den svenske underofficeren, the winner of the Swedish organisation for non-commissioned officers’ march music competition of 1916. His Nordiska spelen also won a prize in a competition when the First and Second Life Grenadier Regiments were united and renamed Livgrenadjärregementet in 1928. For his own branch he wrote Leve Fortifikationen! and Kungliga Fortifikationens honnörsmarsch. His march Till Stadion was composed with an eye for sporting events; Högalidspojkar, Skolmarsch, Scouting and Till ’Zinkens’ for the wind ensembles at secondary schools such as the one at Högalid in Stockholm. Italia, Concert March No. 2, is one of Rydberg’s concert marches, inspired by the then popular Italian march style. The Ing I band perform ed for three summers (1932−34) at the Gröna Lund amusement park, and in 1933 Rydberg composed the march I flaggskrud for its 50th anniversary. Rydberg was also interested in the international Esperanto language − his Vivu Esperanto was written for the 1933 Esperanto World Congress in Cologne.

In a kind of friendly rivalry with his colleague Viktor Widquist − it has been said that they secretly competed − Sam Rydberg has come to be called ‘Sweden’s march king’ and ‘Sweden’s Sousa’. No less than 17 of his marches have been accepted as regimental marches. Such marches, still performed frequently, include Gardeskamrater, I fält, and Till fronten. Rydberg’s marches have come to be perceived as distinctly Swedish − characterised by signals, clear and simple harmonies, and with singable, striking melodies that have been declared ‘the sound of Swedish military readiness’. His craft of orchestration has provided them with ’the hard-to-define quality that makes them classics.’

Ann-Marie Nilsson © 2016
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Cederberg, Ingvar: ‘Rydberg, Sam’, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, 2nd ed., Stockholm: Sohlman, 1975.
Edenstrand, Åke: ‘Musikkåren’, in: Svea ingenjörregementes historia, ed. Åke Bernström, Södertälje: Svea ingenjörregemente, 1992, pp. 287−296.
Stolt, Lars C.: ‘Sam H Rydberg’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 31, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 2002.
Sandberg, Bo: Försvarets marscher och signaler förr och nu: marscher antagna av svenska militära förband, skolor och staber samt igenkännings-, tjänstgörings- och exercissignaler, Gävle: Militärmusiksamfundet med Svenskt Marscharkiv, 2007.

Summary list of works

Wind ensemble music (approximately 70 marches, a concert overture, etc.), chamber music (‘Consertino’ for E-flat cornet and piano, little pieces for violin and piano), piano works, salon orchestra pieces.

Collected works

Works that are not registered at STIM are marked with an asterisk *. Autographs/sketches in Sam Rydberg’s archive in Svenskt Marscharkiv, stored in the Krigsarkivet, Stockholm. KB = Kungl. biblioteket, Stockholm.

[exist in versions for military bands, various instrumentations, also piano]
a) Marching band (unit, see Bo Sandberg 2007)
Den svenske underofficeren, 1916. [Initially titled ‘I fält’. Piano version: Elkan & Schildknecht E.C. 93.]
Flottans örlogsskolas marsch [Composed as ‘Avanti’ for a marching competition (1942?). Also in a score for orchestra in autograph.]
För fosterlandet.
Gardeskamrater, 1936; 1942 [as Vaxholm’s coastal artillery regiment’s march with the composer’s own alternative 2nd reprise].
I beredskap, 1939.
I flaggskrud, 1933 [for Gröna Lund’s Tivoli, first titled ‘Fladdrande fanor’].
I fält, 1916.
Nordiska spelen [dedicated to Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf 1926; earlier title: Formering till tåg; at the latest 1922].
På marsch, (1944?).
På post för Sverige, 1944.
På vakt, 1942.
Till fronten, 1915. [Prize-winning in marching competition 1916. Also in autograph for salon orchestra.]
Under fredsfanan, 1939.
Vivu esperanto, 1933. [Composed for the Workers for Esperanto conference in Stockholm.]
Vårt luftvärn, 1942. [Awarded 3rd prize at the marching competition organized by the weekly unionist paper Arbetet.]

b) Other marches for military bands
Bland kamrater, 1913. *?
Italia, Marcia rapsodia di Bonelli, 1913. [Also in a score for salon orchestra, undated autograph.]
Landstormsmarsch, 1914. *?
Leve Fortifikationen! 1914. *?
Obligationsmarsch, 1914. * [Composed for the Swedish Public Radio’s composer’s military melody competition.]
Överste Thorsell, 1914.
Militärmarsch, 1915.
The hockeyman, 1915.
På manöver, 1916.
Svenska färger, 1916.
Till bivacken, 1918.
Avanti per patria, 1916(?).
Armémarsch, 1917.
Konsertmarsch à la Italiano, 1920. *
Stockholms Blåsorkester, 1920.
Kavalleri-marsch, 1922. *
I täten, 1922.
I slutna led, 1924. *
Kronprins Leopold, 1926.
Fortifikationens honnörsmarsch, 1927.
American style, 1936.
Under förbimarsch, 1936.
Kosmopolit, konsertmarsch, 1937. * [Also in autograph for orchestra.]
Till vårt försvar, 1942
Liten konsertmarsch tillägnad Sven Sköld, 1945. * [Also in a score for orchestra (autograph).]
Sportmarsch, 1945. *
Till Stadion, 1946.
Tre kronor, 1951.
Jubileumsmarsch, alias St Erik, 1953. [Stockholm 700 years.]
Marsch, 1957. *
Friska viljor.
För hem och härd. *
Honnörsmarsch. *
Högalidspojkar. *
Idrottskamrater. * (KB)
Italia, Konsertmarsch no. 2.
Kamplust. *
Olympiska spelen. *
Sailor boys.
Skolmarsch. *
Stockholm. *
Till Laxön.
Till ‘Zinkens’. * (KB)
Trav(marsch). * [1918 according to the autograph.]
Unga Örnar.

Other music for winds (some titles are also in versions for piano)
Bobby-Bobby, intermezzo-one-step, 1913. * [Autograph.]
Concert overture for military wind band, 1914. * [Autograph. Also in a version for piano.]
Elegant polka, solo for xylophone, 1915. * [Orchestrated for string orchestra 1937, autograph.]
Marianne, concert mazurka, 1953. [In autograph, also in a version for piano.]

Music for salon orchestra
Boston, waltz, 1910. * [Autograph.]
Klätterstedt och Klåberg, polka, 1911. * [Autograph.]
Kärleksmystär, romance, 1914 (*). [Included in Ernst Rolf’s repertoire 1914 with text by Kurt Belfrage. Orchestra score autograph. – According to Svensk Musik: Elkan & Schildknecht EC 31.]
‘Mitzi’, one-step, 1917. * [Autograph. Also in a version for military wind band]
Varietémarsch, 1953. * [Autograph for salon orchestra (Varietéorkestern). Solo for two trumpets]

Various arrangements
Among others, arrangements for sound films Charlotte Löwensköld (1930), Söder om landsvägen (1936) and Elvira Madigan (1943).
Note that SR is not listed as the composer, but rather the arranger in Charlotte Löwensköld, no information on the composer exists in Kronans kavaljerer which in the SBL is marked as composed by SR, or Dantes mysterier. No film with the name ‘Dante’ from 1930 is listed in the Svensk filmdatabas. In 1931 Dantes mysterier came out with various musical segments, but without any music by SR. SR’s name is not mentioned among the song composers in Charlotte Löwensköld nor in Kronans kavaljerer.

Piano trios
Moment musical, 1927. *
Vals lente. * [Autograph. Inscription ‘No. 1’.]
Vals af S. Lèon. * [Autograph. Inscription ‘No. 2’.]
Vals af S. Lèon. * [Autograph. Inscription ‘No. 3’.]
Parisien Vals. * [Autograph. Inscription ‘No. 4’.]
Anona, intermezzo (one-step). * [Autograph; also in a version for piano.]

Violin and piano
Chanson, 1936. * [Composed for a Svensk Filmindustri competition. Also with parts for salon orchestra. Autograph.]
Humoresk. * [Autograph.]
Czardas. * [Autograph.]
Novelette. * [Autograph.]
Sasse, 1936. * [Composed for a Svensk Filmindustri competition. Autograph.]
Serge. * [Autograph.]
Sång. * [Autograph.]
Tango. * [piano and violin 1−2. Also in a version for solo piano. Autograph.]

Tuna-valsen. Also in Album for Brass Sextet 16. (KB)
The Chicago Girl, two-step. * [Autograph.]
Gondolier, waltz. * [Autograph.]
I sommarkväll, valse lente. *
Serenata. * [Autograph.]
I december (Luciavals). * [Autograph.]
Vals af S. Rydberg. * [Autograph; inscription ‘Ballet I eller III:e akten’.]
Vals boston (Äkta juveler). * [Autograph.]
La Regina, italian mandolin serenade. * [Autograph.]
Maxim, one-step. * [Autograph.]
Röda Nejlikor, Boston waltz. * [Autograph.]
Linnea, Boston waltz. * [Autograph.]
La Jupe Collotte, one-step. * [Autograph.]
Sammy and Jimmy, one-step. *  [Autograph.]
Marsch (A major). * [Autograph.]

Voice with piano (not registered in STIM)
Solljus. [Autograph.]
Rosor och törnen, song for baritone and piano (N. Lindqvist). [Autograph.]
Aftonfrid, song for soprano, dedicated to Mrs. Signe Rydberg-Ekelöf (Alfr. Lindqvist). [Autograph.]
Idrottssång. [Autograph.]
Till de unga. [Autograph.]
Kampsång. [Autograph.]
Titaner, song for baritone with piano (Johan Levart). [Autograph.]

Men’s quartet (not registered in STIM)
Slå samling, svenske. [In versions for voice and piano as well as men’s quartet. Dedicated to the author Ernst Didring. Autograph.]
Skål för glädjen. [Autograph.]
Tornklockan (Johan Levart). [Also titled Julklockan; both in autograph.]

Unknown instrumentation
Two numbers in Emil Norlander’s revue ‘Stockholmsjobb’, a new year’s revue at Södra teatern 1916: ‘Gaska opp dej’ and O, schå förschusande’ (according to Svensk Musik, last accessed 18 March 2016).