Adolf Wiklund (1879−1950)


Adolf Wiklund was born in Långserud, Värmland, on 5 June 1879 and died in Stockholm on 2 April 1950. He was a multi-talented musician, who displayed great capacity both as a pianist and as a composer, and later also as a conductor. He studied and worked overseas for many years − first in Paris and then in Berlin and Karlsruhe. As conductor of the Royal Opera and then with the Stockholm Concert Society, he made a significant and long-standing impact on Swedish music, and his compositions, most of which were produced before 1920, make valuable contributions to the musical repertoire of his time.



Adolf Wiklund was born in Långserud in western Värmland to principal teacher and organist Petter Johan Wiklund and his wife Kristina Lindberg. A year after Adolf’s birth, the family moved to Karlsborg, where he grew up. His brother Victor, who was five years his senior, chose an early career in music and became a successful pianist, teacher and choirmaster in Stockholm. Adolf also demonstrated  precocious talent, but he also had an aptitude for mechanics and was therefore sent to Eskilstuna School of Technology to train as an engineer. During his time in Eskilstuna he composed a romance for violin and orchestra, which he also had performed there. His father then changed his mind and allowed Adolf to enrol for organ studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm in the autumn of 1897. He graduated with a degree in organ playing in 1899, following it up with another degree in precentership and music teaching in the following year.

After the conservatory, Adolf Wiklund went on to study for two of the foremost music teachers in Sweden at the time: piano for Richard Andersson and counterpoint and composition for Johan Lindegren. Already at this time he wrote some noteworthy orchestral works, inspiring many to pin their hopes on him at a time when there was a dearth of professionally composed Swedish orchestral music. In 1902 he was awarded a two-year scholarship for composition studies.

Travels abroad

In the autumn of 1903, Wiklund travelled to Paris on his first trip abroad.  While he took no formal training there, he did work as an organist for the Swedish parish in the following season until the summer and gave piano lessons. At the same time, he also composed his violin sonata in A minor and the concert overture, the latter of which he showed to composer Alfred Bruneau, whom he sought out in order to improve his orchestration. However, Bruneau felt that the young Swede had nothing more to learn. We know that Wiklund went to see Claude Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande during his time in Paris, although it was only later that he was captivated by the work, in particular its use of the orchestra.

A two-year Jenny Lind scholarship enabled him to continue working abroad, now in Berlin, where he resided from 1905 to 1907, studying piano for the leading pedagogue James Kwast. Although he did not take any composition lessons, he went frequently to concerts and studied orchestral scores by himself. From Berlin he travelled to Italy to spend a month in Rome.

After his years in Berlin and through the machinations of the musically interested Crown Princess Victoria, Wiklund volunteered with the opera in her birth town of Karlsruhe for the 1907−08 season. He then returned to Berlin for another year or so, where he worked as a répétiteur for the Imperial Opera and as a teacher at singer Etelka Gerster’s opera school.

Back in Sweden

In 1910 Wiklund returned home and took up work in Stockholm as a piano teacher and instructor of young singers rehearsing opera roles. In 1911 he started as conductor at the Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera). In the years that followed, he established himself, married in 1912 and became a member of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in 1915. In 1921, he travelled to Austria, where he conducted two concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic. Following a spat with the newly appointed opera director John Forsell, he resigned his post at the Stockholm opera in 1924 to succeed Georg Schnéevoigt as conductor for the Konsertföreningen (Stockholm Concert Society). He was given permanent employment as second conductor, a position that he retained for 14 years, taking over as principal conductor for the 1936−37 season. He retired in 1938, but continued to conduct for the Konsertföreningen and elsewhere in Sweden and abroad. One particular commission that he had − and enjoyed − was the Konsertföreningen’s school concerts, many of which Wiklund conducted from 1927 until the end of the 1940s. When he died at the age of 71 in 1950, he was, judging from his late interviews, still an active man and young at heart.

Adolf Wiklund was a truly gifted pianist, conductor and composer, but the great musical development that his contemporaries had hoped for was not forthcoming. He effectively stopped composing in the mid-1920s, by which time he had not performed publicly as a pianist for years, partly on account of his conducting obligations, which consumed much of his time and energy. As a conductor − with Brahms and Mozart as his favourites − he remained a reliable rather than an original, dynamic authority.

Wiklund was generally described as an open, modest and pleasant man. He counted as one of his closest friends Wilhelm Stenhammar, who also meant much to him in his youth as a kind of early mentor alongside his teacher Richard Andersson. Wiklund was something of a nature lover, and from his younger years until his death spent his summers in the Stockholm archipelago.


Orchestral works

After having tested his wings in 1902 with a concert piece for piano and orchestra, Adolf Wiklund eventually wrote for the same setting the works which earned him greatest renown: the two piano concertos. They are two of the best Swedish works in their genre, with well-wrought, dynamically developed themes and a solid professional grip on both the piano part and the orchestra.

The first concerto, op. 10 in E minor (1907), he wrote during his years abroad and took him about a year to complete. A year or so earlier, at the same time as his friend Stenhammar completed his second piano concerto, he had studied the solo part of Brahms’s second piano concerto with James Kwast. Influences from both these works can be divined in Wiklund’s concerto along with a completely different, impressionistic vein possibly deriving from his encounter with Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. The composer reworked his concerto in 1935, but only the orchestration.

The second concerto, op. 17 in B minor, was composed in 1916−17. While very much cut from the same cloth as the first concerto, it was rightly considered by the composer to be a more mature work. It was highly acclaimed and became a regular feature of the concert repertoire in the 1930s and 40s. One of the pianists who performed it was Wilhelm Backhaus.

Wiklund also composed in other orchestral genres. The earliest of these works was a concert overture performed in Stockholm in 1904. The symphonic poem Sommarnatt och soluppgång, inspired by the archipelago, is an impressionistic rendering of the night and the coming dawn, which is announced with a triumphant trumpet theme. Of the three pieces for string orchestra and harp, written in the early 1920s, the first, I folkton, proved particularly popular. For his school concerts, Wiklund wrote a Liten svit for orchestra (1928), and his last orchestral work was a Symfonisk prolog (1935).

Wiklund’s only symphony was premiered when the Kungliga Teatern celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1923. Like the piano concertos, it has three movements, the final having the character of a scherzo. It is bolder both in tonal idiom and orchestration than the concertos, and stylistically somewhat more diverse. Although it was well received, it has all but vanished from the repertoire. In his latter days the composer himself claimed to be ‘not so fond of it’.

Piano and chamber music

In the first decade of the 1900s, when Wiklund was studying piano for Richard Andersson and subsequently James Kwast, he composed a couple of dozen pieces, many of which were compiled into collections, such as Three intermezzi op. 8, Vier lyrische Stücke op. 14 and Stämningar op. 15. This entire production is in the romantic piano tradition and carries an occasional hint of Stenhammar. He evinces genuine lyrical sensitivity here and, at times, harmonic individuality.

There were no more piano compositions after this time until 1926, when Wiklund composed Från mitt fönster: sex små sommarbilder för piano för barn och ungdom. Here, he seems to have abandoned the romantic pianistic flow of his earlier works for something more sparse; for all that, however, they do not lack in originality or expressiveness − it is juvenile music of a rather adult nature.

Wiklund’s chamber music output includes two violin sonatas. The first, in C minor, exists only in manuscript form; the other, op. 5 in A minor, composed in 1903-04 and published in 1906, is one of Wiklund’s most consummate works.


The early 1900s was also Wiklund’s most fertile period when it came to songs. Following a number of unpublished juvenile pieces, he produced several collections: two songs in op. 7, four German language songs in op. 9, and four songs in op. 12. In addition to these, he wrote individual songs, including some during the 1910s and 20s. Wiklund successfully holds a kind of middle ground in the contemporary Swedish song tradition with his sensitive interpretation of lyric and effective melodic and harmonic style. There are interesting works here that deserve revival.

Wiklund’s compositions for choir are relatively few. Alongside his purely choral pieces, mostly for male voices, is a setting of Viktor Rydberg’s Betlehems stjärna for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra.

Anders Edling © 2016
Trans. Neil Betteridge


Connor, Herbert: Svensk musik, vol. 2, Stockholm: Bonniers, 1977, pp. 40−41.
Edling, Anders: Franskt i svensk musik 1880−1920, diss. i musikvetenskap, Uppsala universitet, Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1982, pp. 183−192.
−−−: skivkommentar till Adolf Wiklunds pianokonsert no. 1, Caprice, CAP 1228, 1984.
Kask, Jan: skivkommentar till Adolf Wiklunds pianokonsert no. 2, Caprice, CAP 1165, 1979.
Schuberth, John: ‘Mina musik- och musikerminnen, 1944−46’, unpub. manuscript.
Tegen, Martin: ‘Adolf Wiklund’, in: Svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 8, Stockholm: Bonniers, 1955.
Törnblom, Folke H.: ‘En födelsedagsintervju [med Adolf Wiklund]’, in: Musikvärlden, 1949, p. 187.
Verwimp, Ute: ‘Adolf Wiklund: en studie av en svensk 1900-talstonsättare med särskild hänsyn till instrumentalmusiken’, D-uppsats i musikvetenskap, Uppsala universitet, 2000, unpub.
Öster, Martin: ‘Adolf Wiklunds sånger’, seminarieuppsats i musikvetenskap, Stockholms universitet, 1983, unpub. 

Summary list of works

Orchestral music (a symphony, 2 piano concertos, 2 orchestral suites, etc.), chamber music (a sting quartet, 2 violin sonatas, etc.), works for piano (including Three intermezzi, Stämningar), approx. 20 songs with piano, a work for soloists, choir and orchestra.

Collected works

Concert Overture, 1903.
Sommarnatt och soluppgång op. 19, 1918.
Symfony op. 20, 1922.
Three pieces for string orchestra and harp, 1924.
Little suite, 1928.
Symphonic prologue, 1934.

Solo instrument and orchestra
Concert piece for piano and orchestra op. 1, 1902.
Piano concerto no. 1 E minor op. 10, 1906, rev. 1935.
Piano concerto no. 2 B minor op. 17, 1917.

Soli, choir and orchestra
Betlehems stjärna, 1905.

Choir songs
In memoriam (G.V. Neander), 1916.
Kväll (M. Schmidt), 1923.
Så vila gode herde (J.O. Wallin), 1934.

Chamber music
Två melodier for violin and piano, 1899.
Romance, D major, ca 1900.
Duo for two violins with organ, 1900.
Fantasy for violin, cello and piano, 1900.
Sonata for violin and piano C minor, 1901.
String quartet A major, 1905 [incomplete].
Sonats for violin and piano A minor op. 5, 1903/04.

Scherzo, 1899.
Impromptu, 1901.
Stämningar op. 15, 1902.
Tre stycken op. 3, 1903/04.
Tre intermezzi op. 8, 1906.
Vier lyrische Stücke op. 14, 1910.
Från mitt fönster, 1926.
Allegro con fuoco, 1937.

Songs with piano
Two songs op. 7, 1905. 1. Lykken i min Sjæl (V. Stuckenberg) , 2. Jeg synes at Verden skinner (V. Krag), 2. 
Vier Lieder op. 9. 1. Erwartung (D. von Liliencron), 1906, 2. Abschied (M.M. von Puttkamer), 1906, 3. Abend (J.G. Fischer), 1906, 4. Himmel oder Frühling? (H. von Gilm).
Four songs op. 12, 1909. 1. På floden (V. Rydberg), 1899, 2. Sof, oroliga hjärta (J.L. Runeberg), 1902, 3. Som mandelblom (B. Gripenberg). 4. Ved söen (B. Bjørnson).
En blomma (V. Rydberg), 1899.
Nu flommer mit unge, mit rødmende Flag (B. Lie), 1901.
Min lille dräng (anon.), 1902/03.
Til Majdag fører jeg hjem min Brud (J.P. Jacobsen), 1902.
Lindagull (B. Gripenberg), 1907.
Lykken i min Sjael (V. Stukkenberg), printed 1905.
Septemberaften (V. Stukkenberg), 1905.
Silkessko over gylden Læst (J.P. Jacobsen), printed 1907.
Tre rosor (S. Nyblom), printed 1916.
Du är melodin (M. Schmidt), printed 1921.
En solvisa, (M. Schmidt), printed 1922.

Works by Adolf Wiklund

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

Number of works: 23