Michael Zethrin (ca 1660−1731)


Musician, poet and schoolmaster Michael Zethrin was probably born in the 1660s in Börje in the province of Uppland, and died on 3 April, 1731 in Stockholm. He was active in Stockholm’s Great Church and in the Royal Court Orchestra and was a productive author of occasional poetry, some of which he probably composed melodies to. He was also a collector and translator of music-historical writings.


Michael Zethrin was enrolled at Uppsala University in 1678, and became a member of the Samuel Columbus and Petrus Lagerlöf circle. Zethrin worked for many years at St Nicholas’ (the Great Church’s) Trivial school in Stockholm, where he was a teacher from 1689, becoming assistant headmaster in 1694 and finally headmaster in 1728. During this time, between 1690 and 1706, Zethrin was also a salaried instrumentalist at the Great Church and organist at Riddarholm Church. In 1711 he joined the Kungliga Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra), where he served until 1728 when he resigned to take up the post of headmaster at the Trivial school.

Michael Zethrin was married twice, the first time on 7 May, 1693 to Catarina Warenberg, and the second time to Maria Cederström (d. 1730).

Musical and literary works

There are a number of texts, translations, arrangements and poems in existence in Zethrin’s own hand. While some of them are no doubt the product of his work as a teacher, others are occasional poetry to which he would often use melodies from stage works by French court composers, such as Jean-Baptiste Lully and his successors.

Zethrin’s arrangements largely involve the superimposition of new Swedish lyrics onto songs taken from French stage works. Unlike other examples of parodying from the 17th century, Zethrin’s lyrics, and the way in which they are accommodated to the existing music, show marked sensitivity to the stress patterns of the language and the structure of the melodies.

The three compositions that can be ascribed to Zethrin with a certain degree of confidence are even in metre and regular in phrasing, and being composed in the German Lied and choral tradition reveal nothing of the partiality for the French style manifested by Zethrin’s countless arrangements of Lully and his ilk.

Zethrin was also a keen antiquarian, and was said by the 18th century Swedish author and genealogist Abraham Hülphers to have ‘owned Hist. Collections of Music, which since his death have been misappropriated’. The content of Zethrin’s library can be seen in a catalogue dated 1779 in the Musik- och teaterbiblioteket (the Music and Theatre Library of Sweden).

Maria Schildt © 2015
Trans. Neil Betteridge

Publications by the composer

Catalogus chronologicus præsulum sive archi-episcoporum, episcoporum nec non superintendentium regni Sueciæ. E diversis collectus, & clero Holmiensi consecratus. Una cum appendice, quæ continet seriem pastorum Holmiensium primariorum, pastorum Ridderholmensium, nec non rectorum simul & con-rectorum schol. triv. Stockholm, 1711.
'Miscellanea musica eller Anmärkningar och avhandlingar rörande musiken, extraherade och översatta utur åtskilliga auctorer, som därom skrivit'. [Initiated on 14 September 1705 and finished on 19 September 1721, lost. 1. Förteckning över musikinstrument, särskilt orglar i Sverige och utlandet, 2. Generalbasen, 3. Utdrag ur Cartesius musikavhandling (Descartes De musica), 4. Utdrag ur Andreas Werckmeisters Orgelprobe, 5. Utdrag ur Johann Matthesons Das neu-eröffnete Orchestre.]


Helenius-Öberg, Eva: Johan Helmich Roman. Liv och verk genom samtida ögon, Stockholm: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien, 1994, pp. 35−38.
Hülphers, Abraham:
Historisk Afhandling om Musik och Instrumenter särdeles om Orgwerks Inrättningen i Allmänhet, jämte Kort Beskrifning öfwer orgwerken i Swerige, Westerås, 1773. Facsimile edition, Stockholm: Svenskt Musikhistoriskt arkiv, 1969.
Mattheson, Johann:
Critica musica [periodical], 1722−25.
Moberg, Carl-Allan:
'Michael Zethrin och svensk paroditeknik; ett bidrag till den svenska monodins historia', Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 18, 1936, pp. 5−23.
Moberg, Carl-Allan:
Från kyrko- och hovmusik till offentlig konsert: studier i stormaktstidens svenska musikhistoria, Uppsala: Uppsala universitet, 1942.
Norlind, Tobias &
Emil Trobäck: Kungl. Hovkapellets historia 1526−1926: minnesskrift, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1926.
Norlind, Tobias:
Från Tyska kyrkans glansdagar: bilder ur svenska musikens historia från Vasaregenterna till karolinska tidens slut, Stockholm: Musikhistoriska museet, 1944−45.
Schück, Henrik:
'Bidrag till kännedomen om 1600-talets dramatik', Samlaren, vol. 13, 1892.
Wrangel, Ewert:
Det karolinska tidehvarfvets komiska diktning, diss., Lund University, 1888.


Uppsala universitetsbibliotek.

Summary list of works

Choral works (När som ormetungans etterhwassa nål) etc.

Collected works

Ack kärlek ädla vän SB, b.c.
När Lysille lämnade jungfrurna S, b.c., 1686.
När som ormetungans ettervassa nål A, b.c., 1685.
Alla i Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Nordin 1135.

Works by Michael Zethrin

There are no works by the composer registered