The Wind Band in the History of Swedish Music

by Leif A. Jansson

Background and origins

Until 1971, professional wind music in Sweden was entirely a military phenomenon. That year the unique step was taken of transferring more than 500 musicians to a civilian national organization. Then, in 1988, the State decided to regionalize this resource to county council level, where in most cases it was given foundation status. However, already in 1982, the Music Platoon – recruited annually among new conscripts – was set up, mainly with a view to preserve traditions of military music. Today, with the former military bands discontinuing their activities, there are now four conscript formations. There are as well five professional bands in Sweden nowadays, two with part of their time dedicated to the military: The Navy band revived already in 1992, The Air Force Band in recent years. There are also three professional jazz bands: Norrbotten Big Band up in the far north of Sweden with trumpeter Tim Hagan as leader, Bohuslän Big Band situated close to Göteborg and Gotland Big Band in the Baltics. All three derived from the military!

Back to square one!

Tentative beginnings of military music already occurred in the 16th century, but a proper organization was not introduced until the latter part (1680-1720) of what is known as the Great Power Period, when infantry and dragoon regiments were allotted a small group of 4, 6 or 8 musicians, known as “oboists”. Finds from the warships Wasa and Kronan have shown that the Navy too had its trumpeters and drummers. Drums and trumpets, with their distinctive wartime and peacetime functions,occupied a special position in the musical and social life of the period.

One typical composition from the period is Anders von Diiben’s Narva March, celebrating Charles XII’s victory over the Russians in the year 1700 in what is now Estonia.

After 1720, as a result of military disasters, only a few groups of musicians remained within the military organization, but eventually various regiments began recruiting, out of their own pocket, “harmonic music” resembling that which existed elsewhere in Europe.

The German “Harmoniemusik”, with its 2 oboes, 2 bassoons and french horn, was introduced in Sweden during the late 18th century. Clarinets were added, however, only a few decades later, and thus the forces of the “Harmoniemusik”, i.e. band, of the Södermanland Regiment in 1772 were: 3 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 french homs, 2 bassoons and one trumpet.

The French Revolution

The massed band is taken to have originated during the French Revolution of 1789. Music at the big popular festivals needed large numbers of instruments which would be audible outdoors to the immense crowds which gathered regularly for celebrations of one thing or another.

From the earlier “Harmoniemusik” or “serenade ensemble” was inherited the predominance of woodwind instruments, in which the dominant role of the oboe was usurped by the clarinet. The brass, yet, were still in their infancy, having but a limited range and tonal repertoire. Nevertheless, experiments with the valved trumpet and the invention of the keyed bugle in 1810 triggered a revolution in their development. It was for this instrument that Bernhard Crusell wrote an Adagio and Polonaise for accompaniment by a small wind band. (Adapted for trumpet and modem wind band by G. Johansson and published by LEMA.) Every summer from 1818 until his death in 1838, Bernhard Crusell, a clarinetist of European fame with the Royal Orchestra, directed the military band in Linköping. As its arranger, he made sure that C.M. von Weber’s Overture to Oberon was played in Linköping the very next year after its première performance. As a composer, he is rated nowadays on a level with Louis Spohr and C.M. von Weber, and the world’s leading players perform his clarinet concertos and clarinet quartets. Apart from the above-mentioned Adagio and Polonaise, his compositions for wind band also include a Fantasy on Swedish National Tunes, a Coronation March and transcriptions of his clarinet concertos.

Amateur musicianship

The rise of the bands more or less coincides with the coming of the Industrial Revolution to Sweden in about the mid-19th century. Before that, there was a big difference between town and country. Urbanization and industrialization alienated people from the traditional folk music and ballads, and tunes from the Continent and England became popular instead.

The Industrial Revolution prompted vigorous trade connections between England and Sweden. Sweden sold timber and iron, in return imported coal, and borrowed English capital for the building of its railways.

The Swedish timber magnates visiting England on business came into touch with the humanist aspect of liberalism, with wind bands as a common means of giving the workers something worthwhile to do in their meager leisure and steering them clear of drunkenness.

Many new industrial communities sprang up in Sweden, and study circles on English lines were launched in about 1850. There was much emphasis on singing and music, and in the spirit of National Romanticism, tribute was paid to patriotism and moral rectitude.

Most of the factory bands which came to be formed had only six members, and these played the new valved brass instruments – the E-flat comet, the B-flat comet, the altosax horn, the tenor horn and the bass tuba. These typically Swedish designed instruments survived within the military bands until 1957 when they were replaced by British-style instruments. Sometimes a couple of clarinets, flutes and a drummer could be added. The factory owners bought most of the instruments, but many other bands were formed because of workers and clerks borrowing money for the instruments. A military musician from the local regiment would then be engaged to teach them how to play.

The Crimean War and other military conflicts in Europe led to a growth of tension and fear of war in Sweden. The Sharpshooter Movement came into existence during the 1860s, partly because of agitation by the author Viktor Rydberg, a son of Jönköping! Its purpose was to teach ordinary citizens the use of arms, but the bands formed at the same time probably counted for more in the long term. When the brief career of the Sharpshooter Movement was over, other popular movements took over this amateur music making. In it, they found an effective means of recruiting new members. Even today, the labor movement is very glad of all its marching bands, not least on May Day. However, the formation of bands was also stimulated by the emergence of the Temperance Movement and the free churches.

Bands today

From the Second World War onwards, the Sharpshooter Movement acquired a latter-day successor in the Home Guard, which now has about 35 bands. Many of these mount guard at the Royal Palace in Stockholm once or twice a year – a popular activity with bands and public alike. Other amateur bands exist within the Federation of Swedish Amateur Orchestras and the Swedish Federation of Young Musicians, to which some 375 bands are affiliated.

Within the Salvation Army, the Alliance Mission and the Pentecostal Movement today, there are more than 100 bands; nearly all of them British styled brass bands. The Missionary Church has about 60 bands, both with and without woodwind. The Evangelical National Missionary Society of Stockholm, the Church of Sweden and the Swedish YMCA maintain about 30 bands. Then there are hundreds of wind bands of the municipal schools of Music, and so in Sweden altogether there are easily 1 000 wind bands with regular activities. Many of them are over I 00 years old and can trace their history back to the popular movements of the 19th century. In the latter years a declining interest in learning to play a wind instrument, particularly wood wind instruments, have been noticed. Maybe a temporarily problem?

Aspects of the repertoire

Quite a lot of the music played by military bands in the 19th and 20th centuries was arranged and composed by their own directors. That music is now coming into its own again, not least among all the amateur bands.

Needless to say, many of these directors of music composed mostly marches, and these are now on the repertoires of innumerable bands in Sweden and abroad.

Viktor Widqvist, Sam Rydberg, Per Berg, Per Grundström, Ivar Widner, Curt Larsson and Åke Dohlinare just a few of all these march composers whose works can perfectly well bear comparison with others of more international fame. Widqvist’s Under Blågul Fana is perhaps the best known of them all, and has been recorded by many bands all over the world.

Until 1971, when the defense establishment relinquished its responsibility for professional wind bands, military musicians mostly directed the amateurs. Even today, ex-military musicians often employed municipally as music teachers, direct many of Sweden’s wind bands.

Some musical profiles

Like Bernhard Crusell, whom we have already mentioned, Albert Löfgren was a clarinetist. In addition to his duties as military director of music with the Regiment of Artillery in Göteborg, he was solo clarinetist in the city’s Symphony Orchestra during the 1910s and until 1925, when he retired on account of failing health. Together with Wilhelm Stenhammar and Tor Mann he also conducted concerts given by the Orchestral Association. He died in 1930. Like Crusell, he used Swedish folk music in his rhapsodies, which have titles like Haymakers’ Festival, Swedish National Melodies and Swedish Fantasy. These compositions achieved great popularity at the time.

But Sweden’s internationally best-known composer of wind music is Erik Leidzén (1894-1962), the reason being that he was active in the USA during the golden age of wind bands. He was trained in Stockholm before emigrating at the age of 21. His activities within the Salvation Army made it natural for him to write brass band music, but his assignment with the Goldman Band also resulted in a number of works for wind band, such as his two Swedish rhapsodies and a trombone concertino. In addition, in 1950, he published a book entitled “An Invitation to Band Arranging”.

Among contemporary Swedish composers, Hungarian-bom Csaba Deák (b. 1932) occupies a special position by virtue of his prolific output of wind music. He studied clarinet and composition at the Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest, and with Hilding Rosenberg in Sweden. During the 1960s he wrote I 21 for wind instruments, and his Gustadolphony was written for an American college in 1990. His Five Short Pieces have been performed by numerous groups. Altogether, he has made ten or more significant contributions to Sweden’s fairly meagre original repertoire for wind band. Nevertheless, his close involvement with the development of wind music has also meant a great deal to Swedish music.

Hilding Rosenberg (1892-1985) only wrote one original piece for winds. It turned out to be music for the ballet Tower of Bable (Sinfonie fur Bläser as it is called as a concert piece).

Eberhard Eyser (b.1932) is the name of another immigrant musician, this time a German who studied in Hanover and elsewhere. He has played the viola in the Royal Orchestra since the 1960s and is a productive composer in his spare time. He has written several chamber operas, but also a number of interesting works for wind band.

Siegfried Naumann (1919-2001) studied conducting with Hermann Scherchen and Wilhelm Furtwängler and composition with Pizzetti and Malipiero. Otherwise, he began as a military clarinetist. He was one of the more radical group of Swedish composers whose works make great demands on the players.

Hans Eklund (1927-1999), like Naumann, taught for many years at the Stockholm College of Music. He was very much a musician’s composer, as witness the many gramophone recordings of his works. These include only a few for wind instruments, but his Trombone Concerto merits attention.

Johnny Grandert (b. 1939) has been Director of the Norrtälje School of Music since 1972 and, although he has studied in Germany, Italy and the USA, considers himself a self-taught composer. He has written several symphonies, including one for wind instruments.

Erland von Koch (b. 1910) has an outstandingly large output of compositions to his credit, many of them inspired by folk music. His Monologues for solo instruments are greatly appreciated. His friendship with Sigurd Rascher has also resulted in several works for the saxophone. Saxophonia and his Third Piano Concerto, both with band accompaniment, have received frequent performances.

Many fine Swedish jazz musicians have gained international fame. Among them Nils Lindberg (b. 1933) once upon a time arranger to the late Duke Ellington. Lindbergs composition Requiem for solo voices, choir and stage band is recorded and performed many times. Mikael Råberg (b. 1959) has written cross-over music in his Trombone concerto and a piece for soprano and band. Stellan Sagvik (b. 1952) has written many pieces for wind orchestra. Many of them aimed for the church f. ex. Missa Maria Magdalena for solo voices, choir and wind orchestra, a large-scale work.

Three unusual pieces influenced by Indian music from South America are Folke Rabe´s (b. 1935) Altisonans,Parade by Bengt Hambraeus (1928-2000), professor of composition in Canada for many years andCandombe by Peter Pontvik (b. 1963) All worth consideration.

Torbjörn lwan Lundquist (1920-2000) first made a name for himself as a skillful composer of film music. He was fascinated by Mogens Ellegaard’s accordion playing and wrote a great deal of music for the instrument. He was also an orchestral conductor, e.g. at the Drottningholm Palace Theater. Wind Power and Arktis are significant compositions within the capabilities of amateur players.

Arne Mellnäs (b. 1933) was earlier Professor of Orchestration at the Stockholm College of Music but now composes full time. He has a personal style, with a strong sense of the potentialities of the instruments. Several of his gratifying compositions for wind instruments were written originally for youth orchestras.

Daniel Börtz (b. 1943) studied violin and composition with K.B. Blomdahl and Gottfried Michael Koenig among others. He has produced a wide range of compositions – chamber music, solo works, vocal music, orchestral compositions and operas. The American Wind Symphony commissioned his Concerto for Bassoon and Wind Instruments.

Jan W. Morthenson (b. 1940) is primarily a composer of orchestral and electro-acoustic music. He has had a period of composing music about other music, i.e. “metamusik”. He is also a highly original music debater and columnist. Paraphonia and Energia I are widely noted works of his for wind instruments.

Mats Larsson Gothe (b. 1964) is a talented young composer with a back ground in the wind movement. His compositions Prelude, Dance and Conclusion, Clockworks for brass quintet and band, three concerti respectively for Trombone, Violoncello and Violin with band are very interesting music.

Finally: Mark Lammers, retired professor from Minnesota, spent a lot of time in the beginning of the ’90s visiting the music centers of the five Nordic countries. The result was a catalogue called Nordic Instrumental Music for Colleges and Universities. Many, many pieces listed – all with a short comment.

The Rikskonserter Consulting Group on Wind Music

A great amount of music has been written for wind bands in the past few decades, much of it because of commissions received by Swedish composers from various institutions.

The Wind Music Consulting Group, set up by Rikskonserter in 1975 and representing interested parties in this context, took innumerable initiatives which resulted in 30 or more new compositions, several of which have become firm repertoire favorites with Swedish wind bands.

One project during these years where a professional group would visit a school or an amateur band resulted in Piper’s Wedding by Csaba Deak for woodwind quintet and band, Blopärk by Gunnar Valkare for percussion ensemble and band, Lovely Lady’s Labor by Lars Sjösten for Brass quintet and band.