1886 — 1949
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Gustaf Nordqvist was a Swedish composer, teacher and church organist. An essential contributor of more than 200 works to the repertoire of Swedish sacred and art songs, he is probably best known for his 1921 Christmas carol entitledJul, jul, strålande jul (Christmas, Christmas, glorious Christmas).
Nordqvist was born, died and spent most of his life in Stockholm, Sweden. He first entered Stockholm Conservatory as an organ student at the age of 15, studying composition with Ernest Ellberg and piano with Lennart Lundberg. By the age of 18 he had begun expressing an interest in composition, particularly in the setting of Swedish poems about nature or love. His first major work was a 1909 setting of the poemDrivsnö, written by Gripenberg, which was highly praised byJean Sibelius. Excited about his opportunities in this new field, Nordqvist begun a productive period of setting the works of many contemporary Swedish poets including Anders Österling, Erik Axel Karlfeldt and Bo Bergman.
Although he composed all manner of music, Nordqvist is known mostly for his sacred works. However even these are almost unclassifiable, as Nordqvist had such an uncanny ability to make even songs with a religious topic very human and relatable. His songs are deeply personal and always written in a nostalgically Romantic style.
Later in his life Nordqvist became an integral part of Stockholm’s musical life. Upon returning from two years spent studying with A. Willner in Berlin, he assumed a position as organist at Adolf Fredrik Church. In 1926 he began teaching harmony at the Stockholm Conservatory and two years later he became the main organ teacher at the Karl Wohlfart School of Music. By the time of his death in 1949, Nordqvist had left a firm imprint on Sweden’s cultural and musical life, and hisJul, jul, strålande jul continues to be sung every year, ensuring his legacy will live on.
Images courtesy of Gehrmans and sok.riksarkivet.se