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Carl Jonas Love Almqvist


Born: November 28, 1793; Stockholm, Sweden   Died: November 26, 1866; Bremen, Germany  
One of Sweden's most colorful figures, Carl Almqvist was a composer, writer, and social reformer. He graduated from the University of Uppsala in 1815 into what threatened to be a dull life as a government clerk in the department of ecclesiastical affairs. But he fell in with the neo-Romantic poet E.J. Stagnelius and became captivated by such German literary figures as Goethe, Hoffmann, and Schlegel, as well as by Swedenborg and the Gothic Read more movement. Almqvist soon tired of the neo-Romantic style, though, and began writing more realist poetry. Almqvist also fell under the spell of Rousseau and tried to put the Frenchman's ideals into practice by forming a community of subsistence farmers, where he stayed from 1823 to 1826. He returned to Stockholm and was eventually able to test his reformist notions as headmaster of an experimental secondary school from 1829 to 1841. Almqvist frequently found himself in trouble with the authorities. In 1822, he was forced to destroy the entire print run of his "poetical fugue" Amorina, which combined lyrics and drama, because it attacked the doctrine of free will. His novels and short stories became more and more radical, advocating universal suffrage, women's liberation, prison reform, and free love. Obviously, his 1837 ordination in the Lutheran church was a mistake in judgment; by 1841, he was forced to resign for "moral crimes." Almqvist next got work as a journalist with a liberal newspaper, but in 1851, he was accused of trying to poison a moneylender and fled to the United States. He returned to Europe in 1865, settling for what little remained of his life in Bremen. As a composer, Almqvist was self-taught, but far less a maverick than in his other endeavors. In his 1845 prose work "Monografi," he defended the beauty of melody and complained that it had been defeated by counterpoint and harmony. As a good Romantic, he advocated the right of "genius" to shape its own rules. His own music, though, was hardly innovative. His 1849 collection of 26 piano pieces, called Free Fantasies, is regarded as rather dull, although some items adopt a folk-like manner that would be common in the later works of Grieg. More highly regarded are his unaccompanied songs to his own texts, Songes, composed around 1830 and sometimes employing a folk style to better effect. Read less
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