Author Topic: Oscar Wilhelm Hylen, pupil of Berwald  (Read 1802 times)

regriba

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Oscar Wilhelm Hylen, pupil of Berwald
« on: Wednesday 18 January 2012, 11:50 »
In the Swedish downloads there is a string quartet by Oscar Wilhelm Hylen. Next to no information seems to be available on this composer in English, but there is a pdf in Swedish on musikforskning.se about Franz Berwald's pupils at the Stockholm Conservatory, among whom Hylen was one. Since the English summary at the end almost only concentrates on Berwald, I thought a summary on what the article says on Hylen might be of interest. Summary and translation are by myself, so apologies in advance for any linguistic blunders:

Oscar Wilhelm Hylen was born in 1846, the son of an instrument maker and piano tuner. He must have aimed for a career in music early, for when in 1867 a composition class with Franz Berwald as teacher was created at the Stockholm conservatory, Hylen was already a pupil there. He applied to get into the new class, but the board preferred a Ms. Marie Louise Öberg. However, after a short while she left the class to become a private teacher (she was later to teach the young Wilhelm Stenhammar), and Hylen was admitted. He seems to have made good progress, having both a piano trio and a "concert allegro for orchestra" performed at the conservatory concerts. But already in 1868 the composition class was disbanded because of Berwald's sudden death, and Hylen had to finish his education with less illustrious teachers.

After his graduation he made a promising start. The string quartet that has already been mentioned was printed and a symphony was performed in Stockholm twice in the early 1870's. The criticism was generally positive. He then wrote an operetta "The Two Misers", which was performed both in Stockholm and Gothenburg. This, however, seems to have been the high point of his career, for after that he only had small song printed in a ladies' magazine in 1879.

Sadly, things now went downhill for Hylen, probably because of alcohol abuse. In 1877 he seems to have "disappeared", because he was notified as missing in the churches. Two years later he was divorced, in the papers it says that he worked as chorus master at a theatre in Gothenburg. He probably stayed with his brother, who was an engraver in that town. But shortly after Oscar's divorce the brother went bankrupt and emigrated to America, leaving Oscar with further problems.

From then on Hylen almost disappears completely from sight. It is presumed that he made a living as conductor of a touring company, because three photos of him from that period exist, each taken in a different town. The photos show a tired, prematurely aged man. No one knows how and when he died, but in an 1886 census his ex-wife is registered as a widow.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hylen was soon completely forgotten. But around 1960 the Frydén quartet performed his string quartet, and it attracted a fair amount of attention. It seems that the download is of one of these performances. Nothing further seems to have happened, however, and I have been unable to trace any commercial recordings of Hylen's music. So it seems that the download is quite a rare document on a really unsung composer.

Mark Thomas

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Re: Oscar Wilhelm Hylen, pupil of Berwald
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 18 January 2012, 11:58 »
Fascinating Regriba. Thanks so much. No hope of the symphony surfacing, I assume?

regriba

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Re: Oscar Wilhelm Hylen, pupil of Berwald
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 18 January 2012, 12:41 »
I'm afraid not. According to the article the only music by Hylen that survives is the string quartet, the song that was published in the magazine and an overture, which may be the same piece as the "concert allegro" that was performed at the conservatory.

eschiss1

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Re: Oscar Wilhelm Hylen, pupil of Berwald
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 18 January 2012, 19:13 »
Thank you for that, and regrettable that so much was lost!

if anyone wants to perform the quartet again there's parts I think - or score? - at IMSLP. Hope someone will. :) 
"A cat, as I keep on saying, is also a cat for a' that..." - from Natsume Sōseki's Wagahai wa Neko de Aru (I Am a Cat, part 2 chapter 1)