Enigmatic composer and mountain lover – Wilhelm Peterson Berger

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger was an enigmatic composer who truly loved the mountains of Jämtland Härjedalen. He was overjoyed when he acquired a plot on the island Frösön to build his dream house with a view overlooking lake Storsjön and his beloved Oviken mountains.

Composer and Journalist

Wilhelm was born 1867 in a small village called Äskja in Ullånger, Ångermanland. His mother was a good piano player and naturally he was introduced to the instrument at an early age. His father was a land surveyor and gave Wilhelm his interest in the outdoors. As he got older he studied music in Umeå, Stockholm and Dresden, Germany.

Music was not the real source of income for Wilhelm. He worked as a journalist and music reviewer for the swedish national paper; Dagens Nyheter. He was also a writer in other papers and even started two magazines.

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger
Photo of composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger who built his dream Villa on the island Frösön.

Love at first sight – with an island

As a young student he joined fellow students and came to visit Jämtland Härjedalen. He stayed at Änge farm on the island Frösön in the middle of the flourishing lake Storsjön area numerous times before he got the chance to build his own dream house on the island.

The island Frösön and the surroundings as well as the family at Änge farm inspired Wilhelm to produce quite a few music pieces including one of his most famous ones, the song “Frösöblomster” (Flowers on the island Frösön).

Young boy performing one of Wilhelm Peterson-Bergers most famous works - Frösöblomster.

Arnljot the Viking – an open air drama

Wilhelm also wrote the opera play about Arnljot the viking, while staying at Änge gård, a play which still today is performed on the same ground with the Oviken mountains as a natural backdrop. The play takes place in Jämtland as the viking age is about to end and give way for the medieval period and christianity. The viking Arnljot comes home from years abroad and finds his true love being married to his rival. There is a feud and at the coming settlement at the thingstead Arnljot accidentally kills his rival. He is forced to flee and stays in the mountains bordering on Norway together with a sami girl. He takes up christianity as he seeks salvation for his deeds and joins king Olav Haraldsson in the battle of Stiklestad 1030.

The Viking Arnljot´s entry song coming home to Jämtland after his time abroad “in viking”. From the open-air performance performed on the island Frösön with mostly local artists.

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger was a man of his time

Peterson-Berger took serious interest in the swedish indigenous people, the sami. Something which he shared with his friend and painter Johan and brother Karl Tirén. The three of them made numerous mountain hikes together.  

Wilhelm of course was a man of his time and having studied in Germany, strongly influenced by nationalism and romanticism. But as keen as he was about german culture generally and Nietzsche and Wagner in particular – this should not be confused with darker forces progressing and fuelling the coming nazism. In fact Wilhelm had a strongly negative attitude towards these influences. You can sense the influences of his keen interest in Beethoven and Wagner in Wilhelms music, possibly with Grieg coming in as third.

 

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger´s celebration of his dream house, “Intåg i Sommarhagen” (Entry in the Sommarhagen Villa).

The Sommarhagen Villa

The Sommarhagen villa is tucked into the green leaves and with a beautiful view facing the Oviken mountains. This was Wilhelm Peterson-Bergers dream house built in detail after his specifications. Modernities like central heating, panoramic windows and electricity were added as well as a layout to suit Wilhelm with a musical room downstairs for entertaining guests and private chambers upstairs.

Sommarhagen was Wilhelms summerhouse between 1914 and 1930 when he officially moved here to stay year round until he died in 1942. The building style is national romantic with elements of jugend. Local artist Paul Jonze has added extra style to the living room. Wilhelm never married. The person who perhaps knew him best was his valet between 1920 and 1942, Carl-Johan Wenngren.

Sommarhagen Villa Frösön
Wilhelm Peterson-Bergers designed Villa Sommarhagen on the island Frösön. Photo: Heike Lippertz