Johann Helmich Roman

Johan Helmich Roman (1694–1758) was a Swedish Baroque composer. He has been called “the father of Swedish music” or “the Swedish Handel.” He was the leader of Swedish Opera through most of Swedish Opera’s Age of Liberty.
Roman was born in Stockholm into the family of Johan Roman, a member of the Swedish royal chapel. The family name “Roman” may be derived from the Finnish place name Rauma, since Johan’s ancestors lived in Finland. The boy probably received his first music lessons from his father. He joined the royal chapel in 1711 as violinist and oboist. Around 1715 the King granted Roman permission to study abroad, and the young composer spent some six years in London. He almost certainly studied under Johann Christoph Pepusch, met Francesco Geminiani, Giovanni Bononcini, and, most importantly, George Frideric Handel, whose music made a lasting impression on Roman.
Roman returned to Sweden in 1721. He was soon appointed deputy master of the royal chapel, and six years later he became Chief Master of the Swedish Royal Orchestra. Roman’s life during the 1720s was full of organisational activity which led to much improved standards at the chapel, and, in 1731, the first public concerts in Sweden. Roman’s only work published during his lifetime, a collection of 12 sonatas for flute, violone and harpsichord, appeared in 1727. In 1730, Roman married, but his wife died just four years later. In 1734, the composer left Sweden to visit several European countries—Austria, England, France, Germany, and Italy. He returned to Stockholm in 1737, bringing back a wealth of music by various composers for the royal chapel to perform. In 1738 Roman married again. In 1740, he was elected a member of the newly established Royal Academy of Sciences.
In 1745, Roman retired from his post as leader of the royal chapel due to deafness, which had progressed rapidly during the previous years. His last years were dedicated to translating European theoretical treatises into Swedish, and adaptation of sacred texts into Swedish language.
One of his best-known compositions is the “Drottningholm Music”, or “Music for a Royal Wedding”. It consists of a collection of 24 short pieces ranging in length from about one to six minutes. Roman wrote this music for the wedding in August 1744 of the Crown Prince Adolf Frederick of Sweden and his bride Louisa Ulrika of Prussia. Their wedding took place at the palace of Drottningholm (hence the modern title). Other pieces written by Roman include the suite of “Sjukmans Musiquen” and the Italian-inspired cantata Piante amiche. In manuscript there remains a Mass, motets, more than 80 psalms, 21 symphonies, 6 overtures, more than 20 violin sonatas, twelve harpsichord sonatas, and various other works.

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