Elfrida Andrée was a nineteenth century Swedish composer known equally well in her native country as a pioneer advocate for the rights of women.
Andrée was the younger daughter of Andreas Andrée, a progressive politician and profound lover of music, and her elder sister was the acclaimed opera singer Fredrika Stenhammar (1836 -- 1880). Elfrida Andrée was educated in Stockholm and in 1857, she passed an exam allowing her to become a professional organist; few women in Sweden had been granted such an opportunity prior to this time. Afterward, Andrée studied composition with Ludvig Norman
and Niels Gade
, and in 1863, Andrée became the first Swedish female telegraph operator, opening up a job market that soon became a popular avocation for women in Sweden. From 1867 until her death in 1929, Andrée was the cathedral organist in Götheberg, and in 1897, she was named leader of that city's Workers Institute Concerts, establishing her reputation as the first Swedish woman to conduct a symphony orchestra. Playwright Selma Lagerlöf was a good friend of Andrée's and they wrote an opera entitled Fritiof's Saga (1898) together that was unsuccessfully submitted to a competition for a new work to be staged at the opening of the Royal Opera House in Stockholm. Nonetheless, Andrée eventually extracted two orchestral suites from the opera which became her best-known works. Andrée also composed three symphonies, several significant chamber compositions, and two organ symphonies, in addition to pieces for both organ and piano, choral masses in Swedish, cantatas, and songs. By the time Andrée died at age 87, her compositions were already on their way into obscurity. But since the 1980s, Andrée's work has been making a comeback in her native land, as it is technically solid and a shade more expressive than music more typical of her teachers given her additional interests in the French music of her era (that of Franck
, for example). The musical manuscripts of Elfrida Andrée are housed at the Statens Musikbibliothek in Stockholm.