Per-Ulf Allmo (Sweden)

Per-Ulf has been accompanying our projects from the very beginning and has supported us significantly with his comprehensive expertise and contacts.

Per-Ulf is photographer, author of numerous articles, books and other publications about folk music and the nyckelharpa. Today publisher in his own publishing company Per-Ulf Förlag. []

Meanwhile he works primarily focusing on the nyckelharpa’s history. This article is a brief summary of the knowledge at the time of the CADENCE project 2010. Comments and contributions are received gratefully at:

After he first met Eric Sahlström in the 1960s, he was interested in the nyckelharpa and began to take photographs of instruments, collect texts and cultivate contacts with musicians. Since the 90’s, he has intensified his efforts to collect information on the rich history of the nyckelharpa players and their instruments. More than 700 instruments have been personally examined. Upon request from Stockholm University, he started focusing on the nyckelharpa’s earliest history. Two books on the history of the nyckelharpa are already published. Today he is to finish his 3rd book, preliminary to be published summer 2022.

In addition to the above, he has always been a great practitioner of folk dances and has built two and a half nyckelharpas. He participates with great interest in the European nyckelharpa cooperative effort and contributes with his well-founded knowledge.

Per-Ulf, Sweden, photographer, author of books about the nyckelharpa

Guest article in the CADENCE project


History of the Nyckelharpa – Nyckelharpans historia – La Nyckelharpa e la sua storia – Historische Spurensuche, von der Schlüsselfidel zur Nyckelharpa

by Per-Ulf Allmo



The article gives an overview of the state of research on the history of the nyckelharpa. From medieval times, images have been preserved in churches in Italy, Sweden and Denmark. Hints and guesses point to German sources. During the Renaissance, the nyckelharpa is mentioned and illustrated in the music treatises of Agricola and Prætorius. Since the Baroque era, evidence of the nyckelharpa, including surviving instruments, has been found only in Sweden; in Uppland province, there is also a continuous tradition of playing.


Der Artikel vermittelt einen Überblick über den Forschungsstand zur Geschichte der Nyckelharpa. Aus mittelalterlicher Zeit sind Abbildungen in Kirchen in Italien, Schweden und Dänemark erhalten. Hinweise und Vermutungen deuten auf deutsche Quellen. In der Renaissance wird die Schlüsselfidel in den Musiktraktaten Agricolas und Prætorius‘ erwähnt und abgebildet. Seit der Barockzeit gibt es nur noch in Schweden Nachweise mit erhaltenen Instrumenten und einer seitdem ungebrochenen Spieltradition in der Provinz Uppland.


Artikeln ger en överblick av läget för forskningen om nyckelharpans historia. Från sen medeltid finns avbildningar i kyrkor i Italien, Sverige och Danmark. Upplysningar och hypoteser pekar mot ett tyskt upphov. Under renässansen omnämner och avbildar Agricola och Prætorius vardera en nyckelharpa i sina musiklexikaliska verk. Alltsedan barocken kan instrument och en obruten speltradition påvisas enbart från Uppland.


L'articolo fornisce una panoramica dello stato della ricerca sulla storia della Nyckelharpa. Fin dall'epoca medievale, immagini dello strumento si sono conservate in diverse chiese in Italia, Svezia e Danimarca. Tracce ed ipotesi diverse rimandano anche a fonti tedesche. Durante il Rinascimento la Nyckelharpa è menzionata nei trattati musicali di Agricola e Prætorius. A far data dall'epoca barocca, si hanno tracce della Nyckelharpa, con anche strumenti d'epoca sopravvissuti, solo in Svezia ed in particolare, nella regione delle Uppland dove si è pure conservata una ininterrotta tradizione di uso dello strumento.

Please pay attention also to the comprehensive books of Per-Ulf Allmo. See "Publications"

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