Gustaf Mankell (1812−1880)


Gustaf Adolf Mankell was born on 20 May 1812 in Christiansfeld in Denmark and died in Stockholm on 23 March 1880. As a teacher, composer, interpreter and improviser, Mankell did much to help establish a modern organ tradition in Sweden. He spent many years as an organist in the parish of St James, Stockholm. While he wrote prodigiously for organ, he also composed music for piano and some chamber and sacred vocal music. He was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1841.

Member of the Stockholm Moravians

Gustaf Mankell was born into a Moravian Brethren family in Christiansfeld, Denmark, where his father, Johann Hermann, was an organist and music teacher at the Moravian church. His mother, Johanna Maria Keyser, was originally Swedish, and gradually she and Johann along with Gustaf and his brothers Carl Abraham and Wilhelm August settled in Sweden. Gustaf moved to Stockholm in 1833, initially making a living as a piano teacher while preparing himself for taking a degree in organ playing in 1835.

The same month as he took his exams, he started work as an organist in the parish of St James before taking up a permanent position there in January 1836 as successor to the legendary Olof Åhlström. He was soon being engaged as a singing teacher and cantor in the parish elementary school (1836) and organist for the Stockholm Moravian church (1837). His uninterrupted social affiliation with the revivalist environment was reinforced in 1839 through his marriage to Charlotte Louise Warnke (1814−1883), daughter of Andreas Warnke, head of the Evangelical Brethren in Stockholm.

Organ and education

Gustaf Mankell was made a member of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in 1841 at the young age of 29. He proved to be an important figure in its activities, primarily owing to his achievements as a teacher of organ at its educational institution from 1853, with a professorship in 1859. Unlike many of his contemporaries he was not drawn to folk music or the national spirit, but was one of the musicians and composers who sought to establish an academic music culture on a continental model. He shared an interest in raising musical cultivation with his brother Carl Abraham, and as a natural step in this aspiration, in ancient liturgical music as well. This project resulted in a number of ‘historical’ concerts and soirées in the 1830s and 1840s, to which Gustaf arranged ancient choral music for the organ. Liturgical music, historicism and ambitions of a solid grounding in music theory here went hand in hand, and Gustaf Mankell also worked tirelessly to elevate the musical quality of the country’s organists.

As part of his quest for a properly thought-through pedagogical structure, he translated and arranged (with the assistance of Oscar Byström and Franz Berwald) Belgian organist Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens’s École d’Orgue from 1862. Lemmens was himself an important link between the German Bach tradition, as a student of organist Adolf Friedrich Hesse, and the burgeoning French romantic school. The adoption of Lemmens’s reworked Organ-School as the conservatory’s text book in 1867 and his being made a foreign member of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien in 1870 are consistent with the consolidation of a systematic Swedish tradition that embodied both German and French influences. Key elements of this were the combination of a well-organised legato and a driven pedal technique. In 1869 Mankell appended to Lemmens’s Organ-School a large repertoire collection called Studier vid Orgeln and went on to publish a number of smaller pedagogical tracts and collections for repertoire and chorale playing and improvisation.

Well-known teacher

As his long and faithful employment as teacher and organist for St James’ Church progressed,  Mankell began to earn a reputation and received, posthumously, a special place in Swedish literature. August Strindberg’s short story ‘Den romantiske klockaren på Rånö’ (published in Skärkarlsliv 1888) is about a student who arrives in Stockholm to study for the conservatory’s organ professor. The text contains not only a deeply insightful depiction of the church organ, but also a character clearly based on Mankell, the most characteristic aesthetic feature of whom is, fittingly enough, a predilection for counterpoint and organ fugues.

As for his personality, Strindberg portrays an uninhibited emotional directness with an inclination to sudden bursts of anger. Other sketchers of his character had already pointed out such a temperament in the classroom, even though, in the main, he is described as assiduous, dutiful and quietly withdrawn. His personal generosity towards his many gifted students – including the distinguished organists Gustaf Wilhelm Heintze, Claes Rendahl, Elfrida Andrée and Emil Sjögren – was also renowned.

Chorale issues

Associated with his interest in ancient liturgical music was the nascent ambition of the time to recreate the chorale’s rhythmic variation that had been lost during the process of uniformity that was ushered in by the Enlightenment. Already from the start of his time in Stockholm Mankell produced several of his own collections of chorales in which, contrary to the ideal expressed in his brother Carl Abraham’s writings, he continued the use of short musical interludes between phrases and verses. He took active part in the Musikaliska akademien’s debates on the revisions of Hæffner’s chorale book and in 1866 joined a committee tasked with producing a so-called minimitabell (a table indicating which chorale melodies were to be sung for the various texts) in the interests of limiting the number of chorales to those that were easiest to sing.

Organ technique and expert

Gustaf Mankell, whose organ playing was, as already noted, vividly depicted in Strindberg’s novella, was also considered the leading organist of his time. A highly popular tradition was his after-service improvisation concerts in St James’ church. Besides his solo performances, he also regularly played organ duets, often in the cathedral with his colleague Carl Torsell, and arranged and composed large amounts of music for such occasions. As an interpreter he looked after the legacy of J.S. Bach and later German music, but also introduced works by contemporary composers such as Lemmens and Hesse. His compositions are closely associated with his own improvisational art, which was rooted in a strict contrapuntalist style but with excellent mastery of the timbral possibilities of the organ of the time.

Mankell was not just a respected inspector with knowledge of most of the larger new Swedish instruments for several decades. He also embarked on a study trip with organ builder Per Åkerman in 1862 to learn about traditions and trends in European organ building, not least from the contemporary French-Belgian school. He had Åkerman introduce new orchestral voices in the St James’ organ and regularly notated music that in all likelihood is based on improvisations intended to demonstrate the soloistic qualities of new organ voices.

Academic composer

Aside from some melodious string quartets and smaller-scale vocal music, Gustaf Mankell’s prodigious output is devoted exclusively to the organ or piano. The piano music is infused with elegant and lyrical character pieces, although there is still in the background the safe, if formulaic erudition that colours everything he composed. While the steady flow of new works contains few weak pieces, there is often little evidence of any higher degree of inspiration. His many larger organ works are generally based on contrapuntal proficiency with recurring sequences, which make many of them rather advanced to perform.

Successful charm, lyricism and drama awaits anyone browsing through his oeuvre, perhaps especially in certain consertante allegros and fantasies for the organs in St James’ and Gärdserum (Östergötland) churches. The most significant works are, however, the fantasies of the 1870s for two organists and twelve larger sonatas, of which the latter superficially reflect in form the emerging French organ symphony, being as they are in five parts that usually begin with a large sonata movement, followed by a lyrical movement, a minuet, a scherzo and a closing fantasy and fugue. The works of the 1870s are very much based on recycled material from earlier pieces.

Even if the most striking feature of Mankell’s oeuvre is his superior craftsmanship, it is nonetheless surprising that his achievements have not garnered more interest than they have. Historically he is of the utmost significance as a pioneer of national musical cultivation and a founder of modern Swedish organ artistry.

Jonas Lundblad © 2016
trans. Neil Betteridge

Publications by the composer

Orgelbibliothek, 1849−50.
Reglor som böra iakttagas vid preludiering, 1854.
Uppsats på hvad en orgelnist bör känna, för att, som sig bör, sköta ett honom till spelning och vård anförtrodt orgverk, Stockholm, 1864.
Album för orgelnister och amatörer, samling av lätta orgelpreludier, utgångsstycken, lätta tonstycken mm för orgel eller orgelharmonium, 1864.
Orgelmusik för kyrkan, samling af praeludier, postludier, fugor, fantasier med flere större o mindre lätt utförbara solostycken.
Orgelskola, antagen vid Kungliga musikaliska akademiens konservatorium, [mainly a translation and reworking of Jacques Lemmen's École d'orgue], Stockholm, 1867.
Studier vid orgeln, innehållande lättare o svårare tonstycken i olika stil, såväl till användande vid gudstjensten som ock till concertspel, Stockholm, 1869.


Ahnfelt, Arvid (pub.): Europas konstnärer, Stockholm, 1887.
Edholm, Dag: ‘Strindberg, Gustaf Mankell och Strand-orgeln i Jacobs kyrka: om orgelskildringar i en skärgårdsnovell’, Orgelforum, vol. 14, no. 1, 1992.
Hagström, Lars: Registreringspraxis i Sverige 1830-1880 med utgångspunkt från Gustaf Mankells orgelverk, C-level thesis in musicology, University of Gothenburg, 1997.
Hedwall, Lennart: ‘Gustaf A Mankell’, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 25. Stockholm, 1985−87.
Lindström, A.: ‘[Eulogy for] Gustaf Mankell’, Illustrerad tidning, no. 14 1880. Stockholm.
Lundgren, Adolf: ‘[Eulogy for] Gustaf Mankell’, Necken. Svensk Musiktidning, No. 7, 1880.
Norlind, Tobias: Svensk musikhistoria, 2nd ed., Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1918.
Norlind, Tobias: Musiken i S:t Jakobs kyrka och församling i S:t Jacob 1643–1943. Minnesskrift, Stockholm, 1943.
Wretman, Johan: ‘Några minnen från kyrkligt liv i Stockholm under 1860- och 1870-talen’, in Hågkomster och livsintryck av svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 4, Uppsala, 1923.

Summary list of works

Chamber music (string quartets etc.), piano music (4 collections of character pieces etc.), organ music (a vast quantity of works, including 12 large sonatas, fantasies for organ four-hands), vocal music.

Collected works

Chamber music
String quartet, E-flat major.
Fantasy and fugue, for string quartet, A-flat major.
Adagio religioso, for organ and violin, B minor, 1860.
Adagio, for obliggato organ and violin, A major, 1864.
Adagio, für chromatisches Waldhorn und Pianoforte, F minor, 1834.

Compositioner från ungdomsåren 1821–28 i Christiansfeld [music book with short dance pieces].
Fugue for piano à quatre mains, C minor, 1836.
24 Praeludien für das Pianoforte in allen Dur- und Molltonarten im strengen oder freyen Style, 1837.
24 short fantasies in all the major and minor keys, 1838.
Preludium und Fuge für das Pianoforte, E-flat major, 1850.
Introduction and fugue, E-flat major, 1856.
Allegretto espressivo, A major, 1861.
Allegro vivace, D major, 1866.
12 tone pieces: 1. Capriccio: Allegro vivace, 2. Andante religioso, 3. Allegro vivace, 4. Canzonetta, 5. Allegro scherzando, 6. Allegro brillante, 7. Scherzo, 8. Prelude and fugue, 9. Allegretto, 10. Andante serioso, 11. Menuetto and trio, 12. Siciliana melancolico, 1870–71.
12 tone pieces: 1. Allegretto, 2. Tarantella, 3. Prelude and fugue, 4. Adagio con espressione, 5. Moderato con grand espressione, 6. Menuetto and trio, 7. Allegro vivace e risoluto, 8. Prelude and fugue, 9. Moderato e sentimento, 10. Allegro con espressione, 11. Allegro affettuoso, 12. Menuetto and trio, 1871.
12 tone pieces: 1. Andante religioso, 2. Allegro energico, 3. Allegro molto, 4. Prelude and fugue, 5. Allegro moderata e con espressione, 6. Allegro vivace, 7. Menuetto and trio, 8. Allegro con fuoco, 9. Allegro pathetico, 10. Scherzo, 11. Moderate con espressione, 12. Andante con moto, 1872.
12 tone pieces: 1. Allegretto grazioso, 2. Allegro vivo e leggiero: Fughetta, 3. Allegro, 4. Prelude and fugue, 5. Allegro non troppo e sostenuto, 6. Menuetto and trio, 7. Prelude and fugue, 8. Allegro vivace e risoluto, 9. Allegro brillante, 10. Prelude and fugue, 11. Romance sans parole, 12. Menuetto and trio, 1872.
Prelude and fugue, G minor, 1875.
Prelude and fughetta, G minor, 1875.
Fantasies: C minor, F major, C minor, F-sharp major, E major.
Allegro, D minor.
Andantino espressivo, B major.

Divertissement, 1833.
12 sonatinas for organ.
16 fugues with preludes for organ.
Fantasie und Fuge, E-flat major, 1834 [version for organ 4h 1854].
Leichte Orgelpraeludien (1-5), 1834.
Preludium und Fuge, G major, 1836.
Preludium und Fuge, C major, 1836.
Preludium und Fuge, F major, 1836.
24 Orgelpraeludien zum Gebrauche beim öffentlichen Gottesdienste, 1836.
24 simple and melodic organ preludes for use at masses, 1838.
Praeludium zum Gebrauch bei Trauerfeierlichkeiten (‘Sälle äro de som sofva’), 1839.
Praeludium, A major/A-flat major, 1839.
8 Orgelpraeludier for use at public masses, 1839.
Orgelpraeludium for two manuals, G major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium, G major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium (allegretto), G major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium (andante), G major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium, E-flat major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium (andante), E major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium (moderato), E major, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium, F-sharp minor, 1842.
Orgelpraeludium, F minor, 1842.
11 short preludes for organ, no pedal, for use at evensong, 1842.
Sammlung von fugenthemas, 1843.
Fantasy and fugue, C minor, 1844.
Five-voice prelude and fughetta, D-flat major, 1845.
Prelude and fughetta, F-sharp major, 1845.
6 Preludes for use at mass: G major, F major, E-flat major, D major, G minor, A major, 1846.
Prelude and fugue, E major, 1846.
Two organ preludes organ preludes, F major, 1847.
Fantasy and fugue, A-flat major, 1847.
Prelude and fugue, A major, 1847.
Fantasy and organ fugue, B-flat major, 1847.
Fantasy and fugue, B major, 1847.
20 melodiösa organ preludes i de mest brukliga tonarterna till begagnande vid allmänna svenska gudstjensten, 1849.
10 Organ preludes, 1851.
Preludium till ‘Koral från Brödraförsaml’, 1851.
Prelude and fugue, à quatre mains, E major, 1851.
Lätta och korta orgelstycken till begagnande vid den allmänna gudstjänsten, 1852.
Preludium till ‘Kör af Beethoven’ (Tonernas vågor), 1852.
Fughetta med preludium, E minor, 1852.
Prelude and fugue, B minor, 1852.
Prelude and fugue, E minor, 1852.
Prelude and fugue, D minor, 1852.
Prelude and fugue, A minor, 1853.
Preludes and fugues, E-flat major, F-sharp minor, giss-moll, ciss-moll, ess-moll, b-moll, 1853.
Fantasy and fugue, F minor, 1853.
Fantasie und Fuge à quatre mains, E-flat major, 1854.
Examples or forms for preludes, 1854.
Instructory prelude, 1854.
Prelude and fugue, D major, 1854.
Solo prelude for Gamba 8, Fagott 8, Fleut 4, 1854.
Solo prelude with Basun 16 and Waldflöjt 2, 1854.
Solo prelude with Gamba 8 and obligat Salicional 8 & Fleut 4, 1854.
Fantasy and fugue, A-flat major, 1855.
12 fughetter for organ, 1858.
Prelude à quatre mains, G major, 1858.
Prelude and fugue, B-flat major, 1859.
Prelude and fugue, D major (the first 30 measures in the fugue by Joh. Lindberg in Åtvid), 1860.
Prelude and fugue, G major (the first 20 measures in the fugue by J L...), 1860.
Prelude and fugue, G minor (theme by J L ...), 1860.
Adagio (for Gerdserum’s model organ), C minor, 1860.
Minne från Gerdserums kyrka, nemligen Fantasie för dess ypperliga solostämmor, samt slutfuga för besagde mönsterverks samtliga register, 1860?
Prelude & Fughetta, F major, 1860.
Easy preludes and fugues in the style of the famous Adolf Hesse. C major, C minor, F major, D major, E-flat major and B-flat major, 1861.
Prelude to the fugue in G minor by Bach, à quatre mains, 1861.
Two Andantes for the new Fleut harmonique in Jakob: A major & A minor, 1861.
6 Preludes and fugues: B-flat major, E-flat major, D major, G minor, D minor, G major, 1862.
Tvenne Adagios for Gamba 8 in Jakob: D-flat major and E-flat major, 1862
Praeludium und Fuge über den Namen A-d-Hess-e, D minor, 1862.
Prelude and fugue à quatre mains, F major, 1861.
Fantasy for St James’ organ’s new beautiful solo stops, F major, 1863.
Prelude and fugue, C minor, 1864.
Prelude and fugue, C major (theme by J L ...), 1864.
Prelude and fugue, G major (theme by J L ...), 1864.
Allegro concertant, E-flat major, 1865.
Allegro concertant, D major, 1865.
Prelude and fugue, F major, 1865.
Prelude and fugue, E major, 1865.
Postlude and fugue, C major, 1865.
Postlude and fugue, D major, 1865.
Concert pieces, F major, 1865.
Adagio, B major, 1865.
Adagio, E major, 1865.
Andante, F-sharp major, 1865.
Adagio, G major, 1865.
Allegro moderata e grazioso, F major, 1866.
Twelve organ pieces in braille, 1868.
Allegro concertant, E-flat major, 1870.
Scherzo and trio, C minor, 1870.
Pedaletüde, E-flat major, 1870.
Three menuets, D major, E-flat major, F minor, 1871.
Fantasy à quatre mains, C minor, 1872.
8 preludes using the organ’s solo stops: A major, C minor, F major, DE-flat major, C major, D major, F major, A-flat major, 1873.
12 chorale preludes, 1874.
Organ sonata [no. 1], C minor, 1874.
Organ sonata [no. 2], D major, 1874.
Organ sonata [no. 3], F minor, 1874.
Organ sonata [no. 4], G major, 1875.
Organ sonata [no. 5], C major, 1875.
Organ sonata [no. 6], D minor, 1875.
12 three-voiced easy and short tone pieces, 1876.
6 organ preludes for two manuals and obliggato trumpet 8 foot, 1876.
Organ sonata [no. 7], A-flat major, 1877.
Organ sonata [no. 8], A major, 1877.
Organ sonata [no. 9], F major, 1877.
Organ sonata [no. 10], E minor, 1877.
Organ sonata [no. 11], E-flat major, 1877.
Organ sonata [no. 12], G minor, 1877.
Fantasy à quatre mains, C major, 1878.
Fantasy à quatre mains, D major, 1878.
Fantasy à quatre mains, A minor, 1878.
Fantasy à quatre mains, E-flat major, 1878.
Fantasy à quatre mains, D minor, 1878.
Allegro, C major, 1879.
12 easy three-voice tone pieces, 1879.
Allegro, E major, 1879.
6 fughettas: F major, D minor, B-flat major, E-flat major, C major, C minor, 1879.
6 tone pieces: E major, G minor, E-flat major, A major, G minor, B minor, 1879.
Fantasy à quatre mains, E-flat major, 1879.
Fantasy (orig. for 4 hands), E-flat major, 1879.
Two pedal études, F-sharp minor and D major, 1880.
Pedal études, for 2 manuals E-flat major.
30 harmoniska anteckningar såsom ledning vid preludieringen.

Vocal music
Ostercantate Lasst uns in frohen Chören, für 4 Solostimmen Chor mit obligater Pianofortebegleitung, 1835.
Lobe den Herren meine Seele, with obliggato organ, 1872.
Der Gott des Friedens, with obliggato organ, 1872.
zur Pfingstpredigt, Der Geist Gottes, 1874.
So spricht der Herr, 1875.
Kommet, lasset, 1875.
Gelobet sey der Herr, 1875.
Jauchzet den Herrn alle Welt, 1875.
Lobsinget Gott (Pfingststück), 1875.
Church arias for tenor voice with obliggato organ: Det är en kostelig ting, 1876, Hjerteliga kär, 1876, Den under den Högstes beskärm sitter, 1876, Såsom hjorten ropar, 1876.

Chorale book, melodically in accordance with the Åhlström edition, harmonized and expanded with 36 German chorales previously unused in Sweden, 1839.
5 chorales, set for soprano, alto, two tenors and bass with interludes, 1840.
150 der schönsten und gebräuchlichsten Melodien aus Gregor's Choralbuch, vierstimmig gesetzt, für die Orgel mit zerstreuter Harmonie, 1841.
24 chorale melodies, melodically in accordance with the Åhlström chorale book, five parts complemented with interludes, 1842.
46 chorales, melodically in accordance with Haeffner’s chorale book, harmonised, 1843.
Chorale book, melodically in accordance with Haeffner’s chorale book, four parts complemented with interludes, 1850.
89 chorales, some Swedish and some German melodies, composed partly by Åhlström, harmonized with interludes, 1852.
Chorale book with interludes, including melodies in the Brethren congregation’s songbook, four parts complemented with harmony for organ or piano, and transposed to lower key signatures, 1859.

Copies and arrangements
A quantity of preserved transcriptions of other composers’ music that Mankell arranged and performed in various contexts, including choral sections from oratorios by Haydn, Pergolesi etc. for organ à quatre mains, contemporary German organ works and historical, including those by J.S. Bach, choral works by Beethoven, songs, and compositions by E.G. Geijer, Lindblad and Berwald.