Jon Fredrik Törnwall (1819−1898)


Jon (Jonas) Fredrik Törnwall was born on 5 May 1819 in Överby in the northern part region of Kalmar, and died on 16 March 1898 in Linköping. He was a church musician, composer, and he wrote about music. He received his degree in music at the educational institution of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1840. He became the church organist in Västra Eneby from 1837 to 1859, and later director musices at the high school, as well as cathedral organist in Linköping and the head of the organ school in the same town.

Jon Fredrik Törnwall’s name and life’s work reminds us that Swedish music history cannot be written solely from the perspective of the cultural centre of Stockholm. Many interesting personalities and numerous significant achievements belong to the country as a whole. Jon Fredrik Törnwall’s work is part of the broader story of the development of music in Sweden.


Jon Fredrik Törnwall was born in 1819 in Överby, Törnsfall’s parish in the northern part the region of Kalmar − he took his name from the parish in which he was born. His parents were Jan Jönsson, soldier and farmer, and his wife Anna (neé Svensdotter). Törnwall’s father died in 1822. His mother, now left alone with two young sons, soon married a crofter from the same parish.

Jon Fredrik Törnwall’s first musical instrument was the violin and the music teacher from the parish church gave him violin lesson. At the age of 15, he moved to Hjorted, also in the region of Kalmar, in order to learn from the organist Johan Tribler (1799−1870). Through Tribler, Törnwall received his introductory schooling in organ and theory of harmony. He then continued his studies in Linköping under the cathedral organist, Eric Dahlman (1776−1854).

In 1837 at only age 18, he became organist and church song leader in Västra Eneby just east of Kisa, a position he kept until 1859. Not only did Törnwall himself then move into the parish music leader's official house, he also brought his mother and younger brother, Gustaf, who had also studied organ with Tribler. In 1840 he completed a degree in music. In the same year, Jon Fredrik Törnwall married Elisabeth Knutsson (born in 1823). The couple went on to have two daughters.

In 1859 he was appointed cathedral organist in Linköping as well as obtaining a job teaching music at the town’s high school. From 1869 until 1879 Törnwall was also the music teacher at the folkskoleseminariet − an institution for the education of community college teachers. Later he became rector cantus (choral leader) for Linköping's parish, director of the organ school and leader of Musikaliska sällskapet (the Musical Society, a community-based association of musicians and enthusiasts) in the same town. One can easily see that he had a central role in Linköping’s musical life, but also nationally when in 1876 he was voted in as a member of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music).

After retiring in 1888, he and his wife moved to Bankekind, and later to Lilla Tollstad in Sjögestad, just outside of Linköping. He died there in 1898. After his death the music journal Svensk Musiktidning wrote that same year, ‘His unassuming nature, calm conviviality, his hospitality and his helpfulness made him an everlasting force’.


The musical works left behind by Jon Fredrik Törnwall include both writings and musical pieces. His compositions should therefore be considered as a part of a whole that presents a broad picture of an active musical life. As a writer his published works include teaching books for singing in schools (1847, 1869), a book teaching harmony (1864) and a study book for organ (1868). Together with the rector of the folkskoleseminariet in Linköping, Christopher Anjou, he published a hymnbook (1882) that was built on the controversial idea of eliminating the bar lines in order to capture a more recitative character in the hymns. A note of remembrance at the priests’ meeting in 1902 said that Törnwall ‘strove after a noble church song, simple and unpretentious, accessible to the hearts of the people and at home on the people's lips’.

As a composer, Törnwall did not write a large number of works, but he did however write pieces for several kinds of ensembles. He composed two overtures for orchestra. A septet, a piano quartet, and three pieces for violin and piano constitute his production of chamber music. In addition he wrote a number of piano works and songs. While at Linköping’s cathedral he wrote at least four works for choir and accompaniment for larger events at the church. It is safe to assume that Törnwall wrote other works for occasional events connected to the various musical activities he was involved in. His best-known work remains the melody to ‘Lille Hans sprang ner till stranden’ (Little Hans ran down to the waterside) that, from the beginning of the 1840s, was included in many school song books.

Gunnar Ternhag © 2015
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Lärobok i sång för folk-skolor. Linköping, 1848.
Handbok för musikvänner i allmänhet
. vol. 2, Linköping, 1862.
Harmonilära. Stockholm, 1865.
Orgel-skola för orgelnistelever och elever vid folkskollärare-seminarier. Stockholm, 1868.
Hjelpreda vid undervisning i choralsång jemte Svenska Psalmbokens choral-melodier. Norrköping, 1875.
Litet om kyrkosång m.m.: i anledning af ... "Koralmelodier ... jemte inledning om rytmisk koralsång af U.L. Ullman". Linköping, 1890.
Försök till hänvisningar från 1809 års psalmboksförslag till 1819 års psalm- och koralbok jemte bilagor. Linköping, 1890.
Åter "Litet i koralfrågan": i anledn. af Rich. Noréns koraler i gammalrytmisk form. Linköping, 1892.
Konsten och ordet vid gudstjänst. Linköping, 1894.


Ett par förtjenstfulla svenska musiker − J.F. Törnwall, C.E. Södling, in Svensk Musiktidning, no. 7, 1898.
Göransson, Nils:
Sancta Cecilias tjänare i Linköping : klockare, organister, kantorer, orglar och klockspel i Linköpings tre äldsta kyrkor samt körer, sångsolister, instrumentalister, psalm- och sångdiktare, tonsättare av kyrkomusik och orgelbyggare i Linköping. Linköping, 1983, pp. 23−24.


Kinda kommuns centralarkiv, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Kungl. biblioteket, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek

Summary list of works

Orchestral works (2 overtures), chamber music (a piano quartet, septet, works for violin and piano), songs (among them Lille Hans sprang ner till stranden), choral works.

Collected works

Orchestral words
Symphony Overture in D major.
Overture in C major.

Chamber music
Quartet for violin, viola, violoncello and piano.
Septet in C minor for violin, viola, violoncello and double bass and clarinet, horn and bassoon.
Duet for violin and piano.
Minne från den lugna dalen, for violin and piano.
Rondo for violin and piano.

Gök Wals, composed and arranged for piano by J.F. Törnwall.
Two waltzws and one polka for piano. Stockholm: Abr. Hirsch, 1845.

Voice(s) and piano/organ
Five songs by Onkel Adam composed for song and piano. Linköping: P.M. Sahlströms bok- och musikhandel, 1884. 1. Barnens anlag, 2. Vilse i skog ('Två dagar gick jag i viller skog'), 3. Rosen ('Det står en ros på öde strand'), 4. Min tro ('Nej, låt mig tro'), 5. Flickan från Nordhallen ('Hör på du skog').

Choir, with and without accompaniment
Cantate öfver Lucas 2:29-30 vid Domprosten Laurenii begrafningsakt i Linköpings domkyrka den 12 april 1866, cantata.
Motett wid tacksägelsen öfver H. Majt Drottning Lovisas död uppförd i Linköpings domkyrka den 7 april 1871, motet.
Lofsång. Vid Hans Majestät Konung Oscar II:s besök i Linköpings domkyrka den 21 september 1873. För S,A,T,B till accompanjemang av orgel eller piano. Ord ur Psaltaren. Linköping: P.M. Sahlströms bokhandel, 1873, canticle.
Lofsång utförd vid invigningen av Matheuskyrkan i Linköping den 8 maj 1892. Ord ur Psaltaren. Linköping: P.M. Sahlströms bokhandel, 1892, canticle.