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 St James’s Church (Swedish: Sankt Jacob), Stockholm. While he wrote prodigiously for organ, he also composed music for piano and some chamber and sacred vocal music. He was elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1841. [...]
Organ performance is typically a lonely occupation. As an exception, the small body of repertoire composed for two organists provide occasions for musical co-operation with a colleague. For Gustaf Mankell, this normally rather small genre fulfilled a number of important functions. At a time when large parts of the Baroque and classical repertoire had never been heard in Stockholm, his arrangements for two organists played a vital role to make both orchestral and choral works playable to domestic audiences. Regardless whether the presence of two organist actually reinforce the sound of the organ beyond what a single musician can accomplish, there is also a certain charisma in the notion of organ duets that were instrumental to make such performances popular with Stockholm concert audiences. Mankell’s frequent performances with the Cathedral organist Carl Thorsell gained a high degree of attention in a city where chances to hear professional orchestral music remained a rare commodity. A peak in their co-operation was the first performance of Franz Berwald’s substantial but popularly crafted tone poem En lantlig bröllopsfest (“A rustic wedding”).
For similar occasions, Mankell would prepare various kinds of ancient church music, or more recent pieces such as the chorus “The heavens are telling” from Joseph Haydn’s notoriously popular oratorio The Creation. Thorsell was an advanced cellist but clearly had no pedal technique to perform larger works by J. S. Bach. Arrangements of the Leipzig cantor’s advanced pieces for two organists helped to make them more easily playable and thereby served the public’s growing awareness of this central repertoire. Besides the pedagogical purpose to introduce repertoire to audiences, arrangements and original compositions for two organists may well have fulfilled teaching ambitions within Mankell’s work at the Conservatory. The focus on manual playing are certainly helpful to students with a limited facility in pedal playing. From a musical perspective, performance together with a senior organist can serve to develop an aural sense of timing, touch, articulation and registration.
Mankell’s first composition for organ four hands date from 1851. The second example is an 1854 arrangement of an earlier Fantasia and fugue in E flat Major. To arrange and reuse pieces is typical of Mankell, a circumstance that makes a definitive chronology of his works a hazardous enterprise. Such practices are at work in the six fantasies and fugues presented in this edition. Preserved manuscripts indicate that the fantasias were composed during the years 1878 and 1879. It is possible to see how the ageing Mankell here, as in the string of large-scale Sonatas gathered together in 1874-1877, wanted to summarize his art of composition. Another reason behind his sustained interest in four hand pieces at this particular time might be surmised from two recurring dedicatees in his manuscript copies. Otto Daniel Winge (1810-1886) taught music theory at the Conservatory and had two young and talented daughters who both studied to become professional organists. While Daniella died young (1861–1885), her sister Terzetta (1864–1945) would come to serve as an organist in the Småland region for five decades.
The possibility that Mankell finished his fantasias with Winge’s daughters in mind would perhaps explain their role in his output. Far from the occasional sternness of Mankell’s contrapuntal art, these works are imbued with a notable lyricism and charm more typical of his piano pieces. Regardless whether they would have been played by the old professor and one of the talented girls, or possibly by the two of them, they provide both pleasant and stimulating material for young players eager to advance their technical and musical proficiencies. [...]
By the preface of Jonas Lundblad