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Symphony No.1 (1857-59) 27.57
Symphony No.3 (1881) 31.35
National SO of South Africa/Mika Eichenholz
rec SABC, Johannesburg, 13-17 Sept 1999 world premiere recordings STERLING CDS-1038-2 [59.43]

Norman was a nineteenth century Swedish composer. Loosely speaking (I would not want to deny Norman his distinctive personality) Norman was a follower of Berwald. There are four symphonies (so perhaps the present disc is the first of a pair?) and four overtures.

Symphony No. 1: After the joyously bumptious romp of the Allegro Vivace (think Beethoven 7 with some deliciously Berwaldian touches in the woodwind) there comes a touching Schumann-like andantino with enough originality to bring us close to the string elegies of Grieg. The final two movements give us hints not only of the first two Schubert symphonies (delightful works, much undervalued) but also of Schumann. The latter interceded to secure the publication of Norman's Zwei Klavierstücke.

Symphony No. 3: A first movement as vigorous as the finale of Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 is succeeded by an andante of sweet originality lifted by April breezes. Only the allegretto seems to have been untouched by the sprite if inspiration. If you think of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro overture and Brahms Haydn Variations you have a reasonable approximation of the 'feel' of the finale.

Gade and Berwald will help place this fresh music caught in these eager performances as if mid-wingbeat. The orchestra is not of the topmost flight. While totally faithful to Norman's soaring elusive spirit the music would benefit from a slightly less 'shredded' edge on the strings. In general you suspect that more polish would have made this recording even stronger. As it is the two symphonies seem well enough represented and certainly there is much to take pleasure. I knew the third from a radio broadcast but hearing these two together points up that here is another discovery that will bring pleasure to those who enjoy their Berwald, their Mendelssohn and their Gade.

Recorded with support from the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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