LUDVIG NORMAN (1831-1885)
Symphony No.1 (1857-59) 27.57
Symphony No.3 (1881) 31.35
National SO of South Africa/Mika
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
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.