Preben Nodermann (1867-1930)


Preben Magnus Christian Nodermann was born in Hjørring, Denmark on 11 January 1867 and died in Lund on 14 November 1930. The family moved to Sweden in 1871. After graduating from secondary school, he studied at Lund University and served as organist, becoming the music director at Lund Cathedral from 1903 to 1930. In 1911 he successfully defended his doctoral thesis in hymnology. Nodermann was also active as a secular composer and published singing and dancing games and folk tales. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1921 and received the royal medal Litteris et artibus in 1923.

Photograph by Per Bagge, 1924. (Svenskt Porträttarkiv)

A multi-talented musician

Preben Nodermann was a versatile and talented person. A list of his fields of interest would be extensive. Such a summary was made in a longer characterization of Nodermann by a German journalist in Berliner Börsen-Courier 4/9 1908; it had an air of admiration and a certain affinity for Nodermann as a: linguist, folklorist, pianist, book collector, scholarly writer, opera librettist, composer of folk songs, operas and operettas, as Lund Cathedral’s music director and, in short, an eccentric and a singular person.

Several sectors of his activity within Swedish musical life include:

  • Music for the stage.
  • Music for children and youth.
  • Secular instrumental and vocal chamber music.
  • Church music with choral conducting and research.

Studies and scholarly output

His university studies included the subjects of geology, Germanic languages and aesthetics. For his licentiate degree in aesthetics his thesis concerned a Swedish 17th century drama. In parallel, he devoted himself to his own advancement in music as a student of the Danish composer Otto Malling. Nodermann hoped to have a breakthrough as an opera composer and he had the financial means to further his interests. When this turned out to be unrealistic, he became a teacher in Malmö and then applied for, and received, a newly created position as the music director at Lund Cathedral. The appointment was fraught with difficulties: it was claimed that several experienced church musicians with what was said to be a more adequate education appealed the decision. He remained in this job until his death in 1930.

Preben Nodermann now deepened his hymnological knowledge, which resulted in his doctoral dissertation, Studier i svensk hymnologi in 1911 and a chorale book published in close connection with the linguist Fredrik Wulff. Here he advocated for certain modernizations and simplifications based on those of J.C.F. Haeffner . Nodermann did not have a very high opinion of a congregation’s ability to learn new melodies and rhythms. Thus he stood in opposition to the Kyrkosångens vänner (Friends of Church Song), an association with newer ideals. The debate around these principles was intense.

Musical activities

Nodermann’s accomplishments include the establishment of a regular church choir in 1904, and the publication of the series Lunds Domkyrkas körsånger (Lund Cathedral's choral songs). The content covers different types of worship services, the church year’s different periods, and songs – a cappella or with instrumental accompaniment. He worked as a composer, but even more so as a publisher. Maintaining the liturgy and other worship music was one side of his work, but he also received allocations for church concerts during the weekdays. However he took a restrictive approach to secular concerts in the cathedral. On the perpetually present issue of the organ’s condition he spoke up, of course, but it was not as an organist that he earned his reputation.

In addition to composing sacred music Nodermann also published children’s song and song games as well as instrumental and vocal chamber music – often with a pedagogic goal. During his time as a teacher in Malmö he had the students perform his arrangement of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

Operas and operettas by the cathedral music director occupied a special place in Lund’s musical life and his enthusiastically produced opera performances attracted interest. Nodermann gathered people from the city’s music circles in his home environments of Gullebo and Bokebo where he gladly presented his own works as well as Così fan tutte and The Tales of Hoffmann. These concerts became a surrogate for his lack of an international music career.

The one-act play, König Magnus, with motifs from the Swedish middle ages, was performed in Hamburg where the criticisms were disheartening. The same fate befell Gunnlögs saga with themes from Icelandic sagas. It was given in concert in Copenhagen in 1927 where the operetta Prins Inkognito had been performed in 1909. The work was never played in a professional context after that. Nodermann’s style was Post-Romantic with a Scandinavian flavour, but lacked any distinctive traits.

He worked diligently within the ethnological sphere, which became his main interest during his later years. The overview Folksagorna: En orientering was supposed to include five parts. Only four parts of around 700 pages were completed during 1928−30 before the author’s energy ran out. This interest had followed him for many years; even at the age of eighteen he had managed to collect more than 100 books of fairy tales.

The culmination of his collecting craze, however, was the building up of a library that included scores, piano scores and librettos; certainly Sweden’s largest private collection and of great value. The public radio broadcaster, Sveriges Radio has acquired the library.

In 1900 Nodermann founded the publishing house, Sydsvenska bok- och musikförlaget, which gave out his compositions and edited pieces. The company closed down upon Nodermann’s death.

Carlhåkan Larsén © 2016
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Publications by the composer

Snöhvit. Sagospel för barn i tre bilder på vers, Malmö, 1901.
Före profåret. Studier och rön från en tvåårig lärareverksamhet, Lund, 1902.
Studier i svensk hymnologi, diss., Lund, 1911.
1911 års Psalmboksförslag. En granskning ur meterklassynpunkt, Kristendomen och vår tid, vol. 8, 1913.
Betlehems stjerna. Julkantat (textbook), Lund, 1915.
Ett nytt uppslag i psalmboks- och koralfrågan [together with Fredrik Wulff], Lund, 1916.
Kyrkosångsfrågan. Strödda erinringar [together with Fredrik Wulff], Lund, 1917.
Slutpåminnelser i psalmboks- och koralfrågan [together with Fredrik Wulff], Lund, 1918.
Församlingens kyrkosångsbok. Testamentariska erinringar [together with Fredrik Wulff], Lund, 1922.
En uppgörelse med K.S.V. /Kyrkosångens Vänner/-systemet. Reflexioner i koralfrågan med anledning av John Moréns koralbok 1922 [together with Fredrik Wulff], Lund, 1923.
Liturgi, en tids- och stridsfråga [together with Fredrik Wulff], Lund, 1928.
Folksagorna. En orientering, 4 books, Lund 1928−30.
‘En bortglömd librettist: Jean-Nicolas Bouilly’, Musikkultur, no. 3 1928.

And additionally a string of small publications with statistics and debate articles on Swedish hymns and chorales.


Asketorp, Bodil: ‘Nordermannska samlingen i Radiohuset’, in: Melos och logos. Festskrift till Folke Bohlin. Skellefteå: Artos, 2011, pp. 21−34
Bengtsson, Nils Otto: Preben Nodermann – legend i Lund, Lund: Gamla Lund, 1988.
−−−: Värdig musik även på vardagar. Konsertlivet i Lunds domkyrka 1902−1932, C-level thesis in musicology, Lund University, 1984.
−−−:Norlind inifrån: ur korrespondensen med Preben Nodermann’, in: Om Tobias Norlind: en pionjär inom musikforskningen, Lund, 2004, pp. 13−22.
Larsén, Carlhåkan: ‘Så har man roat sig i staden’, in: Lunds historia – staden och omlandet, vol. 3, Modern tid: Där tankar möts, Lund: Lunds kommun, 2012.
Mark, Peeter: ‘Preben M C Nodermann’, in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 27, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1990−91.
Moberg, Carl Allan: Kyrkomusikens historia, Stockholm: Diakonistyrelsen, 1932.
Norlind, Tobias: ‘Musik och studentsång i Lund’, in: Under Lundagårds kronor: minnen upptecknade av gamla studenter, vol. 1, Lund: Lund University, 1918.
Olsson, Nils Ludvig: Min stad: minnen från sekelskiftet, Lund: Gleerup, 1957.
Posse, Amelie: Kring kunskapens träd, Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1946.
Rodhe, Edvard: ‘Lunds domkyrkas historia 1894−1945’, in: Ernst Newman (ed.), Lunds domkyrkas historia 1145–1945, vol. 2, Stockholm, 1946.
Rydén, Per: Lunds domkyrkoorglar, Lund: Domkyrkorådet, 1992.
Wahlström, Gunnar: Orglarna i Lunds domkyrka, Lund: Giant Record, 1977.
Wiberg, Albert: Den svenska musikhandelns historia, Stockholm: Svenska musikhandlareföreningen, 1955.
Wrangel, Ewert & Efraim Briem: Högtidsstunder i Lunds domkyrka: 800-årsjubileet den 17–18 sept. 1923: berättelse och tal, Lund: Gleerup, 1924.
Wulff, Fredrik: ‘Hågkomster från Lunds högre musikliv 1866−1901’, in: Under Lundagårds kronor: minnen upptecknade av gamla studenter, vol. 1, Lund: Lund University, 1918.


Preben Nodermann’s personal papers are archived in the Lund University Library.  Documents on his saga studies are at the Kulturhistoriska museet (Kulturen) in Lund. The collections of hymns, choir songs, etc. are stored in the Lund Cathedral.

Summary list of works

Operas (König Magnus, 1898, Gunnlögs saga, 1927), operettas (Prins Inkognito i Jungfrustaden,1909), instrumental works, solo songs, children’s songs.

Collected works

Musical dramas
Kong Magnus. Operabillede i en Akt (B. Mörner; Danish trans. by comp.), piano vocal score, København, 1894. König Magnus, German trans. by comp.), piano vocal score, Khvn and Leipzig, 1897. German libretto, 1897.
Gunnlögs saga, opera in three acts (K. Stjerna, German trans. by comp.), piano vocal score, 1900.
Prins Inkognito, operetta in 3 Acts (Danish text, also ‘Sang-Udtog’), piano vocal score, 1909. German edition: Die Jungfernstadt (trans. G.R. Kruse), 1912, new ed. 1921. Libretto (in Swedish), 1924.
Rokoko, Komische Oper in einem Aufzug (text by comp., German text: G.R. Kruse), piano vocal score, 1918.

Arrangements and editions of musical dramas
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeus (libretto: F.R. de Calzabigi, with Swedish text), libretto, 1903, new editions 1906, 1912.
Ferdinado Paër: Diana und Endymion. Dramatische Kantate (with Swedish text), 1919.
Albert Lortzing: Rolands Knappen. Märchenoper in 3 Aufzügen (with Swedish and German text), 1920.

Karnevalsmarsch (for wind choir, piano vocal score), 1890, new edition. Malmö, 1892.
Elskovsvals (from Prins Inkognito), Copenhagen, 1909.

Preludes for worship services (1), 1905.
Small chorale preludes for worship services (2), 1905.
Preludes and postludes for worship services (3,) 1906.
Preludes for worship services (4), 1907.
Preludes for worship services (5), 1909.
Preludes for worship services (6), 1915.
Preludes for worship services (7), 1915.
Preludes and postludes for worship services (8), 1929.

One voice and piano

Tvenne romanser ur ‘Nordiska skymningssagor’ (C. Löfving), 1887.
Du är min sångmö /Med första rosen (A. Toll resp. B. Mörner), 1892, in: Från Lundagård och Helgonabacken, 1892.
Drapa, for tenor baritone (C. Löfving), 1893.
Stolts jungfrun hon sitter i konungens sal (C. Löfving), in: Svenskt sång-album I, 1893.
Song from the Christmas cantata Betlehems stjerna (God jul, Hälsning från KFUM), 1895.
Lifvets färd (C. Boberg), in: Sanningsvittnet, 1897.
Kärleksförklaring, sångvals (with Swedish and German text), 1919.
Stens visor (A.T. Gellerstedt, with German trans.), 1922.
Solskenets visa och 10 andra visor, 1968.

Choir − unison or in parts, a cappella or with accompaniment
Till Norden (comp.), in: Sånger för mansröster, 6, pub. by Sällskapet för qvartettsångens befrämjande, 1892.
Barcarole (A. Toll), in: Sånger för mansröster, 8, 1894.
Andliga körsånger för hemmet, 1905.
Vid grafven. Kända körsånger i trestämmig bearbetning, 1906.
Three-part songs for female voices (with German trans.), 2 books, 1916, 1923.
Reformationsvesper (unison choir), 1917.
Five men’s quartets, 1918.
Sveriges väl, for men’s choir (comp.), 1926.
Krist är uppstånden, song for three-part mixed choir and organ, 1929.

Most of Nodermann’s choral music and liturgical music, composed or published by the composer, has been reprinted in the series Lunds domkyrkas körsånger, a series of 109 issues in 51 books, 1905—1929. The specifics can be found in the Svenskt biografiskt lexikon.

Other church music
Ny svensk koralbok, på Hæffners grund, utgiven av Preben Nordermann i samarbete med Fredrik Wulff, 1911.

Music for children and young people
Martina, Jennytwo character pieces for piano 4 hands, Stockholm, 1892.
Six simple songs for children (Z. Topelius), Stockholm, 1892.
Four songs for children (A.T. Gellerstedt), Lund, 1900, 2nd ed. same year.
Five songs for chilren (Z. Topelius with German trans.), 1900.
Six songs for chilren, ord af Topelius, 1900.
Sånglekar, pub. together with Kristina Nilsson and Augusta Ljungström, vol. 1−2, 1904−05.
Ungdomskörer för högre allmänna läroverk, 1905.
Nine violin serenades for children and youth, 1905.
Two violin duets for children and youth, 1905.
Christmas songs in three-part settings for girls’ schools, 1910, 2nd ed.1911, tillökade upplagor, 3−5, 1915−23.
Morgonpsalmer för skolorna, 1918, four further editions, 2nd ed. n.d., the three last editions 1923, 1924, 1929.

Works by Preben Nodermann

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 1