CD+DVD Reviews

ALLAN PETTERSSON: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2 – Norrköping Sym. Orch./ Christian Lindberg – BIS (CD + DVD)

A remarkable completion of the composer’s First Symphony, but the work itself might prove too challenging for many.

Published on April 27, 2012

ALLAN PETTERSSON: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2 – Norrköping Sym. Orch./  Christian Lindberg – BIS (CD + DVD)

ALLAN PETTERSSON: Symphony No. 1 (completed by Christian Lindberg); Symphony No. 2 – Norrköping Sym. Orch./ Christian Lindberg – BIS 1860, 77:54; CD + DVD, “Allan Pettersson: The First Symphony” by David Lindberg, 58:30 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

Before this review I have come across Allan Pettersson’s music only occasionally. The Nielsen symphonies, or at least the flavor of them, are all I can compare it to. Well, maybe a healthy dash of Peter Mennin’s unrelenting musical movements and counterpoint makes for a more apt comparison. Pettersson was a Schoenberg fan early in his career until time spent studying with Honegger changed his philosophy, and he moved more towards an “inspiration” model of composition as opposed to Schoenberg’s more systematic—and ultimately serial—methods that seemed to Pettersson to reside in the head more than the heart.

Even so, listening to this reconstruction of his First Symphony, admirably accomplished with no easy effort by Christian Lindberg, you are left with the impression that while the technique of Schoenberg was gone there was not yet any clear sense of style that took it place. The work is placid and irritable all at once while meandering to the point of the undecipherable. To me it’s no little wonder that it was left incomplete, and its many stopping points in the score show that Pettersson didn’t know what to do with it either. Lindberg has made an accomplished effort, but even the most adroit finisher would have trouble with material that just doesn’t seem coherent.

The Second Symphony is much more sophisticated, logical, easier on the ears, but also relentlessly pessimistic in tone. [Like much of Pettersson’s music...Ed.] And at 46 minutes, with continuous music, it becomes a real chore to hear, almost like the incessant musings of a constant complainer. My head was spinning at the conclusion and emotionally I was not a happy camper, a reaction that I have only intermittently when listening to music in general and— curiously enough—never when listening to Schoenberg. So I suppose the head versus heart arguments are moot and Gustav Holst was right when he said that inspiration was 95% work.

Lindberg and forces play the music very well indeed, with the sound having a little less bloom than I am used to on BIS releases. Pettersson has 15 of these things on the books, so I guess if you are a fan you will want this for the very important completion of the First Symphony at least. The generous one-hour DVD documentary about the genesis of that symphony only adds to the desirability of this disc for the committed.

—Steven Ritter




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