ALLAN PETTERSSON: Concerto No. 1 for Strings – Swedish Radio Sym./Stig Westerberg; Sym. No. 12 – Stockholm Philharmonic/ Chorus/Carl Rune Larsson – Caprice

by | Jan 3, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

ALLAN PETTERSSON: Concerto No. 1 for Strings – Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Stig Westerberg;  Symphony No. 12, “Los muertas de la plaza” for mixed choir and orchestra – Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus/Uppsala University Chamber Choir/Carl Rune Larsson – Caprice Records CAP 21369, 75:15 [distr. by Qualiton] ****:

I first became familiar with the odd, somewhat derivative, but wholly compelling Swedish composer, Allan Pettersson in an old DGG vinyl recording of his "Symphony No. 8" with the Baltimore Symphony and Sergiu Commissiona.

Then, and now; with this CD re-release of his Symphony No. 12 and a new recording of the Concerto No. 1 for Strings, I found the music of Allan Pettersson to be dramatic, isolated, reminiscent of several other composers and, yet, unique, all at once.

Pettersson (1911-1980), was a violist with the Stockholm Philharmonic and a child of poverty, coming from a family with no defined musical connections. As a young man, he studied theory and composition with Karl Birger Blomdahl and Arthur Honegger. As a composer, his output – which includes 16 symphonies, a Viola Concerto and two violin concertos – has been played sporadically throughout Scandinavia but not nearly as often elsewhere.

This new Caprice release provides an excellent way to get to know the highly talented Swedish eccentric. The Concerto No. 1 for Strings is a very technically demanding piece filled with complex rhythms and small groups of harmony and ‘cluster chords’ for effect. This is a dramatic expansive work that sounds a bit like Ligeti in places. The strings of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Stig Westerberg, play very well and the work’s wide range of frenetic energy and sudden shifts of emotion are conveyed throughout.

Pettersson’s Symphony No. 12 – The Dead in the Square is a large scale, dramatic work that bears more than a little thematic similarity to the Shostakovich Symphony No. 11. The piece was commissioned by Uppsala University and conductor, Carl Rune Larsson, in 1974, seeking a "work with topicality in a deep sense". Pettersson chose large forces, including choir, and a work, "The Dead in the Square" by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The writing is, appropriately, picturesque and runs the emotional gamut from stirring to peaceful to frightening. Two sections, ‘The Men of Nitrate’ and ‘Death’, are particularly noteworthy examples. The combined forces of the Stockholm Philharmonic and Chorus under Larsson’s baton perform wonderfully.

This disc is a very good introduction to Pettersson’s output and illustrates the point that there have been many, many excellent composers who never become very well known outside of their own time and place, but who deserve to be.

— Daniel Coombs

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