With this superlative 1999 recording by violinist Isabelle van Keulen with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard, the Swedish modernist Allan Pettersson's late Second Violin Concerto receives its first digital recording. The only previous recording on Capriccio from 1980 had been performed by the forces that gave the work its premiere early that year, violinist Ida Haendel with the Swedish Radio Symphony under Herbert Blomstedt, and it stood inviolate for almost 20 years until the arrival of this disc.
Andreas K. W. Meyer’s notes provide a timeline for the life of Allan Petterson (1911–1980), “orchestra violinist, composer, oddball.” In any event, he cast his Second Violin Concerto in one, almost hour-long, movement (the recording has been divided into 10 tracks for those who might want to study specific sections). Its elfin opening, with swirling tonal parts in the upper registers surrounding the stratospheric solo, provides little preparation for the dense textures to come. If these seem to lack transparency, listeners should be aware that van Keulen and Dausgaard play the Concerto in a “revised version,” in which the composer supposedly significantly lightened the original.
I must admit that before I began this survey, I had never listened to this piece. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was anticipating that it would be recognizably Petterssonian from the outset, perhaps strident string writing reminiscent of the string orchestra concertos, accompanying a choir (which is struggling to be heard above the tumult). The first time I heard the opening two movements I double-checked to make sure that I was actually listening to Pettersson and not Rosenberg, the other composer on this disc. Although in some of the later movements it is clear that we are listening to Pettersson……allanpettersson100.blogspot
With a few exceptions, the music Pettersson composed after his nine-month hospital stay (1970-1971) are characterized by a mood of almost unrelieved rage. This 1978 is NOT one of the exceptions, even though it was composed after Pettersson was granted free housing by the Swedish government. (His polyarthritis had made him literally a prisoner of his earlier, depressing fourth-floor apartment.) Even the fact that for the first time in his life he was living in pleasant surroundings and considered this time the happiest in his life did not mitigate this great anger. After all, he had lived with the arthritis for 25 years, and now was stricken with cancer. This symphony quotes the same song that Symphony no 6 was built on……..
Allan Pettersson composed his Ninth Symphony in 1970, two years after the Seventh had been given a triumphant première conducted by Antal Dorati. This had brought him greater recognition than ever before, but at the same time his health was deteriorating even further, and shortly after completing the Ninth Pettersson was hospitalized for a period of nine months. It is striking that he at such a time should have chosen to compose what is the longest of all …..
Among the symphonies by Allan Pettersson, the Seventh is often accorded a special importance, partly because of the immediate success it enjoyed at its first performance, in 1968, but also because it has come to be perceived as more closely associated than other works with the personal life of its composer. As a result, Symphony No.6, which was premièred less than a year before the seventh, has come to be overshadowed by its successor. It is …..