Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hälsningar från Norrköping! (2012)

About 67:40. 

One of the big questions regarding the Symphony No. 9 is performance time, and for those of you who have been waiting for me to post this review of the Norrköping performance, there is your answer. 

I have to admit going into this concert with a slight sense of worry. Given the extreme demands this work places on the performers, I was wondering: could they pull it off? Would there be a train wreck? Would it make “sense” in live performance? 

One thing which happened to me while listening to the performance, which does not happen to me when listening to a recording, was a real feeling of disorientation during the first few minutes. Pettersson throws several different (related) ideas at you right from the beginning, and starts spinning them. However, once I gave into this and just let the music “be,” I really lost a sense of time and everything sort of just flowed inevitably to the very end of the piece. 

As mentioned above, kudos to Lindberg for taking literally Pettersson’s performance times and tempo indications. Even though this performance took about the same time as Francis’ on CPO, I got a better sense of the music really moving along. Let’s face it, as much as I like this piece there are some really clunky sections, and in Lindberg’s hands they never overstayed their welcome; it felt like we were focusing on parts of giant puzzle, while always keeping in mind the big picture. 

The arrival of the climax after the extremely protracted “spinning” section (one before 78, for those of you with the score) was extremely well done, a real sense of culmination after a long and uncomfortable ride. The “Carmen” section sounded less “Carmen”-like and more shadowy and ghostly, thanks to some truly atmospheric contributions from percussion. The percussion did a magnificent job, sounding much more confident here than last year in the Symphony No. 6.

The Norrköping string sections are relatively small by full-orchestra standards, and I really could have used a lot more string sound in the performance. This of course can be fixed in the recording. But an extra special mention for the strings, as they went for it. Like the percussion, I got a sense of tentativeness from the strings in last year’s performance of the Symphony No. 6, but this time around, they dug in an attacked the music. Yes, I could have used a bigger sound, there were intonation issues and not every note was hit, but way to go guys!

And of course congrats to Christian Lindberg for keeping this massive piece together and with a real sense of musical purpose. Believe it or not, the work got a standing ovation. And guess what is coming next year in the Pettersson/Lindberg/Norrköping collaboration? Symphony No. 4 and 16!

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