Monday, April 22, 2013

Guest blog entry: Annemarie Åström, violin

Dear Friends,

It is nice to see that this year, Finland, ironically Sweden's bitter long-time hockey rival, will be hosting several Pettersson events, some of which feature performances of the radical Concerto for Violin and String Quartet. Taking on the beyond-fiendishly demanding solo part in these performances is Annemarie Åström, who has kindly allowed me to translate (from Finnish and Swedish) a portion of her program notes for my blog. Keep up the great work Annemarie, and can we hope for a performance of the Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra featuring you in the future?!

My journey to Pettersson's music

In 1998 I was playing with the Göteborg Symphony on a tour of Germany. We were presenting only Swedish music. Two Finns, the conductor Mikko Franck and myself, were from the start a little hesitant about this fact. The concerts began with Hugo Alfvén's Midsommarvaka followed by songs by Wilhelm Stenhammar. These pieces were full of joy and beauty; they were easy to enjoy. The big surprise for Mikko and I was when we performed Pettersson's most famous work, the Symphony No. 7. Wow, what power and force filled this music! I had never heard any of Pettersson's music before and was surprised how it was possible that I could not have known about this unique and highly personal composer. This music reminded me of Shostakovich, a composer I have always liked. 

The concertmaster of the Göteborg Symphony, Per Enoksson, recommended the Concerto for Violin and String Quartet. Although Pettersson himself was a violist and violinist, I was surprised how awkwardly the solo part was written. It is also technically and musically very demanding; you really have to work hard to put it together. The quartet parts are also demanding, and therefore I wanted to have a skilled and experienced quartet with me, especially since these performances are the first in Finland. 

The musical language of this piece reminds one of the melancholy found in the music of Nordgren or Rautavaara. It is difficult to understand why Pettersson's colleague, the composer Bo Linde, whose music is so full of light, committed suicide. It would have been easy to understand if Pettersson, whose music contains so much rage and anxiety, had committed suicide. Perhaps it could be that Pettersson was able to express all these emotions through his music, while Linde sought to make others feel good through his music while forgetting to take care of himself?

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