Monday, May 30, 2011

Symphony No. 8 (1968-1969)

Sorry for the delay. Sometimes it is a little too optimistic to think I can manage one major entry each week. Anyhow…

Despite the great success of his Symphony No. 7, Pettersson actually had to wait quite some time before his subsequent symphony was premiered. The first performance of this work took place on 23 February 1972 with Antal Dorati leading the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the dedicatee of the work. By this time, Pettersson’s Symphony No. 9 had already been premiered and the composer had endured and survived a 9-month hospital stay. 

Similar to the Symphony No. 3, the Symphony No. 8 is a divided into parts, although it would not be correct to call the two parts “movements.” (Nevertheless, I’ll be calling these parts movements at times for the sake of convenience.) I am sure that several of you will disagree with me on this one, but despite its surface accessibility and repeated listening over many years, I still find this piece to be elusive. 

With few exceptions, I hear Pettersson’s music as taking place on internal battlefields; the conflicts representative of the struggles within. Although this work is clearly that of Pettersson, I hear it as more “external,” as if Pettersson were describing something from a third person point of view. Accordingly, I feel a certain sense of detachment in this work. Perhaps Pettersson wanted to explore different musical directions in this piece, something certainly not unheard of in the history of the symphony. While the first part works well enough, despite the “detachment” I feel, the second part is considerably more problematic. 

Similar to the previous three symphonies, an introductory section opens the work. However, not only is this introductory section the longest compared to its predecessors, there is also a noticeably absent sense of gloom, oppression, desolation, and grief. Over a gently oscillating accompaniment (an continuous string of eighth notes), the violins sing perhaps the longest unbroken melody in Pettersson’s entire output—a vast horizon.  Woodwind doublings come and go, adding color and reinforcement, but the line always remains. A slight hint of grief may be present, but aside from occasional commentary from tremolo ponticello strings, there is little sense of darker undercurrents. 

The music arrives at a rich (by Pettersson standards at least), beautifully suspended Gb major chord. Now the long melody moves to the low-middle register, taken up by violas and clarinets. A steady percussion march provides an increased sense of momentum, but there is no sense of impending catastrophe.  Violins and upper woodwinds re-enter the landscape. The music continues to build, unthreateningly so (listen to the entrance of the xylophone), leading to an almost blindingly bright sunrise, arriving again at Gb major, this time radiantly so.  

Beautifully delicate string writing suggests the sun fading into the distance. An accelerando passes through, but the music never becomes agitated. Another arrival at Gb major, followed by a transitional chorale, leads to the return of the oscillating accompaniment figure. Violins and flutes lead the music, providing a line while engaged in a contrapuntal interplay. The opening melody returns, this time played by violas and cellos. A solo flute plays a countermelody, alternating between beautifully consonant and mildly unsettling (listen to the “wrong notes”). Quiet triplets in the clarinets add a subtle tension to the eight note accompaniment. Another transitional chorale, with harmonic motion based on third relationships, along with drawn out tones of E-F, bring the opening section to a close. 

The E-F motive opens the “movement” proper. Over a steady harmonic background (essentially moving between I and V in bb minor) the E-F motive is repeated obsessively, although between each statement of this motive the music tries to wander off. The music quickly increases in intensity, volume, and density of orchestration, but the core E-F is always there. Violas, then cellos, sing a long melody as the music moves away from the storm. The E-F returns.

The accompaniment figure from the opening returns, this time clearly agitated. The music quickly builds up again to a storm, but subsides, leaving the E-F motive. This time, however, we have not entered calmer territory. A steadily increasing assault of percussion leads to a transitional passage featuring xylophone and the accompaniment figure, quietly rumbling. When this wave passes the opening melody returns, now in the violins. Here the orchestral backdrop is much more active, swirling restlessly around the melody—not necessarily an assault, but certainly a distraction.  The final climax of this “movement” arrives, although there is little sense of culmination or catharsis. The music simply calms down into a drawn-out bb minor, and the E-F motive returns, although sometimes buried in the orchestral fabric.
The second part of the symphony is more problematic. Although I never get the sense that Pettersson is not in control of his material, there are many stretches of this part which sound unfocused and unnecessarily long-winded (maybe I’ll say this again when I talk about the Symphony No. 9). Anyhow, it starts out promisingly enough. Similar to the first part there is a slow introduction which opens the musical gambit. A threatening gesture in low strings and woodwinds is answered by violas, horn and bass clarinet—climbing, then coming back down. A distinctive rhythm is played by the tenor drum. When I hear this music I cannot help but imagine it accompanying a film where we see our protagonist, sword and shield in hand, survey the distant battlefield under an oppressive grey sky. Anyway…the music gradually increases in intensity, leading up to a culminating falling half-step scream and tam-tam crash, thus concluding the opening section.
The “movement” proper begins with a quiet march at increased tempo in ab minor. The viola/horn/bass clarinet gesture is played again, this time sounding more desperate rather than threatening. Although the tempo does not increase, the music quickly picks up momentum and enters the storm. A brief lull introduces a swaying motive, first heard in descending motion but soon heard again ascending. As the storm resumes, another important idea is introduced, based on natural harmonics in the violins. Steady-fire snare and tenor drum lead the music through.
Following this wave the music enters somewhat queasy territory, with strings exchanging the distinctive tenor drum rhythm heard in the introduction. Other instruments join the fray, as the orchestral texture thickens. The swaying motive states itself forcefully in trumpets and horns, then moving to other sections of the orchestra.
At the conclusion of this wave a new idea is heard, a rising gesture built upon major thirds. The string harmonics return. The music moves into a march, accentuated by shrill piccolo attacks and slashing solo strings. Over this background Pettersson introduces a repeated note motive. The music assumes a quietly threatening, anticipatory feel. Now the rising gesture and the repeated note motive take over. The music resumes its threatening feel. In this section I feel Pettersson gets stuck and wanders a little.
Eventually, Pettersson brings back the E-F motive. This time around, however, he does not build up the music to a frenzy around this, but rather gives us a brief reminder of this idea then moves back to the primary material of this “movement.” From this comes the biggest and most satisfying climax of the work. The percussion emphatically hammer out a variation of the tenor drum rhythm heard at the outset, accompanying trumpets playing repeated notes. Low brass and horns moving in contrary motion lead the climax, cathartic, broad, perhaps nobly tragic (the arrival on the major seventh is particularly effective). Rather than taking us into a final denouement, Pettersson leaves the climax with a question mark, and from here the movement slowly (and in my opinion rather long-windedly) winds to a close.
For the next several minutes, material from both parts (including the E-F motive) come and go, circling somewhat aimlessly. The music builds to one more climax before entering the final phase: an ab minor island of resignation, heard three times before finally “giving up” on the symphony.
As a Pettersson fan I cannot help but think that perhaps there is something wrong with me for finding this symphony, especially the second part, vaguely unfulfilling. In the liner notes for the CPO recording, Andreas KW Meyer talks about how the protracted conclusion to this symphony is reflective of the fact that to Pettersson music was a refuge from the harsh reality of existence, and that here his resistance to bringing the symphony to a close was a kind of attempt to stay in the sanctuary that music provides. Thinking about it this way, the music assumes a greater poignancy, and those ab minor islands which concludes the symphony really does feel like tragic resignation, as if Pettersson knows he cannot resist any longer and that returning to the reality of his life of confinement and physical pain was inevitable.
Well guys, I’d love to hear you chime in and tell me what I’m missing here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recordings: Symphony No. 7

The Symphony No. 7 is, to the best of my knowledge, the most recorded work in Pettersson’s entire output. In fact, this work might be the among the most recorded symphonies written in the second half of the twentieth century. After Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Vaughan Williams, who else wrote a numbered symphony during this time period that has fared so well on disc? If you are a fan of this work, you are truly spoiled for choice. Now, if we could just get another recording of say Schnittke’s Symphony No. 3, Tubin’s Symphony No. 8, or maybe Saygun’s Symphony No. 5…

If we count Lindberg’s live recording with the Guerzenich Orchester, we have a total of five recordings of this work. Now, just because one is spoiled for choice, it does not mean that all of the options are necessarily worth your while. With so many recordings available I thought it would be informative to start out with some timing comparisons, and then I’ll go through each recording in a little more detail.

Below I’ve indicated the approximate time when each conductor reaches a specific point in the work. 4 after Rehearsal 3 is the start of the symphony proper, 2 after Rehearsal 30 is the major climax, and Total means the total performance time.

Conductor        4 after Rehearsal 3    2 after Rehearsal 30  Total
Dorati               3:02                             14:58                           40:20
Comissiona     2:17                             15:21                           42:00
Albrecht            2:40                             16:32                           44:35
Segerstam       2:57                             15:40                           46:26
Lindberg           2:52                             15:40                           44:12

Symphony No. 7
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Antal Doráti, conductor
Swedish Society Discophil SCD 1002

Dorati’s recording of the Symphony No. 7 carries a mark of authenticity as the first recording of this work, most likely prepared in close collaboration with the composer. Despite the authoritative nature of this document, it doesn’t quite compare to Comissiona’s or Segerstam’s subsequent efforts.

The introductory section is played with such clinical purposefulness that the darker, more oppressive aspects of this opening seem to be left out a bit. To me it sounds like a stoic, methodical tread to the upcoming conflict. Looking at the timings above, you can see that Dorati reaches the major climax well before everyone else, and this is quite noticeable—parts of the symphony proper really fly by, perhaps more so than they should. When the tempo slows down again, namely at the full orchestra chorale before the major climax, the music again sounds extremely purposeful.

Overall, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic plays very well. The sound is really quite dry, but that is not unexpected given the age of the recording. The woodwinds do have this weird watery vibrato at times, and the trombone glissandi sound a bit sleazy at times—maybe they were playing Lady Macbeth of Mtensk recently or something. Although there are better recordings available, this version is nevertheless important for its historical value. 

Symphony No. 7
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sergui Comissiona, conductor
CAP 21411
If there is such a thing as a desert island recording of this work, it might well be the Comissiona. To my ears at least, in many ways Comissiona brings out the ideal Pettersson orchestral sound. Listen to how Comissiona finds the perfect blend between instruments in Pettersson’s doublings—a unified sound, yet the individual character of each instrument comes through. Also notice the tuba in the symphony opening (one measure after rehearsal 3), or how the b min trombone motive is played with just the right combination of distance and presence. The ascending journey to the sun after the major climax is a real struggle, and the following section has wonderfully rich, yet restrained strings and present, but shadowy yet clear percussion.

Excellent playing throughout by the SRSO (from a live performance!), good recorded sound, somewhat skimpy notes, and an odd coupling (Mozart Bassoon Concerto) round out this package. A must for Pettersson fans, and anyone looking for an introduction to the composer.

Symphony No. 7
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg
Gerd Albrecht, conductor
CPO 999 190-2
After one listen to Albrecht’s version I found myself unconvinced, and after closer examination several years later I still find this recording lacking in several aspects. It is rather strange that most of the reviews I have seen regarding this recording are generally positive. One of the first things that I noticed was the surprisingly rough playing of the orchestra. This is the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, which I believe is the pit band of the Hamburg Opera. These guys are not hack jobs, so I was really surprised at how technically unconfident they seemed here. For example, listen to the intonation of the violins at the first climax of the symphony proper, or the poor ensemble of the violas, horns, and clarinets playing the chromatic motive shortly thereafter.

The other major issue here is Albrecht’s inability to sustain the music’s tension at his choices of tempo. If you look at the timings above, Albrecht is on the slow side, although not nearly as slow as Segerstam (see below). The symphony begins promisingly enough, with a real sense of intense concentration, to paraphrase Mark Shanks, but to my ears there is a clear sense of something amiss. Once the symphony proper gets going, Albrecht sounds a bit lumbering and clumsy rather than focused and desperate. Maybe this could have been something if Albrecht had time to take the band back to the studio and tidy some things up, but it is possible to produce an amazing live recording of this work (Comissiona, see above).

Nevertheless, serious collectors or fans of this work should at least be familiar with Albrecht’s take. It comes with easily the best liner notes of the available recordings, and despite the lack of coupling, it can be purchased quite inexpensively from CPO.

Symphony No. 7
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Leif Segerstam, conductor
Segerstam’s take on this work would be my second desert island choice, although I would be more inclined to call it a tie. Like Segerstam’s other installments in his unfortunately incomplete cycle, orchestral detail and clarity come to the fore. Despite the fact that Segerstam is easily the slowest compared to the competition, you never get the sense that the music drags or has lost its focus.

Some highlights of this recording include the real sense of anticipation before the major climax, the very deliberate (although not quite as strained as Comissiona) ascent to the following sunrise, and the beautiful string playing in the following section, and especially in the lyrical island, which is played so beautifully and delicately almost to the point of sounding naïve. Although the liner notes say otherwise I do think Segerstam brings out the work’s tragic aspects, in particular the lengthy episode before the lyrical island. Excellent sound, probably the best of all the available recordings, and top-notch playing by Segerstam’s Norrkoping band (this was a studio recording, so they could have fixed things in the studio!).

Symphony No. 7
Gürzenich Orchester Köln
Christian Lindberg, conductor
The final recording in the Symphony No. 7 sweepstakes is the most recent, from Christian Lindberg and the Gürzenich Orchester Köln, taken from a live recording on 20 June 2010. I am not sure if this recording is widely available for purchase—check out the Gürzenich Orchester’s iTunes site and maybe you’ll have some luck.

Anyhow, Lindberg cut his Pettersson teeth on the string concertos so I was expecting him to be able to put on a convincing performance. While I think Lindberg has a convincing conception of how he wants the music to go, his band unfortunately was not able to follow him all the way. For example, listen to how Lindberg builds up the climaxes in the first half of the symphony: steady, inexorable treads of ever increasing intensity until the tension breaks into a climax, which unfortunately are quite sloppy in this recording. The arrival of the major climax is really something, like getting hit face first with a Brucknerian “wall of sound.” Lindberg, like Segerstam, really brings out a sense of tragedy before the lyrical island.

All in all, Lindberg’s live performance is certainly preferable to Albrecht’s, but maybe with tightened ensemble and better intonation this could really have been something.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Links

Here are some more links which may be of interest to you. Unfortunately they are not in English, but if you can read these (or Google Translate them) they are definitely worth your time.

Lars Sjöberg wrote this article for the Swedish newspaper Expressen to coincide with Segerstam's performance of the Symphony No. 7 with the RSPO this past week. Mr. Sjöberg knew Pettersson and was a driving force behind the Kamu recording of the Symphony No. 6

Jürgen Lange maintains a personal Pettersson fanpage, with a lot of information about Pettersson very systematically organized. 

In the mid-1990s (1995?) Pettersson received many performances throughout Germany, and the German magazine der Spiegel provided this article about Pettersson.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A difficult decision...

Some of you might be horribly jealous to hear this, but I have actually had the privilege of hearing Pettersson's Symphony No. 7 three times live in concert. However, none of these performances will likely match the "dream-team" arrangement which is happening in Stockholm today and tomorrow: Leif Segerstam conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in Pettersson's Symphony No. 7. Also on the program are the almost illegally beautiful Vier letzten Lieder from Richard Strauss. In addition to these performances, there will be a photo exhibition featuring portraits of Pettersson by Gunnar Källström. Pretty good package.

As a serious Pettersson fan, I really do not have much of an excuse for not going. After all, Stockholm is only a 55 minute flight from here, and budget flights are available. My justification for missing this event is because here in Helsinki, unfortunately at the same time, there will be a performance of Gubaidulina's Glorious Percussion, my favorite work of hers and a deeply intense spiritual (and aural) journey. Like Pettersson, Gubaidulina is not exactly something you'll hear with the same frequency as Brahms.

However, if Segerstam were conducting say, symphonies 6, 10, or 15, then Pettersson would win. 

For those of you who will be in Stockholm to see these concerts, please let me know how they go! I really wish I could be there, but I'll accept consolation from Gubaidulina.

Monday, May 9, 2011

1000 Visitors!

Today this blog reached a milestone: 1000 visitors! I didn't think this would happen so soon, as us Pettersson fans are few and far between. Admittedly, many of these visits are myself posting updates or regular readers coming back, but still. 1000 visitors!

Thank you guys! Comments? Likes/dislikes? Too opinionated?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Symphony No. 7 (1966–1967)

Imagine the scene. It is probably a slightly chilly evening in early fall, 13 October 1968, Stockholm. A young-ish crowd fills the main auditorium of the Stockholm Concert Hall to hear Antal Doráti and the Stockholm Philharmonic in the world premiere of a new symphony by Allan Pettersson, a name which was probably unfamiliar to many in the audience. At the end of this unbroken 41 minute symphony, a mighty work of darkness, conflict, consolation, and resignation, the audience pauses silently to catch its collective breath, briefly contemplates what had just taken place, and then erupts into thunderous, ecstatic applause. Allan Pettersson, now closing in on his 60th year, in poor health and probably in constant pain, is called to the podium four times. When was the last time in the second half of the 20th century that a world premiere of an orchestral work received such a response? Maybe James MacMillan’s The Confession of Isobel Gowdie?

Although Pettersson’s previous symphonies were dutifully performed, it was not until the premiere of the Symphony No. 7 that Pettersson finally achieved meaningful, lasting recognition. The piece was soon recorded by the forces that premiered it (apparently the record was a success in the states, of all places!), taken on tour to East Germany, and used in a ballet.

Although I do not feel that this work is Pettersson’s best symphony, if it were not for the success of this piece Pettersson might have become one of those composers who received regular performances during his lifetime, only to fall into complete oblivion after death. For many Pettersson fans, including myself, this symphony was my introduction to Pettersson’s music. I was immediately blown away, and have been hooked ever since.

This symphony is probably Pettersson’s most accessible. Here one doesn’t find wave after wave of ever-intensifying pain as in the Symphony No. 6, the oppressive, tension-laden near unbroken gloom of the Symphony No. 5, of the neurotic and jarring changes of mood in the first three symphonies. In this work, Pettersson employs clear lines, easily recognizable motives, a relatively ample supply of consonance, and a beautiful, healing, lyrical island.

The symphony opens with a slow introductory section, akin to the opening sections of the preceding symphonies. Bassoons, timpani, and low strings set the stage with a darkly pulsating figure based on minor ninths. Violas and clarinets enter, intoning a long, arch-shaped melody; vast, gray, and vaguely oppressive. A chromatic figure, moving downward over a narrow range, is heard. The minor ninth figure moves to the violins and upper woodwinds. A passage for pizzicato strings sets up the first climax, marked by military percussion and screaming strings. A descending chromatic lick in the clarinets takes us back to the opening accompaniment figure. Another long melody is intoned, again by violas and clarinets, with addition of horn. However, the melody this time is considerably darker (listen to the tuba accompaniment). Violins and flutes take up the line leading us briefly through b min and bb minor territory, before going back to C. The music works back downward, closing this section.

The symphony proper begins with a very simple, repeated note b min motive, played by trombones and tuba. This motive will play a crucial, pivotal role throughout the rest of the piece. At first this motive might seem mildly haunting, but it keeps coming back with such insistence that is soon becomes unsettling. Ponticello and tremolo strings enter, playing a variation of the chromatic motive. Screaming broken minor ninths in the upper strings, accompanied by snare drum, try to push the music into a frenzy, but the b min motive keeps coming back, unchanged. A broadening of tempo leads to the first climax, upper woodwinds and strings singing forcefully over a brass chorale. The whole orchestra disappears except for solo woodwinds, who play a dark, mournful chorale. The last chord wants to resolve to something, but the b min motive comes back, unchanged, starting the next wave.

Cellos and bassoons play a broadened version of the minor ninth motive, which is answered by the chromatic motive in horns and violas. A broadened version of the chromatic motive is heard in violins and upper woodwinds, again attempting to push the music into a frenzy, but every time the b min motive responds, unchanged, stoically. The entrance of tenor drum and glissando trombones begin to push the music forward, creating a sense of impending catastrophe. The entrance of snare drum and a change in percussion rhythm lead to the climax of this wave, led by horns and trumpets screaming the chromatic motive. After the music dies away, the b min motive is waiting, again, unchanged.

The following wave is more of a gradual buildup. Over a steady timpani and tenor drum rhythm, cellos play a new variation of the minor ninth motive. Violas and clarinets play a variation of the chromatic motive, this time spanning a larger range. The violins and flutes sing a very long line (to my ears based on the chromatic motive, but I could be wrong), eventually picked up by trumpet as the rest of the orchestra builds in intensity. A full orchestra swell leads to a brief climax, similar to the conclusion of the previous wave.

Tremolo violins accompany a viola section solo which could be fodder for new viola jokes: the violas, exposed, upper register, in a highly chromatic line. The b min motive comes back in, but soon becomes slightly truncated. Lower strings and bassoons aggressively pound out the chromatic motive, reinforced by timpani. This leads to the most sustained climax of the work thus far: horns and trumpets scream the chromatic motive over a forcefully assertive trombone line. Stratospheric, screaming violins and an allargando introduce a breaking point of sorts (the real one comes a little later): a full orchestra chorale of broad, tragic character. Upward trombone glissandi bring the chorale to a close and introduce a rhythmic variation of the b min motive, serving as an accompaniment while violins, upper woodwinds, and trumpet soar above.

Tremolo upper strings, accompanied by sputtering, buzzing percussion, introduce the symphony’s cataclysmic breaking point: an eruptive full orchestra chord, played at fff, harmonies shifting via chromatic voice leading. Two giant tam-tam strokes add to the sense of catastrophe. This climax clearly inspired Christopher Rouse in his Symphony No. 1, but I’ll talk about that another day. Anyway, Pettersson morphs from this climax to a blazing sunrise: the bass instruments of the orchestra swell into a bright Gb major, while the screaming violins above resolve from grinding dissonances into perfect consonance. A brief, but heartbreakingly beautiful chorale completes the transition to this next block of the symphony.

The following section is a sparse, expansive, lyrical section of mournful character, but also one of heartbreaking beauty. Pettersson does allow us to stay here for a while, but the return of sputtering percussion, along with trumpets playing parallel diminished triads, pushes the music back into conflict.

I’ll admit being blown away by this section the first time I heard it, but now I find it a little corny. I suppose this is trying to find the “song once sung by the soul.” Over a throbbing minor triad accompaniment, moving in a I-IV harmonic pattern, violins sing and soar desperately above. The return of the parallel diminished triads introduces the return of the chromatic motive, played by violins in their stratosphere register, accompanied by incessant snare drum and triangle. Solo flutes and piccolo take us back to a reprise of the lyrical section described above, this time repeated notes in the timpani provide a greater sense of forward movement.

A beautiful interlude for woodwinds leads to one of Pettersson’s most inspired moments: an achingly beautiful lyrical oasis for strings alone (in F# major, serving as a V for b min?) Like the lyrical island towards the end of the Symphony No. 6, this is a place of purity, of consonance, of freedom from pain and conflict. But the character of this island is certainly different. To me there seems to be a greater sense of innocence, as if in this world we have truly escaped any sense of pain, almost like it doesn’t exist; in the Symphony No. 6 one seems more aware of the arduous conflict which came before.

A suspended F# in the first violins separates broken phrases in the rest of the strings. These phrases become gradually softer, eventually turning into a whisper, as this oasis of beauty and relief fades to the distance. A brief chorale for the lower instruments of the orchestra introduces the return to conflict.

Over violin trills and a tenor drum roll, upper woodwinds play an angular variation of the chromatic motive. Parallel perfect fifths darken the atmosphere. The strings try to play a lugubrious song, with trumpets and flutes joining in, but this is interrupted by percussion and a swirling figure in the strings. Percussion, horns, and trumpets lead the climax of this section.

The violins try to build something, but are thwarted by percussion outbursts. A brief return of the minor ninth motive, in screaming violins, sets up an oscillating passage as the music tries to find a stable b minor. A long held F# in the violins takes us to our destination, to b minor. The violins sing a long melody of quiet sadness. A viola section solo, accompanied by snare drum, leads to one final outburst. A brief woodwind chorale leads to the symphony’s coda.

The b minor motive returns in the strings and woodwinds, but here it has a gently rocking feeling as opposed to the dark stoicism from before. A very brief glimpse of G major suggests an different direction, but a held F# takes us back to the b minor motive, again gently rocking. Over this background comes perhaps the most haunting moment of the whole symphony: piccolo and violin false harmonics sing the piece to sleep. To me it sounds like the demons are not exorcised, but in the end, they sing us to sleep. The ultimate resignation to fate?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ich liebe Berlin...

Similar to the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the website of the Berlin Philharmonie has a search engine to retrieve information from past concerts. From this I was able to find a performance of Pettersson's Symphony No. 11 by the Deutsche-Skandinavische Jugend-Philharmonie led by Andreas Peer Kähler, the conductor of the world premiere recording of the Symphony No. 5. As this is a Pettersson year I figured that Mr. Kähler wouldn't be neglecting the Swedish master, and doing a little internet research I was able to find another performance of, you guessed it, the Symphony No. 7.

Considering the fact that Mr. Kähler has performed and recorded the less-frequently performed (i.e. almost never performed) Pettersson symphonies, I was hoping that he would continue this trend and treat us to another Pettersson rarity, but I guess this was not the case. Perhaps Mr. Kähler has other Pettersson projects brewing--let's hope so.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


No way, Norway!

I have had the privilege to see the Oslo Philhamonic live once in Helsinki on a tour program with their current music director, Jukka-Pekka Saraste. I was quite impressed with their performance, and based on that concert I would say that they are certainly on a world-class level, despite their relatively low visibility on the international orchestral scene. 

Having lived in Helsinki for several years now I have regularly checked the Oslo Phil's season schedules to see if there is any rare, must-not-miss repertoire that would be worth the short flight to see. For the most part, I would not consider their repertoire of recent seasons to be anything particularly earth-shattering, so you could imagine my surprise when I saw that...

The Oslo Philharmonic is playing Pettersson this coming season!

So, place your bets! The Barefoot Songs or the Symphony No. 7? If you guessed the symphony, you win! Oslo, 22 September 2011, pretty close to Pettersson's birthday. Check it out here (pdf, page 10) 

Although it is easy for me to gripe about yet another performance of the Symphony No. 7 (I can feel the pain of Gustav Holst fans), I am hoping that this is a sign of bigger things to come. In addition to Christian Lindberg, several other conductors have recently added Pettersson to their repertoires, and perhaps they will now take up his cause and did deeper into his oeuvre and program the less frequently performed works. Jan Michael Horstmann, Jan Söderblom, Roman Kofman, Eivind Aadland (the conductor of the Oslo performance), Johannes Gustavsson, Stefan Solyom...perhaps they will become champions for the cause???