Sunday, November 20, 2011

Petterssons gravsten

Going in...
This past weekend I found myself in Stockholm again and thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to visit Pettersson's grave. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and arriving at the Högalidskyrkan I was expecting to find a graveyard adjacent to the church. However, it soon became clear that there was no such thing, but rather a place for the deceased's ashes.

Once inside, there were gravestones floor to ceiling. It was not quite the proverbial needle in the haystack, but it was close. 

After combing through the gravestones on two floors (with assistance) I decided to call it quits for the time being. On the way out, my partner pointed out a set of gravestones on the upper most row, which were shaped differently than the others. Suddenly, I remembered from Nils Larsson's facebook photo of Pettersson's grave (which I should have brought with me in the first place). If you look carefully at the photo you can see the location of the gravestone, should you wish to visit it yourself.

I am taking my time with getting around to the Symphony No. 12, but I will post something eventually. After the audition, I now need to practice the music for the actual concert...
A lot of gravestones...
Found it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hälsningar från Norrköping!

I remember in 2000 I saw on Paul Cathen's Pettersson page that the Symphony No. 6 would be performed in Stockholm. I could only look at the announcement and wish I could be there. I had no way of getting to Stockholm; I certainly did not have the money. This morning I woke up earlier than I would normally like to, packed my backpack, and made my way to the airport. As I stepped out the door I thought to myself that what happens tonight will only last an hour, but in this hour I will be seeing live a piece I have waited to see live for over twelve years. This piece is really special to me—while in the pits of early 20-something depression I would listen to this piece repeatedly, and every time I reached the final oasis of this work, I felt renewed and purified. This music spoke to me. Nowadays, while I am hopefully more mentally sound, I still keep coming back to this incredible work.

The German program which is taking place this weekend is arguably bigger than this one. In addition to all the great music and lectures, there will be my friends from the German Pettersson community and a whole bunch of other Pettersson scholars I would like to meet. I would get to speak German, which is something I enjoy doing whenever I get the chance. However, from a practical standpoint, coming to Norrköping from Helsinki is far easier (there is a direct flight) than going to Freiberg, which from my experience requires flying to Berlin, then taking the train to Freiberg via Dresden, which further adds a good 3-4 hours of travel time.

Anyhow, despite how scary I find old propeller-driven planes, I landed in Norrköping without incident. The bus stop in the city was right next to the main library, so I stopped in to see what kind of Pettersson-related material they had. Although I have access to Vox Humana via the Naxos Music Library, I do not have access to the texts. Fortunately the Norrkoping library had the CD, so I made some copies of the texts. They also had a copy of Laila Barkefors’ book, Det brinner en sol inom oss: En tonsättares liv och verk, but unfortunately not at the main branch.

If you look at who left a comment on my last entry you can see that Christian Lindberg himself was very pleased that I decided to go to Norrköping. Well, tonight before beginning the piece he made it a point to mention (in English, no less) that he was reading on the blogs that someone traveled to this very performance and passed up a chance to go to Freiberg. Made my day!

Anyhow, to the performance. The opening was played very deliberately (and very well), particularly the lower strings. The overall effect felt like quiet, albeit tragic, determination, as opposed to sounding just gloomy or sad. Once the symphony proper got started, it became clear that the enormous difficulties Pettersson presents to the orchestra was sometimes too much. The strings overall did fine, but they sounded restrained, as opposed to the near suicidal abandon from Kamu’s strings a generation ago. The horns were unfortunately too timid and lacking in confidence, but the trumpets and especially the low brass were quite good. I personally could have used a lot more tam-tam in the first half. The section where piccolo and xylophone are doubling on that devilish lick was shaky for a while.

Criticisms aside, I got the impression that Lindberg was more interested in bringing out musicality, orchestral details and maintaining a consistent line as opposed to bringing out the desperate conflicts which this piece has in spades, especially in the first half. This was particularly apparent to me in the protracted climb to the lyrical island—rather than sounding like an increasingly exhausting trek to reach the oasis, which Kamu and even Trojahn bring out, tonight’s performance made the lyrical island (which was absolutely beautifully played) seem more like an inevitability as opposed to a hard-fought struggle. This is certainly a valid approach, albeit one that I was not necessarily expecting. Perhaps this is not want Lindberg intended; we’ll see how the studio recording turns out (which will be nice, cause tonight there were a lot of coughing people).

I managed to speak to Lindberg for a few minutes after the performance. I asked him about the future of the Symphony No. 1, and he said that further performances elsewhere are being discussed. I also asked about the future of the Pettersson cycle, and if I understood correctly the goal is to first finish everything that Segerstam did not get around to and then re-record what BIS has already released. This however, is dependent on the financial situation at BIS, which I heard is less than great.

Anyways, a huge thanks to Christian Lindberg and the Norrköping SO! Tonight’s performance is one I will not forget any time soon. Word on the street is that the Symphony No. 9 is next…

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Till Norrköping! (leider nicht nach Freiberg)

Believe it or not, there are two huge Pettersson events taking place over the next few days (3-6 November). One of them is the performance of the Symphony No. 6 in Norrköping and Linnköping under the direction of Christian Lindberg, and the other is a absolute Pettersson-lover's dream of performances and lectures in Freiberg (not Freiburg), Germany.

Although one should be eternally grateful that there are Pettersson events at all this year, let alone multiple events at the same time, I cannot help but feel like it has been a terrible misalignment of the stars that these two programs overlap and I have to pick one over the other (I suppose I'm spoiled enough to be able to go to either!). Considering the relative ease for me to go to Norrköping and how the Symphony No. 6 really has a special place in my heart, I have decided to go to Sweden. However, I really wish I could go to Germany for that excellent program. 

Nevertheless, I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow night's performance and I will write back here with my thoughts as soon as I can!