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Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 7
Allan Pettersson, Gerd Albrecht, Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra
Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 7
Genre: Classical
 
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CD Details

All Artists: Allan Pettersson, Gerd Albrecht, Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra
Title: Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 7
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Cpo Records
Release Date: 1/25/1995
Genre: Classical
Styles: Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 761203919024
 

CD Reviews

Lovely Version of a Dark Masterpiece
Christopher Forbes | Brooklyn,, NY | 01/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Allan Pettersson is probably the darkest tonal composer that I know of. This Swedish composer spent most of his creative life completely unknown outside of his native Sweden, and barely known inside. Pettersson's output was considerable, 16 fairly large symphonies, most in monumental single movements, concerti, many arts songs, including his important Barefoot Songs. Most of these works recieved premieres late in the composer's life, as his stark brand of romanticism fit in neither with the more avant-garde composers in Europe at the time, nor with conservative audiences. As a result, it is only in the last 20 years, in the time of his old age and death, that Pettersson has gotten the recognition he deserves. Pettersson's work is colored by his deeply unhappy life. Born in conditions of incredible squalour, Pettersson never lived more than a precarious financial existance. And artistically, he felt overlooked and out of the mainstream. This deep bitterness invades much of his work, though there are moments of heartbreaking loveliness, all the more heartbreaking given the darkness that surrounds them. The Seventh Symphony was dedicated to Antol Dorati, who gave the first performance of the work and continued to champion the work of the composer throughout his life. It is in a single unbroken movement, as are most of Pettersson's symphonies. It begins with an agitated and highly dissonant build up for the orchestra which contrasts with moments of greater lyricism. Though much of the language is unremittingly tonal, (simple triads abound) there is a harshness and heaviness to the music that belies it's conservative tonality, much like late Shostakovitch. The construction is loose, but not as loose as other Pettersson symphonies. Motives do return often in slightly transformed guises, often brutalized in Shostakovitchian fashion. Particularly telling in the work is a passage about two thirds of the way through the work. The winds drop out and the strings are left to play a soaring, lyrical line that is almost 16th century counterpoint. It is completely diatonic, lovely and you never want it to end. Perhaps it's doubly moving since it is surrounded with bleakness on either side. It is as if Pettersson were looking regretfully at an idyllic past that can never be recaptured. I first learned this work through Dorati's marvelous recording, and the present one will not take place of that. But it is good nevertheless. And given that the Dorati recording is getting difficult to find, this is a good substitute.If you like the music of Shostakovitch, or would be interested in listening to a darker version of Sibelius, Pettersson is up your alley. As bleak as his vision is, it is also quite beautiful. He is one of the 20th century's great romantics."
Excellent version, but I prefer Segerstam's recording
Mark Shanks | Portland, OR | 10/02/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Certainly the most well-known and most frequently performed of all of his symphonies, Pettersson's Seventh was dedicated to Antal Dorati, whose recording of it brought the world's attention to the reclusive composer. If the Sixth is a dark and desperate cry ending in resignation, the Seventh is the "song sung by the soul" that Pettersson sought so yearningly to reveal.The symphony's origins are not clear. The work was premiered on October 13, 1968 in a concert for the Music for Youth series founded by Antal Dorati in cooperation with the Stockholm Philharmonic. Pettersson, in very poor health, was called to the podium with standing ovations four times after the work's conclusion. It was the last time he was able to personally attend a premiere of one of his symphonies. Some hear it as a "reconsideration" of the bleakness of the Sixth; others have compared its structure to the arch formed by the profile of a mountain range. Many members of the audience at the premier were in tears at the close of this remarkable work. Once again, Pettersson uses a roughly 40-minute single movement. Unlike earlier symphonies, this one is not as clearly divided into sections, but uses recurring themes throughout. The cpo recording is with the Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gerd Albrecht, recorded in a live performance in the Hamburg Music Hall on May 6, 1991. Albrecht's reading, at 44:38, is the second longest reading (cpo 999 190-2). This was the first non-Dorati recording I heard, and my first impression was one of intense concentration, as if one were walking a tightrope. Albert's is an acceptable if not outstanding version; it has the best booklet, hands down, but as with the Dorati, no coupling and that makes it sort of a luxury purchase, particularly at cpo's price."
Powerful and tragic symphonic architecture
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 07/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The idea of an incredibly tragic vision, the lack of a happy ending, is downright un-American. God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, that's the national ethos (I proclaim, on the 4th of July!). It occurs to me that we are in for another letdown in the realm of U.S. foreign policy in the "every story has a happy ending" department, but that's the topic for another review. This is a symphony. There is a great, and popular, 20th century composer, a master symphonist, who conveyed a deeply tragic vision in his art -- Dmitri Shostakovich, of course. Stylistically, Allan Pettersson is not really that similar to DSCH, who was mercurial, and strongly influenced by Mahler's stylistic heterogeneity, other than the no doubt important fact that they both worked in the tonal tradition, and not the post-Schoenberg avant-garde. Pettersson, I gather, based on hearing my first Pettersson symphony, and on what I've read, did not go in for the Mahlerian "a symphony should contain the world" approach. This Symphony No. 7, at least, burrows into one idea, one mood, one train of thought exclusively. But if you appreciate Shostakovich's tragic works, it is altogether possible that you, like me, might appreciate Pettersson as well, perhaps even *because,* as opposed to despite, his tragic vision.

The Seventh Symphony portrays a vast tragic struggle. It turns elegiac toward the end, but the mood is overwhelmingly one of grief and anger. This has been taken as autobiographical, but it would not work if it did not tap into the universality of loss, grief, pain and suffering. The Buddha pointed this out round about 2500 years ago, and said it must be dealt with, not denied, if we are to be fully alive, fully awake. Pettersson, then, can help us -- we shouldn't listen in a mood of pity for someone who had it so bad (he was crippled with chronic polyarthritis). Someone who hasn't felt serious pain has a surprise waiting around the corner... Pettersson very effectively weaves a compelling narrative out of simple tonal materials and melodic cells, that builds up to a moment of seeming epiphany, breaking through to serenity. This is at the 31-minute mark, a serene melody in the strings, seeming to reveal peace and hope. This interlude ends, though, at the 35-minute mark as despair returns. In the last nine minutes a dominant menacing figure for horns and woodwinds is set against wistful high woodwinds and strings, settling into a waltz-like rhythm and gradually subsiding.

The German CPO label (Classic Produktion Osnabruck) has recorded all of Pettersson's symphonies, which are superbly produced and packaged with suitably dark abstract paintings, and has this year (2007) released them all together as the Complete Symphonies. This is what reminded me that I needed to hear the music of a composer many say is one of the finest late 20th century symphonists. Everyone says "start with No. 7," and so that is what I did. It seems generally agreed that Symphonies 5 through 9 are the best of the 16 (No. 17 exists as a fragment), for those who want to hear more.

Music for the dark night of the soul, perhaps, but music for the spirit.

Peace, shalom, salam, namasthe."