PETTERSSON Symphony No 13
The Thirteenth Symphony (1976) is the largest of Pettersson’s later symphonies, second only in size to No 9, completed just five years earlier. I first encountered it in the 1993 BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra broadcast conducted by Alun Francis ahead of the work’s only previous recording (one of the few broadcasts of one of this composer’s symphonies in the UK). I reviewed the resultant CD warmly as a ‘tremendous, full-blooded account’ then and as a performance it stands up very well now.
Fine as that is, this newcomer is manifestly superior. The Norrköping Symphony Orchestra articulate the music’s ‘soaring melodies and grippingly searing polyphony’ more convincingly still (not that the BBC Scottish players were in any way deficient) and Lindberg shapes the structure more compellingly, although there is little difference in overall duration. It is a matter of expressive interpretation rather than technicalities of performance. Lindberg seems to feel more keenly the work’s intense range of mood – the ferocity and depth of its emotion, the consolation that this engenders – and communicates this to his orchestra in masterly fashion. If anyone wonders what it is that conductors truly contribute to an orchestral performance, then this disc is glowing testimony to their importance.
The Norrköping Symphony Orchestra’s playing is superb, too, certainly matching their Scottish rivals. BIS’s rich, natural sound has more immediacy and depth than CPO’s. If you admire CPO’s disc, as I do, you will marvel at the additional richness this new recording brings out. A stunning account and the one to have.