PETTERSSON Symphony No 14
Allan Pettersson never heard his Fourteenth Symphony (1977 78). Premiered 17 months after his death in June 1980, it has fared relatively well, at least on disc, the present issue being its third recording. Sergiu Commissiona’s came first, a Phono Suecia recording made the week after the first performance in December 1981. Although rather hard to find now, as a performance it stands up very well and set the benchmark. Johann Arnell’s with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra followed a dozen years later and, while not displacing Commissiona’s, is still widely available in CPO’s box-set.
Many commentators have noted that the Fourteenth, like No 15, is lighter and more varied in mood and texture than its predecessors. Do not be misled by this, or the quiet, almost translucently scored opening – No 14 delivers all the typical Petterssonian fingerprints and traits in a freewheeling contrapuntal structure running for over 52 minutes. It is shot through with lighter passages, and Christian Lindberg’s more expansive view, taking almost five minutes longer than Commissiona and Arnell, underscores this. As with the Sixth Symphony and Second Violin Concerto, No 14 is based on one of the composer’s Barefoot Songs, imparting a lyrical impulse brought out more fully by Lindberg than before.
The Norrköping Symphony Orchestra are once again on superb form. They really have the idiom under their fingers, directed by the man who is now unquestionably Pettersson’s foremost champion. BIS’s recording once again has great presence and depth, outpointing both rivals, so that this new account is now market leader. The bonus DVD of a sometimes combative Pettersson in conversation, with occasional contributions from his brothers (there are subtitles in English only), makes this self-recommending.