PETTERSSON Symphony No 6. Songs

The next symphony from BIS’s cycle and songs from practising doctor Mossberg

Author: 
Guy Rickards

Pettersson_Symphony No. 6

  • Symphony No. 6

Allan Pettersson’s Sixth Symphony (1963-66) is one of the middle-period symphonies (Nos 5-8) that to my mind represent his greatest achievement. I first encountered it on a live LP performance by the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Okko Kamu (2/77 – nla), I believe never reissued on CD. Nor has Kamu set down any other Pettersson works, a great shame as he evinced a more profound sympathy with and understanding of Pettersson’s idiom than did Manfred Trojahn in his better-played but over-slow studio rival.

Lindberg’s empathy for Pettersson’s music is once again shown in the Sixth, where he catches its dark atmosphere to perfection, pacing its progress through the succession of climaxes superbly well. In tempi, Lindberg clips a minute off Trojahn though Kamu remains ideal, a fraction faster than the composer’s indication of around 55'. Yet Lindberg’s interpretation unites the best qualities of both accounts – Kamu’s sensitivity to line and structure, well-defined impulsion and the Berlin orchestra’s more disciplined playing. Kamu still gets greater immediacy but BIS’s sensational sound with its huge dynamic range opens out details and perspectives not heard so cleanly hitherto. Try the passage starting just before 37'30", ushering in the paragraph that builds to the main climax, where Petterssonian restraint, Lindbergian acuity, the fine cor anglais-playing (of which more below) and BIS’s superior sound combine.

Reviewing Monica Groop’s and Cord Garben’s disc of Pettersson’s complete songs, Robert Layton found their charms wholly ‘resistible’ but acknowledged the quality of their advocacy. Torsten Mossberg’s tenor voice gives these fine miniatures a different perspective, despite lacking Groop’s radiance. His intonation is also suspect at times in the Barefoot Songs (1943-45), as for instance in the first chorus of the best-known, ‘Blomma, säj!’ (‘Flower, tell me!’), though surer in the earlier set (1935). Mossberg and Karlqvist are slower by four minutes overall, mostly in a handful of individual tracks. With superior sound, Groop and Garben remain first choice. The Barefoot Songs are ordered very differently in the two recordings but both conclude with ‘Han ska släcka min lykta’ (‘He will extinguish my light’), the very song quoted in the Sixth Symphony’s latter half, where its main theme is played so movingly by the Norrköping’s cor anglais.

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