PETTERSSON Symphony No 9
This disc is a revelation. I have long been an admirer of Pettersson’s music, particular the symphonies from the 1960s (Nos 5 8). The climax to this group is the largest of them all, No 9 (1969 70), shortly after the completion of which the composer was hospitalised for nine months with rheumatoid arthritis and kidney disease.
Pettersson’s need to communicate had a ferocity unmatched by any composer since Beethoven, often expressed not just in the sustained intensity of his music but also in its use of large, unbroken spans. The Ninth runs, in the composer’s own timing, to 65 70 minutes, with Lindberg and his only CD rival (Francis) falling at either end of this range. Lindberg’s slightly broader tempi and shaping are spot-on, over 14 minutes faster than Commissiona’s highly regarded premiere recording on LP (Philips – nla; not reissued on CD but available on YouTube). This remains a powerful interpretation but at 20 per cent over the maximum timing is arguably a misrepresentation of Pettersson’s wishes.
Fine as Francis’s version is, it now seems almost a play-through by comparison with Lindberg, lacking the latter’s clarity and depth of understanding. Try the dancing episode around six minutes in (closing Lindberg’s first track; the start of Francis’s third), or the climactic chordal descent at five minutes into track 7 (at around a minute through Francis’s tr 12), or the final serene cantilena. Lindberg and the Norrköping players make these come to life in ways that eluded their rival. The disc is full of similar moments and, with BIS’s fabulous sound, is not just Lindberg’s finest Pettersson recording but one of the finest anyone has committed to disc, to rank alongside Kamu’s Sixth (2/77 – nla – which Lindberg’s own runs very close, 1/13), Thomas Sanderling’s Eighth (CPO, 10/94) and, of course, Dorati’s Seventh (Decca, 5/72 – nla). But Lindberg is recording more Pettersson than anyone previously. The Swedish master has found his champion at last.