Pettersson Violin Concerto No 2 (revised version)
Allan Pettersson’s Second Violin Concerto (1977-78; only the fifth piece he had written not entitled “symphony” since 1952) was composed for and dedicated to Ida Haendel, who premiered it in January 1980 with Herbert Blomstedt; their account was released on LP by Caprice shortly afterwards (reissued on CD). The version recorded here, however, is Pettersson’s post-premiere revision, made shortly before his death that June. In her premiere of this tough but ultimately lyrical masterpiece – cast in a large, single movement of sustained intensity – Haendel had been almost overwhelmed by the orchestra in the many louder passages, so Pettersson’s revisions were to provide (in Andreas Meyer’s words) “greater listening transparency”. That he succeeded is shown by this highly sympathetic performance by van Keulen and Dausgaard.
Direct comparisons between the two recordings are invidious, being of different versions, but I think it fair to say that van Keulen finds more subtlety and lyricism than Haendel was able to. The latter’s steel did seem wholly right for this composer’s style in 1980 but van Keulen’s more sensitive, even vulnerable interpretation actually fits the work – based on one of Pettersson’s gentle Barefoot Songs – rather better. The lyrical second part, roughly the last 12 minutes (from tr 7), is more acutely drawn than previously, due to Dausgaard’s impeccable accompaniment.
CPO’s epic survey of Pettersson’s symphonies, newly reissued as a 12-disc set, should be titled “Complete completed” as it omits the fragmentary First (1951) and Seventeenth (1980) which are not viable for performance (Ruzicka’s …das Gesegnete, coupled with No 15, alludes to No 17). CPO’s accounts are remarkably consistent despite 10 different line-ups. In the half-dozen he recorded, Segerstam remains mostly first choice (Dorati is supreme in No 7) but overall CPO’s stand up well. Alun Francis directed over half of these, getting firmly under the skin of Pettersson’s idiom, although tending to the slow. While Westerberg’s Second (nla) was tauter, Francis’s attention to detail casts a different light on this complex early score, while he catches No 5’s essence even more than Atzmon. Yes, Commissiona’s account of No 14 outpointed Arnell’s but not by much and, conversely, Sanderling’s Eighth outshines Commissiona’s DG LP version (nla) and matches Segerstam. Trojahn’s Sixth may not catch the sheer excitement of Kamu on CBS LP (nla) but is still excellent. For those coming new to Pettersson, Nos 7, then 5, 6 and 8 are the place to start and these recordings do the music full justice.