Under Lindberg’s direction, Pettersson’s massive Symphony No. 7 seemed like a single, unbroken arch. This perfomance also featured the world premiere of the unfinished Symphony n°17, 36 years after its composition.
In recent years, Christian Lindberg and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra (SON) have been tirelessly promoting, recording, and performing the music of Allan Pettersson, arguably Sweden’s greatest composer of symphonies. In this evening’s program, Lindberg and the SON presented one of Pettersson’s most familiar works, the Symphony No. 7, along with a fragment from the composer’s incomplete Symphony No. 17.
Along with the Symphony No. 1, Pettersson’s Symphony No. 17 is one of the great musical mysteries of this composer. The 7 minutes of the Symphony No. 17 ‘s fragment held few surprises for those familiar with Pettersson’s late style–the music featured dense and often relentless contrapuntal writing, glimmers of fragile lyricism, and repeated rhythmic gestures. While this performance certainly provided some insight into Pettersson’s final musical thoughts, it is of course impossible to make any definitive conclusions as to what Pettersson ultimately intended with this work.
Although there would not seem to be any obvious stylistic similarities between Pettersson and Piazzolla, the opening of the Quatro Estaciones Porteñas possessed a similar rhythmic vitality as the Pettersson. Perhaps this music is not one of Piazzolla’s most inspired creations, but soloist Jens Lundberg’s deft virtuosity and the joyful playing of the SON (along with some excellent violin and viola solos) made for a nevertheless engaging performance.
Following the Piazzolla came the evening’s main event, Pettersson’s Symphony No. 7. The broad and gloomy introductory passage was played with confidence and polish, and glowed with a dark intensity. The following sections proceeded with almost unbearable tension; particularly memorable was Lindberg’s shaping of the percussion crescendos, which provided not only intensity, but also color. The Norrköping strings played the many string chorales with warmth and expressiveness, without being overly sentimental.
While Pettersson’s Symphony No. 7 appears to have a somewhat episodic or sectional construction, under Lindberg’s direction this massive work seemed like a single, unbroken arch. Lindberg conducted this performance from memory, demonstrating his thorough commitment and familiarity with this work. This commitment and familiarity was also transmitted through the assured performance of the SON; Pettersson’s music has now become second nature to this orchestra.
Credit photo: Christian Lindberg (c) Mats Bäcker