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Pettersson: Symphony No. 13 - Lindberg

Pettersson: Symphony No. 13 - Lindberg

BIS  BIS-2190 SACD

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 13

Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Christian Lindberg (conductor)


Beginning his first (never completed) symphony in 1951 and working on his 17th when he died in 1980, Allan Pettersson during three decades concerned himself almost exclusively with the symphonic genre – and this at a time when many composers considered the symphony (and indeed the symphony orchestra) to be hopelessly old-fashioned. Pettersson, however, was deeply committed to the genre, something which in Sweden during the early 1960s was so unusual that he was called ‘the last symphonist’. He completed his Symphony No.13 in August 1976, as a commission by the Bergen Festival for its 25th anniversary the following year.

The complexity and large scale of the work was such that the first performance was postponed for another year, however – and in fact the work had never been performed in Sweden until Christian Lindberg and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra played it in concert in 2014. As the majority of Pettersson’s symphonies it is in one movement, harbouring the great contrasts between an atonal and a traditional, tonal idiom that characterize the composer’s musical language. A noteworthy feature in the present work is the presence of many brief allusions to other composers – from Beethoven (with the theme to the Fifth Symphony) to D-S-C-H, the musical cryptogram of Shostakovich’s name. Over the course of four previous discs, Christian Lindberg and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra have demonstrated a true affinity with Pettersson’s music, an affinity that deepens with each new recording.

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PCM recording

Recorded in January 2015 at the Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping, Sweden
Producer: Jens Braun (Take5 Music Production)
Sound engineer: Hans Kipfer (Take5 Music Production)

BIS’s recording teams use microphones from Neumann and Schoeps, audio electronics from RME, Lake People and DirectOut, MADI optical cabling technology, monitoring equipment from B&W, STAX and Sennheiser, and Sequoia and Pyramix digital audio workstations.

Editing and mixing: Jens Braun

Executive producer: Robert Suff

24-bit / 96 kHz resolution
Reviews (1)
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Review by Mark Novak - February 16, 2016

Brace yourself! This symphony begins with a highly chromatic flourish and continues in that vein for 66+ minutes, uninterrupted, to the end. A single movement. No breaks. Just an unrelenting sonic onslaught. Fortunately, the composer does build in dynamics and uses various orchestral groupings that bring contrast and interest as the music progresses but if you are looking for any kind of diatonic relief, it is quite absent from the 13th Symphony. This is not Pettersson’s longest single-movement symphony – that prize goes to the 9th that comes in at 70 minutes (Pettersson: Symphony No. 9 - Lindberg). However, the 9th symphony does have sections that contrast triadic harmonies with the outright dissonant orchestral fabric whereas the 13th symphony lacks those diatonic elements almost entirely save for a brief respite at track 10 with a solo viola playing a gypsy melody over a thrumming accompaniment*. You’re in for a mostly grim ride. The final, major chord blast from the orchestra, rather than seeming triumphant, seems like Pettersson giving raspberries to the audience.

The miracle here is that an orchestra and conductor can actually perform this music with the high level of execution displayed by the Norrkoping Symphony under Christian Lindberg. With no score it is impossible for me to comment on how Lindberg manages this difficult music but the result seems impeccable. Not surprisingly, there is just one competing performance available and that is from Alun Francis and the BBC Scottish Symphony on CPO RBCD. The timings of both are nearly identical which is rather remarkable in and of itself. Where I think Lindberg’s recording scores points against Francis is in the clarity of internal orchestral textures evident in the BIS SACD. The BIS recording team has done another excellent job capturing this orchestra in its home concert venue. Such dense music needs clarity and this recordings delivers it.

I’ve said it before, if you want to begin exploring Alan Pettersson’s music you should start with Symphonies 7 and 8 where the balance of diatonicity to dissonance is more favorable. For Pettersson fans, this present recording is a must-have.

*Technical note: In track 10 at the 52-53 second mark there is a very brief surge in volume that may be an artifact of the editing process. It caught my attention as I was writing this review (music was playing in the background) so I went back and verified its presence. Most people might miss it.

Copyright © 2016 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net

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Comment by William Hecht - December 9, 2015 (1 of 1)

The latest, and by no means least, in this extraordinary series from BIS is a " must" for Pettersson lovers and anyone who cares about the modern symphony. Committed performances by Christian Lindbergh and the SON, and an excellent Recording by the Take5 team. Great stuff!