Ulf Wallin (violin); Norrköpping Symphony Orchestra / Christian Lindberg
Violin Concerto no.2 (1977, rev. 1980)
Symphony no.17 (1980, ed. Brylka/Lindberg)
BIS BIS 2290SACD [61’06”]
Producers Martin Nagorni (Violin Concerto), Hans Kipfer (Symphony)
Engineers Fabian Frank (Violin Concerto), Stephan Reh (Symphony)
Recorded January 2017 (Symphony) and January 2018 (Violin Concerto) at Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköpping
Written by Richard Whitehouse
What’s the story?
Christian Lindberg continues his traversal of Allan Pettersson’s symphonic output with the Second Violin Concerto, coupled with a first recording of all that the composer left of what was likely to be his Seventeenth Symphony in a performing version co-edited by Lindberg.
What’s the music like?
Coming in the wake of his volatile and combative Thirteenth Symphony, Pettersson’s Second Violin Concerto (following a Concerto for Violin and String Quartet of 28 years before) was commissioned then premiered by Ida Haendel, though it seems likely to have been conceived beforehand.
The taxing and almost continuous solo part often subsumed into the orchestra, so making it more a ‘symphony for violin and orchestra’, with an inverted virtuosity such as the composer made no attempt to temper. He did, though, overhaul the texture after the premiere in 1980, allowing the soloist more definition against the orchestra – its undivided violin part in particular – but without lessening the music’s intensity in any way. The outcome, it hardly needs to be added, is a violin concerto that is conceptually and emotionally unlike any other.
Although (here) playing for some 53 minutes, the single movement falls into several distinct sections which are duly followed on this disc. Thus, a lengthy ‘exposition’ proceeds from an impulsive first thematic group to its expressively more yielding successor that draws on the 14th from Pettersson’s war-time Barefoot Songs (‘The Lord walks in the meadow’), whose plaintive irony underlies much of what follows. An almost equally extensive ‘development’ is largely taken up with the opening themes, before a distilled ‘reprise’ of the second group then an extended ‘coda’ (marked Cantando) in which various motifs are freely combined on the way to a conclusion whose wistful poise became a feature of the next two symphonies – the music audibly intent on making peace with itself while admitting no false consolation.
The fill-up is the draft of what Pettersson presumably intended as his Seventeenth Symphony (but this is not so indicated on the manuscript), here given its first recording in a performing version edited by Markus Brylka and Christian Lindberg. Playing for almost seven minutes, its atmosphere of fraught anticipation rather looks back to the composer’s symphonies of the 1960s – albeit from the more equivocal perspective of his last years. The absence of further sketches makes its evolution impossible to guess, but what does exist is undeniably arresting.
Does it all work?
Yes. Ulf Wallin is a violinist of the first rank yet never self-conscious or self-regarding as a virtuoso and is accorded unstinting support from the Norrköping musicians, with Lindberg predictably authoritative in his direction. Ida Haendel’s 1980 account (Caprice) features the original orchestration and remains a compelling if undeniably historical document, whereas Isabelle van Keulen’s 1999 recording (CPO) makes a convincing case in more concerto-like terms. Those coming to the piece for the first time should certainly opt for this new account.
Is it recommended?
Very much so. The sound is well up to the high standard of previous releases from this series in clarity and spaciousness, and there are informative notes by Per-Henning Olsson. Just the choral Twelfth Symphony to come in what has been a rewarding and often revelatory cycle.
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