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Allan PETTERSSON (1911-1980)
Symphony No. 7 (1966-7) [40:25]
Symphony No. 10 (1971-2) [25:15]
Stockholm Philharmonic (No. 7); Swedish Radio Symphony (No. 10)/Antal Doráti
rec. 18-20 September 1969, Konserthuset, Stockholm (No. 7) & 13-14 June 1974 (No. 10), Circus Djurgarden, Stockholm
First issued on LP.
No notes.

It is appropriate that this release from the Antal Doráti Centenary Society contains two of Doráti’s recordings of symphonies by Allan Pettersson. By the early 60’s the composer had already achieved fame in in his native Sweden, but it was partially due to Doráti’s recording of the Symphony No. 7 (on this disc) that Pettersson gained an international following. Since that time, all of the composer’s symphonies have been recorded, as well as the vast majority of his other works. This is the first CD release of this recording of the Symphony No. 10. Doráti’s Symphony No. 7 was released on CD by Discofil a number of years ago and reviewed by Rob Barnett and by Jonathan Woolf.

Pettersson’s symphonies are frequently in one continuous movement and the two works on this disc are no exception. They rely on closely organized motivic development which is carried along by multiple lines of polyphony. This may sound complicated, but due to the composer’s never losing sight of either his musical or emotional argument, and to his tremendous facility for orchestration, an entire symphony will be crystal-clear from first to last. All of these elements are brilliantly rendered in Doráti’s performance of the Symphony No. 7. Doráti takes the score at a brisker pace than some of the later recordings, but I found this to be an advantage. Like many of Pettersson’s symphonies, alternations between angst-ridden passages and serene ones are central to the composer’s argument - this speaks to Doráti’s strengths with rhythm and orchestral color, especially in the calm, but by no means triumphant, conclusion.

The Symphony No. 10 is half the length of No. 7, but even more intense. It was written, as was its successor, during a nine-month hospital stay that Pettersson endured for treatment of the kidney disease that eventually killed him. Doráti responds accordingly. While his No. 10 is emotionally and rhythmically hard-driven, there is also great attention to detail, almost as if Doráti was actually describing some of the medical procedures which Pettersson had to undergo. He shows less interest in the quieter moments, such as they are, but gets amazing playing from the Swedish Radio Symphony. As with No. 7, the highpoint is Doráti’s handling of the coda-increasing agitation, then a dead stop.

In spite of the persuasive conducting and the historical importance of these performances, listeners will obviously want more modern recordings of these symphonies, especially if they need only one of each work. In terms of the Symphony No. 7, there are recordings by Christian Lindberg (review), Gerd Albrecht, and Leif Segerstam, as well as an older one, highly regarded, by Sergiu Comissiona. Lindberg and Segerstam (review) have also recorded No. 10. None of this is to preclude the fine set of all the symphonies on cpo (review) or of Alun Francis’ single release of No. 10 and No. 11 in the same series (review), the former of which many devotees of the composer will already possess, but for those looking for a second recording of these works or for authoritative performances, without reference to sound quality, this disc speaks for itself.

William Kreindler

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