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Gustav Allan Pettersson

Symphony #5 (1960-62)

The Fifth symphony of Allan Pettersson begins a new pattern in his symphonies. Composed in the years 1960-62, it is a work of greater maturity, eschewing the more obvious effects of the Fourth Symphony for a more distinctive style. Although written in the usual single, approximately 40-minute movement, it consists of 4 distinct (to my ears) sections (although the BIS disc is indexed into three sections). The anxiety and conflict are not so much assuaged as "tamped down" by the end of the work, and. there is still an oppressive atmosphere at the end. I should note that within a year of completing this symphony, Pettersson was in the hospital with a life-threatening bout of rheumatoid arthritis. I don't put it beyond the threshold of possibility that he had some foreshadowing of this that found it's way into the Fifth.

There are two recordings of the Fifth. Andreas Peer Kähler leads the Berlin Sibelius Orchestra on Blubell ABCD015. This is an acceptable performance, but one of the poor values in CDs: at 39:03, one gets roughly half the capacity of a CD at a premium price. In its favor, it WAS the first recording of the Fifth, and was recorded 3-4 January 1986. The other recording, with Moshe Atzmon leading the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, is at least as good a performance, and comes coupled with the late (1979) Viola Concerto, with Nobuko Imai, Lev Markiz leading the Malmö Symphony Orchestra on BIS CD-480 (It was recorded 3-4 April, 1990.)

Copyright © Mark Shanks, 1996