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Gustav Allan Pettersson

Symphony #4 (1958-59)

The Fourth returns to the standard single-movement Pettersson format. It was written between 1958 and 1959, and premiered in the Stockholm Nutida-musik concert series on January 27, 1961. The Fourth is more intransigent than the Third, and the structure less formal. The cpo recording is indexed into five separate sections: the opening (3:58), bar 20 andante espressivo (26:02), bar 141 larghetto (3:38), three measures after 151 (2:25), and one measure before 160 (2:22). This method of indexing is a great boon to the critical listener, as you are allowed to access specific sections without having to fast-forward through an entire symphony. (I suppose that's just one of the things we gave up in the move from analog to digital.)

Frankly, I find the Fourth one of the least compelling of the Pettersson symphonies. It's effects seem forced, and the language deliberately obscure. (This isn't due to unfamiliarity with the piece; I tried to become more familiar with it by recording the Comissiona recording on the flip side of a tape with the Seventh some years ago expressly to increase my exposure to it.) Not recommended as an introduction to the composer.

There are two recordings of the Fourth: the one coupled with the Third on cpo, and one included in a 5-LP set on BIS (LP-301/303) commemorating the Gothenburg Symphony. The latter is conducted by Sergiu Comissiona, and is taken from a tape of a concert on February 5, 1970. The sound is really poor; it is more like an air check from World War II than a relatively recent recording. On top of that, it is split to fit over two LPs. Given that the performance on cpo is at least as good, that it comes coupled with a very well-done recording of the Third, and has excellent sound quality, the Comissiona/BIS isn't worth seeking out unless you have a die-hard need to hear all available recordings.

Copyright © Mark Shanks, 1996

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