Composer Allan Pettersson was prolific during the last decade of his life, in spite of the fact that he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. The Symphony No. 15, from 1978, was his next-to-last work in the form, and the Viola Concerto heard here, perhaps incomplete (the end is a real cliffhanger, even more so than is usual for Pettersson), was his final work of any kind. The two pieces are different in character. Pettersson's symphonies are dense works, building up complex structures from a small core of intervals and motives. They are not exactly-listener friendly, but they yield to repeated hearings, and they have melodious interludes that point to the influence of Mahler on Pettersson's work. They are difficult for the orchestra as well, but the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, which has already recorded the Symphony No. 15 once under Leif Segerstam, qualifies as expert in its twists and turns, and they deliver world-class playing for conductor Christian Lindberg. The Viola Concerto is clearly the work of the same composer, but it has a much more lyrical quality that's captured beautifully by soloist Ellen Nisbeth; for many hearers, she will be the true star of the recording. There is also an early Fantaisie for solo viola as an entr'acte, and Nisbeth excels here as well. BIS delivers the expected clear sound from Norrköping's symphony hall on a recording that will be of great interest to Pettersson's growing cadre of fans and has even made classical best-seller lists (a rarity for Pettersson).
Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 15; Viola Concerto Review
by James Manheim