With this superlative 1999 recording by violinist Isabelle van Keulen with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard, the Swedish modernist Allan Pettersson's late Second Violin Concerto receives its first digital recording. The only previous recording on Capriccio from 1980 had been performed by the forces that gave the work its premiere early that year, violinist Ida Haendel with the Swedish Radio Symphony under Herbert Blomstedt, and it stood inviolate for almost 20 years until the arrival of this disc. It is clearly an improvement. For all her dedication, Haendel had neither Keulen's virtuoso technique nor her refined tone and Keulen brings as much or more conviction to the part, and in her hands, the Concerto's stark lines come closer to lyricism than they did in Haendel's. Additionally, the Swedish Radio Symphony has only gotten better at making music of Pettersson's idiosyncratic orchestral writing, and versatile Dausgaard seems much more in control of Pettersson's enormous formal structure than Blomstedt was. For those who already know and love Pettersson's highly individualistic music, no more need be said. For those who don't already know it, here's a portion of Pettersson's own description of the Second Violin Concerto:
"A human being tries to hind his inner reality; he flees from the outer reality, controlled by the image of man, the perfect robot, where the idea of the human being is erased for the sake if ideologies manifesting themselves in homicide, fratricide, Cain and Abel again and again. In this nocturnal landscape, in which actor and observer are one and the same person, as in the unreality of a dream in which words cannot be spoken, within this human reserve, a song is heard, played by a violin with a noble tone, bearing the fingerprints of a human being; a lonely being seeking deliverance from the threatening outer collective. The cynic calls this escapism, but the little human being who does not at all believe in himself and does not understand the fine words only knows that he is endangered and there are no words for this. But the idea of the human being is not his own idea -- and therefore it is indestructible." If that sounds appealing, this recording by Keulen, Dausgaard, and the Swedish Radio Symphony will be well worth hearing.