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ALLAN PETTERSSON - Symphony No. 6 - Christian Lindberg (Conductor) - Norrköping Symphony Orchestra - Hybrid SACD - 7318599919805 - Released: September 2012 - BIS SACD1980

At 60 minutes in duration, and with a score spanning more than 2000 bars, this single-movement symphonic work by Allan Pettersson (1911-1980), his Symphony No. 6 (1963-66), certainly deserves, if not appreciation from everyone, the highest praise and respect for its sustained momentum (however minimal), steady hand and unwavering vision from start to finish. Unjustly overshadowed by his own Symphony No. 7 reviewed here (premièred and given greater exposure through a recording by conductor Antal Dorati), the No. 6 could very easily be viewed as a preamble to the 7th (military drumrolls and all), and as far as style and construction are concerned, be considered its equal. The term maximal minimal could be used to define his music, as its use of short rhythmic patterns and short two or three note motifs and gestures, as well as an overall feeling of malaise, all coalesce to form a single, solid and unified idea over an extended period of time. What amazes the most in Pettersson's technique, is how he gets from practically nothing to overwhelming climaxes with the least material, and how he can sustain desolation and desperation over such long stretches of time. Some critics have defined his music as the "apogee of musical darkness and misery". True, but when, after a series of heartwrenching outcries, at the 26:17 mark, the mood lifts for only a short period of time, Pettersson makes it feel like a ray of sunshine after a month of midnights. Listen closely or you will miss it altogether.

As in their excellent recording of his Symphonies 1 and 2 reviewed here, conductor Christian Lindberg and the members of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra based in Sweden, do a formidable job when it comes to exposing the myriad of small details (that limping rhythmic pattern between the 38 and 45 minute points for example) that when tied together, make this into a symphony of gigantic proportions. The dynamics are well judged, the pace is unrelentless, the gaze always focused on the very last note of the final bar. Few recordings exist of these important and unique 20th century symphonic statements, so it's reassuring to see musicians of this calibre and a label as reputable as BIS undertake the task of recording them, and doing so with immaculate sound quality to boot.

I've said this many times before but it certainly bears repeating. Allan Pettersson's music is extremely dark and unrelentingly pessimistic and almost colorless (read up on him to find out how miserable his existence was), but it is driven by an unfathomable and mysterious quality that raises it high above the din of 20th century music. His own inexorable perseverance to compose sixteen of these symphonies should be enough to convince anyone that his music deserves our undivided attention and deepest respect.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2012