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Pettersson: Concerto for Violin and String Quartet - Wallin

Pettersson: Concerto for Violin and String Quartet - Wallin

BIS  BIS-2580

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Pettersson: Concerto for Violin and String Quartet

Ulf Wallin, Sueye Park, Daniel Vlashi Lukaçi (violins)
German Tcakulov (viola)
Alexander Wollheim (cello)
Thomas Hoppe (piano)


Between 1934 and 1949, Allan Pettersson, one of Sweden’s foremost composers of symphonies, wrote chamber works that differ greatly from his later production. With his Two Elegies, composed at the tender age of 17, Pettersson drew the enthusiasm of his teacher, who saw in him the makings of a composer. The Four Improvisations for string trio recall Bartók’s music with their rhythmic vitality. The Andante espressivo is more personal with its experimental melodic and harmonic leanings. After his forced return from Paris in 1939, where he had gone to study, Pettersson composed a tender and lyrical Romanza and, three years later, his only piece for solo piano, the elegiac and meditative Lamento.

The most important work on this recording is the Concerto for Violin and String Quartet, a harsh, dense work that places great demands on the musicians. Initially rejected by the critics, the work now appears almost unique in terms of its radical tonal language and experimental use of extended techniques.

For this recording, Ulf Wallin has brought together colleagues and friends to perform these lesser-known works, which nevertheless constitute an essential milestone in the career of the great Swedish composer.

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Comment by BrianE - November 7, 2023 (1 of 1)

The latest installment in Christian Lindberg's survey of Pettersson's works covers what is effectively a string quintet ambitiously titled "Concerto for Violin and String Quartet", along with some romantic chamber music juvenilia. Many harsh words have been written about Pettersson's style, most of them unfair: his symphonies are only "demanding" or "challenging" and "grim" if one also thinks that of late Shostakovich or Schnittke. This is 20th century music and demands to be listened to as such. In the case of the Concerto, "difficult" and "challenging" might be more justifiable. The work stylistically sits somewhere between Bartók's string quartets and Penderecki's early quartets, which is to say that it is quite abstract and atonal at times, but not without lyricism. After composing this piece, Pettersson went on to develop the style he retained for the rest of his career.

The transition from the concerto to the Two Elegies that follow is a bit of stylistic whiplash; this piece is almost schmaltzy to my ears. The rest of the chamber pieces are more in a late-romantic style and are quite enjoyable for those who appreciate Bartók. The playing is committed and the recording is typical BIS, whose sound I find flatters chamber music more than it does orchestral works. I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for Pettersson's works as none of the pieces are really typical examples of his style.