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Thread: Allan Pettersson

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    Default Allan Pettersson

    I have recently finished listening to Petterson's Symphony No. 8 and I am listening to Symphony No. 10 right now. I do not understand why this composer is so under recorded? Is it because his works are dark and moody sounding? His works definitely have a tonal center to them. I find Symhony No. 8 of Pettersson's to definitely be one of my favorite symphonies; that is No. 8 in the middle half of the 20th Century. I need to listen to every symphony of his. Does anyone else enjoy listening to Pettersson's works? If so which ones?

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    Senior Member Ephemerid's Avatar
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    I'm oblivious-- I don't think I've heard of him before-- I'm curious to hear him now though!
    "There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law.” ~ Claude Debussy

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    Look him up on wikipedia.org. Fantastic encylopedic website! iTunes has a sampling of his works, but not nearly enough. They need all of his symphonies on there, so more people will want to listen to his works. I have a tendecy to listen to 20th Century Scandinavian composers, along with the Eastern Europeans . He is definitely one of the unknown master symphonists of the 20th Century.

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    Senior Member Ephemerid's Avatar
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    He sounds interesting-- I'll have to return to check him out (I've spent WAYYYY too much money already this week )
    "There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law.” ~ Claude Debussy

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    Ive never heard of him, either. But, you can almost never go wrong with Scandinavian composers. Quite the legacy.

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    Senior Member some guy's Avatar
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    Unknown, eh?

    Hmmmm. In some circles, Pettersson has replaced (or at least is replacing) Shostakovich as "the greatest symphonist of the twentieth century."

    Yeah, sounds like hyperbole to me, too. But I wouldn't call Pettersson "unknown." Everyone's unknown to somebody. I suppose there are people who haven't heard of Pauline Oliveros, too (whose The Wanderer I'm listening to right now), but I wouldn't call her "unknown."

    Fame is fleeting, though, I'll give you that, and fickle. And probably several other alliterative adjectives, too.

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    I guess I was trying to say that Allan Pettersson is not quite in the mainstream of 20th Century Symphonic Composers. He is in some circles, but not in the main circles. That is my own opinion.

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    While I don't see Pettersson as superior to Shostakovich, his best symphonies are certainly in Shostakovich's league. I would especially recommend the 7th, which is an astonishing piece by any standard. Pettersson, like Havergal Brian, is basically a writer of symphonies; everything else is secondary (even his second violin concerto is basically a symphony; there's not much difference in scoring and approach between the so-called concerto and the 16th symphony, which has a concertoesque saxophone part). This is not a common situation, and I can't think of many similar composers (even Bruckner and Mahler, whose symphonies dominate their output, created major works in unrelated forms). If Pettersson is your kind of composer check out the Cpo release of his complete symphonies, which is quite reasonably priced and contains some excellent performances. Otherwise, the best starting point is Antal Dorati's recording of the 7th; it was Dorati's premiere of this piece which really put Pettersson on the musical map.

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    From what I've heard, which isn't much. His music is very dark and grim, but it seems like this is the only mood it portrays. It doesn't really branch out into anything else, but he was a very honest composer. Probably one of the most honest I've ever heard. You can almost feel his live experiences in his music, which I can't say for many of them.

    I'm still not quite sure how to take him. Perhaps, I'll ask for his complete symphony cycle on CPO for Christmas.

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    After listening to his 7th Smphony today, it is official I do not like Pettersson. His pieces aren't that dynamic and lack any kind of lyrical quality. Not my cup of tea.

    I can deal with a dark piece, but there has to be light at the end of the tunnel sometime and with Pettersson there doesn't seem to be much of this at all.

    His work was truly autobiographical and completely honest, but I find him to be a little too honest.

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    Senior Member some guy's Avatar
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    Not sure how pitches, rhythms, and harmonies can be autobiographical.

    Forget everything you've ever heard about Pettersson's life. Now listen to a symphony of his. He uses small(ish) cells, which he repeats. Less development than one would expect in a symphony. Well, unless the symphony were by Glass.

    Quite melodic, if not lyrical. A preference for lower ranges of instruments, though that often, as in the seventh symphony, means that when the higher ranges are used, you really notice it. And there's another thing. Contrast. While there's a certain similarity of sound overall, there's a fair amount of contrast in Pettersson, though since there's that repetition of small cells thing, the contrasts tend to be between sections rather inside of them. And maybe "sections" is the wrong word. Pettersson will set up contrasting blocks of material. That may sound like his music is like Varèse, but nothing could be further from the truth. More like Bruckner, except of course that Bruckner's cells are incredibly long. (Someone observed once, I wish I could remember who, that given the length of Bruckner's cells, if he had developed as much as Brahms, his symphonies would be much longer than they are. Or, conversely, if Brahms had used cells as long as Bruckner's, his symphonies would have turned out longer than Bruckner's.)

    Maybe that's what describes Pettersson: cells the length of Brahms in structures the length of Bruckner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post
    Not sure how pitches, rhythms, and harmonies can be autobiographical.

    Forget everything you've ever heard about Pettersson's life. Now listen to a symphony of his. He uses small(ish) cells, which he repeats. Less development than one would expect in a symphony. Well, unless the symphony were by Glass.

    Quite melodic, if not lyrical. A preference for lower ranges of instruments, though that often, as in the seventh symphony, means that when the higher ranges are used, you really notice it. And there's another thing. Contrast. While there's a certain similarity of sound overall, there's a fair amount of contrast in Pettersson, though since there's that repetition of small cells thing, the contrasts tend to be between sections rather inside of them. And maybe "sections" is the wrong word. Pettersson will set up contrasting blocks of material. That may sound like his music is like Varèse, but nothing could be further from the truth. More like Bruckner, except of course that Bruckner's cells are incredibly long. (Someone observed once, I wish I could remember who, that given the length of Bruckner's cells, if he had developed as much as Brahms, his symphonies would be much longer than they are. Or, conversely, if Brahms had used cells as long as Bruckner's, his symphonies would have turned out longer than Bruckner's.)

    Maybe that's what describes Pettersson: cells the length of Brahms in structures the length of Bruckner.

    Well, that doesn't change my opinion of his music. We can dance around with technical terms all we want to, but ultimately I'm not too impressed with his work. It stays in mood and doesn't stray far from it. One ominous piece after another. Quite boring actually.

    Bottomline, I don't like his music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JTech82 View Post
    Well, that doesn't change my opinion of his music. We can dance around with technical terms all we want to, but ultimately I'm not too impressed with his work. It stays in mood and doesn't stray far from it. One ominous piece after another. Quite boring actually.

    Bottomline, I don't like his music.
    Well, um, thanks for sharing?

    Point is, I wasn't trying to change your or anyone's opinion about his music. I was trying to describe it without dancing around with vague terms about his psychology (or ours). Or having recourse to moods and such. (Ominous? That's not what I hear.)

    Boring, as you doubtless already know, is one of those kinds of words that describes a response, not the thing being responded to. If it described the music, then everyone who listens to it will be bored. But not everyone is.

    Your not liking his music is probably important to you. And no one would fault you for not liking it. No one reasonable would. But it doesn't really add to a discussion of the music, does it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post
    Well, um, thanks for sharing?

    Point is, I wasn't trying to change your or anyone's opinion about his music. I was trying to describe it without dancing around with vague terms about his psychology (or ours). Or having recourse to moods and such. (Ominous? That's not what I hear.)

    Boring, as you doubtless already know, is one of those kinds of words that describes a response, not the thing being responded to. If it described the music, then everyone who listens to it will be bored. But not everyone is.

    Your not liking his music is probably important to you. And no one would fault you for not liking it. No one reasonable would. But it doesn't really add to a discussion of the music, does it?
    All I said was I don't like him and I gave specifics as to why I don't like him. Yes, I find Pettersson's music boring in the sense that it's not enjoyable for me. I told you how his music sounded to me and if I don't dig it, then I don't dig it.

    No need to take things so personally. If you like his music, then go knock yourself out and enjoy it for what you think it is and I'll happily listen to somebody else who I enjoy more.

    There's many colors in the musical rainbow for us to choose from. As far as this helping the conversation, I think it does, because I have a difference of opinion than yours, so yes, I think it creates a better balance of things.

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    I listened to his 7th symphony fragment on YouTube today, just after reading this thread. It's interesting. I'd love to find out more, but I was in my CDs shop already and there is nothing of his music

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