Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Note on Pettersson, Symphony No. 6

Allan Pettersson (1911 - 1980)

I listened again to the Symphony No. 6 by Allan Pettersson last night and again I am struck by the depth and seriousness of this music. I don't have the score so I can't embark on a real study of it, but here, from the liner notes, is a bit of the opening:

Sorry for the fuzziness: the original was really tiny. As I was listening, a comparison came to mind. This piece reminds me of a great Japanese film trilogy, The Human Condition, directed by Masaki Kobayashi. There is great human suffering, but, perhaps more in the symphony than the films, this suffering is balanced by great beauty. The beginning is ominous and gloomy:

And the tension grows and grows:

Sadly, the third part does not seem to be on YouTube and it has some of the most beautiful music. But here is the fourth and last part, which also has some beautiful sections:

What came to mind as the symphony ended was the thought: there is always suffering and there is always beauty.


Joel Lo said...

I think, the quality of that passage near the end, which is so soothing, like a glimpse of hope above all suffering is one of the main reasons for making this, my favorite Pettersson Symphony.

Same effect is achieved (beauty after struggle) in the violin concerto 2. I highly recommend it.

Bryan Townsend said...

It has often occurred to me, especially after listening to Shostakovich and now Pettersson, that beauty in music is related a bit to Edmund Burke's distinction between beauty and the sublime. Or perhaps we might distinguish music that is merely pretty from that which is sublime by saying that there is always something dangerous or threatening in the truly sublime. Instead of being just sweet and pretty, it is hard-won, or earned, by being contrasted with great suffering. As in this symphony.

I will seek out the violin concerto that you recommend.