Allan Pettersson

Biography

Born: September 19, 1911; Västra Rya, Sweden   Died: June 20, 1980; Stockholm, Sweden  
Gustaf Allan Pettersson was a symphonist of the twentieth century, specializing in giant, single-movement structures chronicling pain and despair. Like Mahler, he had an abusive alcoholic father. Pettersson's father was an atheist. His mother was a devoutly religious woman who sang Salvation Army hymns, often as a way to escape the atheistic proclamations of her husband. In his symphonies, as in Mahler's, the sudden emergence of folkish music Read more breaks out as an antidote to tension. In Pettersson's case this often takes the form of broad, chorale harmonizations.

The family lived in a poor neighborhood of Stockholm. Allan had to sell Christmas cards on the street to get money for a violin. He taught himself how to play. He entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1930. Finally, he won the Jenny Lind Scholarship in 1930, using it to study viola in Paris with Maurice Vieux. He continued his education as a composer while holding down a job as violist in the Stockholm Concert Society Orchestra, and played in various radio ensembles. His composition teachers were Otto Ohlsson and Karl-Birger Blomdahl. During the 1940s he wrote his important large-scale cycle, Barfotsånger (Barefoot Songs). In another parallel with Mahler, he frequently used melodies from it in his symphonies. In 1943 he married Gudrun Gustafsson. In 1946 they moved into a small fifth floor apartment in the south side of Stockholm. It remained their home for 30 years, becoming Pettersson's prison.

In 1950 Pettersson committed himself to prepare for a career entirely devoted to composition. The orchestra gave him leave to study in Paris with Honegger, Milhaud, and Leibowitz. He rejected the neo-Classicism of the first, and the 12-tone proselytizing of the last-named of these. His long, difficult works failed to attract much enthusiasm at home, but he went through with his plans to resign from the orchestra in 1952. Soon, though, he began suffering joint pains that would later be diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. Somehow, Sweden's democratic welfare state failed to provide him with needed medical care, medications, or social support. Pettersson described himself as "a voice crying out, drowned in the noise of the times." For a decade and a half he was known as a composer only in narrow circles, though he received a few commissions. In 1963 a recording was made of one movement of one of his concerti for strings. In 1964 the government granted him a guaranteed income.

Then he scored his breakthrough with the Symphony No. 7. This one-movement work depicts a harsh inner struggle, relieved by a radiant Adagio section. Antal Dorati's premiere of it on October 10, 1968, was a triumph. It was the last concert Pettersson would attend. Soon, his debilitation made it impossible to descend the stairs. He was trapped in his apartment. Pettersson's only outside view was of a junkyard. He composed his music while a hostile neighbor blasted out rock & roll, often around the clock.

The Seventh Symphony led to international success. Pettersson received commissions for new works, and wrote a new symphony nearly every year. In 1976 the government moved him to a luxurious, ground-level apartment, and provided first-class medical care for him. He died while working on his Seventeenth Symphony. He left 15 extant symphonies and a formidable Second Violin Concerto in a single 50-minute movement. Read less

There are 33 Allan Pettersson recordings available.

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Works

Allan Pettersson


MOST POPULAR WORKS
I. Allegro con moto
II. Mesto
III. Allegro con moto
I. Andantino
II. -
I. Beginning
II. Three measures after No. 23
III. One measure before No. 35
IV. Five measures after No. 53
V. After No. 69
I. Beginning
II. Two measures before No. 22
III. Five measures before No. 48
IV. Two measures before No. 59
V. One measure after No. 83
Beginning -
6 Measures after No. 25 -
1 Measure before No. 49 -
2 Measures before No. 63 -
1 Measure before No. 81
I. Frenetico -
II. Cantabile espressivo -
III. -
IV. -
I. Introduzione (Andante con moto): Allegro con moto
II. Largo con espressione - attacca -
III. Allegro comodo: Allegro deciso - attacca -
IV. Allegro con moto (tempo di prima parte)
I. First Part
II. Second Part
WORKS
I. Allegro con moto
II. Mesto
III. Allegro con moto
I. Andantino
II. -
Sonata No. 1 for two violins
I. Allegro con allegrezza
II. Moderato
III. Allegro veloce - Ostinato
Sonata No. 3 for two violins
Sonata No. 4 for two violins
Sonata No. 5 for two violins
I. Andante
II. Walzer
III. Mesto
IV. Tempo di Walzer
V. Andante
Sonata No. 7 for two violins
I. Beginning
II. Three measures after No. 23
III. One measure before No. 35
IV. Five measures after No. 53
V. After No. 69
I. Beginning
II. Two measures before No. 22
III. Five measures before No. 48
IV. Two measures before No. 59
V. One measure after No. 83
Beginning -
6 Measures after No. 25 -
1 Measure before No. 49 -
2 Measures before No. 63 -
1 Measure before No. 81
I. Frenetico -
II. Cantabile espressivo -
III. -
IV. -
I. Introduzione (Andante con moto): Allegro con moto
II. Largo con espressione - attacca -
III. Allegro comodo: Allegro deciso - attacca -
IV. Allegro con moto (tempo di prima parte)
I. Beginning: Allegro
II. No. 20: Andante espressivo
III. No. 141: Larghetto
IV. Three measures after No. 151
V. One measure before No. 160
I. First Part
II. Second Part
Beginning -
2 Measures after No. 10 -
2 Measures after No. 18 -
1 Measure before No. 31 -
2 Measures after No. 41 -
2 Measures after No. 57 -
3 Measures after No. 78 -
1 Measure before No. 87 -
4 Measures before No. 122 -
No. 139 -
5 Measures after No. 153 -
4 Measures before No. 165 -
No. 179 -
4 Measures before No. 181 -
4 Measures after No. 189 -
No. 203 -
3 Measures before No. 208
I. Dead Night (Text: Manuel Bandeira). II. Ballad (Daniel Laínez). III. Just For A Moment (Roberto Fernandez Retamar)
IV. A Man Goes Past (Cesar Vallejo)
V. The Unrepentant (Murilo Mendes). VI. Starvation (Nicolas Guillen). VII. Poem From An Item of News (Manuel Bandeira)
VIII. Poem To A Dead Friend (Cassiano Ricardo)
IX. When The Funeral Procession Went Past (Manuel Bandeira)
X. Lynch (Nicolas Guillen). XI. Che (Miguel Barnet)
XII. Epitaph For A Soldier Of The Invasion (Roberto Fernandez Retamar). XIII. The Final Poem (Manuel Bandeira). XIV. Radiant Vision
I. Dancing Song. II. Sentence On A Traitor. III. My Mother
The Great Joy (Pablo Neruda)


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