Andreas K. W. Meyer’s notes provide a timeline for the life of Allan Petterson (1911–1980), “orchestra violinist, composer, oddball.” In any event, he cast his Second Violin Concerto in one, almost hour-long, movement (the recording has been divided into 10 tracks for those who might want to study specific sections). Its elfin opening, with swirling tonal parts in the upper registers surrounding a tempo at figure 41 in the score (the designation of the fourth track) and even more strikingly through most of the a tempo of the seventh and at the beginning of the cantando, tempo IV of the eighth and ninth tracks—and, throughout, woodwind sonorities highlight many passages. Meyer relates that Ida Haendel, the dedicatee, gave the work its premiere on January 25, 1980 (it had been composed between 1977 and 1979).
It might not strike most listeners that Pettersson based the Concerto on a poem, God Goes over the Meadows , and his own musical setting of it. The text continues (in Susan Marie Praeder’s translation), “but only between thistles,” and this line may offer some insight into the work’s thickets of thorns and brambles. Meyer points out that his song’s folk-like style provided the “material point of departure.” So the intermittent tonality and passages of simpler, less entangled, lyricism may hearken to this fons et origo . Whatever lies at the center of this massive Concerto, however, its accessibility to audiences may depend less upon it than upon the composer’s ear for striking sonorities, for dramatic contrasts, and for soaring, effective writing for the solo instrument. Since Pettersson wrote his First Violin Concerto, according to the notes, in 1949, for Violin and String Quartet, this one represents a quantum leap into complex sonorities while remaining within the genre of the Violin Concerto. Adventurous listeners should find the work, the performance by both soloist and orchestra, and the wide-ranging and stark recorded sound especially rewarding. Strongly recommended to them. (Robert Maxham)