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Pettersson Symphony No. 7 on SVT Play

The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of Allan Pettersson's breakthrough work, the magnificent Seventh Symphony, is now available on SVT Play. Former chief conductor, now honorary conductor, Alan Gilbert conducts the orchestra. The film was premiered in Kulturstudion's Allan Pettersson evening on Saturday 14 November.

Watch the concert video on SVT Play, only available in Sweden (opens in a new window)

Allan Pettersson composed based on life – “the cursed, the blessed”. His symphonies, including sixteen that were completed and a seventeenth that was not, are often epic in nature and charged with dramatic contrasts.

Symphony No. 7 is in the form of one long movement, a cohesive flow of dark shadows from the wind instruments and lovely, soothing strings. Several quietly repeated chords recur from the brass section throughout the symphony, feeling threatening at times – and like a caress at others. The symphony was composed in 1966–67 and had its world premiere in 1968 by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Antal Dorati.

In the 1940s, Allan Pettersson was hired as a violist with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, but he had already started composing in the 1930s. He went to Paris in the early 1950s and studied twelve-tone technique with René Leibowitz and composition with Arthur Honegger and Olivier Messiaen, among others. He had an incomparable degree of direct contact with the musical trends of Europe. Still, he never gave up his strong personal starting point and consistently viewed himself as an outsider, stemming in part from his rheumatism, which became increasingly severe, rendering him immobile and shut inside his home in Södermalm, Stockholm.

There is a frequently cited quotation from Allan Pettersson: “I feel that I more closely relate to criminals, so-called criminals, than to other people, not because of their so-called crimes but because of their longing for freedom, their anxiety, pain, and sense of exclusion.” And this is what we hear in his music.

Acclaimed American conductor Alan Gilbert recently took over as chief conductor of the Hamburg NDR Elbphilharmonie and is also the newly appointed music director of the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, beginning in 2021. Gilbert was chief conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra from 2000–08 and he is now conductor laureate; he was subsequently chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

A film production from January 2020.