He is Sweden’s most important symphonist, its equivalent to Finland’s Sibelius, and he was born 100 years ago next Monday.
Yet hardly any musicians outside his own country have remembered the occasion (his publisher excepted) and within Sweden itself the response is decidedly muted.
Why is that?
Because Allan Pettersson was ultimate outsider, a composer of Barefoot Songs who denounced the nanny state and went his own stubborn way, cradle to grave. Two great conductors – Rafael Kubelik and Antal Dorati – championed his work. Ida Haendel played his second violin concerto. Old recordings can still be found. Only one new release has landed on my desk in his centenary year.
The seventh symphony is an extraordinarily powerful work, and I discussed the rest in some detail in my Complete Companion to 20th Century Music.
‘I am not a composer, I am a voice crying,’ said Pettersson.
‘He started drilling, and it still hurts,’ says an article in Svenska Dagblad.
Sweden’s ambivalence has damaged his legacy.