Pettersson’s Complete Songs From BIS

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Listeners familiar with Allan Pettersson’s monomanical and bleakly obsessive symphonies will be surprised at the plain-spoken quality of his art songs, all of which date from early in the composer’s career. His six 1935 songs are quirky and episodic, as if Hugo Wolf had rewritten Edvard Grieg. The 24 Barefoot Songs from 1943-45 set to Pettersson’s own texts convey a charming, folk-like simplicity in their strophic structures and modest performing demands, although the composer’s subtle harmonic twists and turns avoid blandness. Peter Mattei’s attractive baritone voice retains clarity and fullness in all registers, abetted by superb diction and Bengt-Åke Lundin’s deft handling of the piano parts.

That said, I slightly prefer the suaver vocal quality and more intimate characterizations that tenor Torsten Mossberg brings to his Pettersson song survey on the Sterling label. For a female voice, Monica Groop’s wonderful CPO release with pianist Cord Garben remains a point of reference. The latter is hard to source via physical CD, but is available on streaming platforms, as is a 1990 Swedish Society release for which the songs are divided between a man and a woman. Clearly we are spoiled for choice! In all, you certainly won’t go wrong with the BIS edition’s superb musical and technical production values.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Pettersson Songs: Torsten Mossberg (Sterling); Monica Groop (CPO)

Allan Pettersson: 6 Songs (1935); 24 Barefoot Songs (1943-45)

  • Peter Mattei (baritone); Bengt-Åke Lundin (piano)

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