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Duo Gelland Allan Pettersson Seven Sonatas

Duo Gelland performs Seven Sonatas for Two Violins, Sju sonater för två violiner, by Allan Pettersson in Lloyd Ultan Hall during a residency at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2011.
Allan Pettersson (1911-1980) lived and worked in Stockholm. Before composing his famous large scale symphonies and the second violin concerto (premiered by Ida Haendel) he wrote this one hour long violin duo cycle, balancing on knife's edge of what's violin technically possible, all in a fragmented frenzy of existential beauty and concern with gesture, timbre, counterpoint, expression.
The cycle was completed in 1951, the year Pettersson also studied in Paris with René Leibowitz. Two of the sonatas (no. 3 and 7) were premiered in Paris in December 1952 by Monique Jeanne and Françoise Onfroy. In 1999 the cycle as a whole was premiered in concert by Duo Gelland in Stockholm.
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  1. Duo Gelland, Allan Pettersson, Sonata 1

    Duo Gelland in concert, Lloyd Ultan Hall, Minneapolis October 31st, 2011

    Pettersson begins with a melody from a Barefoot song, thus revealing what it is all about:
    Flower by my foot, give me a scent, that no-one knew. A secret scent from darkest dust, hiding your root and all things beautiful.
    Bird in my hand, far from the forest, sorrow-sounds in the throat. Yes, you are faithful, but ten are in the forest, small shells by the beach, but the large depths hold many more.

    Hardly audible is the four part ppp semplice entrance orchestrating the violins with a middle A each and the non lined up melody beneath and two octaves above. It hauls itself into an absolutely reckless and radically expressive exploration of the violin duo as medium. A grand opening of a unique project, modernistic, experimental, furious and heart aching.

  2. Duo Gelland, Allan Pettersson, Sonata 2

    Duo Gelland in concert, Lloyd Ultan Hall, Minneapolis October 31st, 2011

    The second Sonata contrasts the first one by being much shorter and yet consisting of three movements. The extremes are as present but here they somehow dance - sometimes even elegantly - in forms which are both surprising and to the point.

    I Allegro con allegrezza
    II Moderato
    III Allegro veloce

  3. Duo Gelland, Allan Pettersson, Sonata 3

    Duo Gelland in concert, Lloyd Ultan Hall, Minneapolis October 31st, 2011

    Allegro agitato, like a pulsating siren turning into existential life signals on both ends of the scale of motion and emotion in molto staccato pppp as in tremolating fff on and around its f sharp - stirring everything up in passing.

  4. Duo Gelland, Allan Pettersson, Sonata 4

    Duo Gelland in concert, Lloyd Ultan Hall, Minneapolis October 31st, 2011

    A heavy punctuated rhythm gives this movement an unrelenting sternness both brutal and playful with soft spiccatos, everything leading up to a Largamente with one violin appassionato molto and the other espressivo molto, finally curling up in reversed rhythm.

  5. Duo Gelland, Allan Pettersson, Sonata 5

    Duo Gelland in concert, Lloyd Ultan Hall, Minneapolis October 31st, 2011

    This sonata lends its material from a Christian song, Blott en dag/Day by day, often sung by Pettersson's mother and other desperately poor people in the slums of Stockholm. The song says to have faith and endure a moment at a time. Pettersson tears the melodic material into minute fragments, warped beyond recognition. There are melodic primes and two finger pizzicati, extreme positions and glissandi. The tempo is breathless. Only towards the end there is a glimpse of the original song line accompanied by pizzicati like an out of tune guitar. The urge to give voice to the voiceless, the suffering, the oppressed, is a carrying vision of Pettersson's artistry throughout life.

  6. Duo Gelland, Allan Pettersson, Sonata 6 + 7

    Duo Gelland in concert, Lloyd Ultan Hall, Minneapolis October 31st, 2011

    This sonata consists of five movements:
    I Andante. The second violin held as a guitar performs glissando-pizzicati in forte possibile while the first violin, muted, opens with a combination of fingered harmonics and pizzicati. If the last sonata was fury, then here is bizarre - earnest and hilarious at the same time.

    II Walzer. A dance macabre of sorts, the first violin still muted and the second violin in guitar position playing cords, glissandi, tremoli in wild manners so close to the impossible, that one must envision Pettersson sitting there in a frenzy inventing every passage with the violin in his hands.

    III Mesto. Brief, sonorous, espressivo, bringing to mind his later string orchestra music, a two part passage with octaves and 9ths as violin solo. attacca into next movement

    IV Tempo di Walzer. A hair slower than the first Walzer, perhaps haunted but not grotesque anymore, the second violin plays arco but muted. There is a reprise.

    V Andante. As sonorous as the Mesto and longer with Allegro parts built into it, cantabile molto, ponticello, ending and ending again with a forte fortissimo A in three octaves, the threshold to the last movement.

    Sonata no. 7 Cantando. Epilogue or perhaps a new beginning

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