C1523. KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. Boston Symphony Orchestra: Symphony #10 in F-sharp - Adagio (Mahler), Live Performance, 15 Aug., 1982, Tanglewood Music Festival; Passacaglia in d, Op.1 (Webern); Symphony #100 in G (Haydn); Symphony #9 in C (Schubert), Live Performance, 8 Jan., 1977, Symphony Hall, Boston. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-542. [The Webern, Haydn & Schubert beautifully display the splendor of the Symphony Hall acoustic.] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Klaus Tennstedt’s relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra was unique. It was his successful United States début with that ensemble in 1974, with an all-Brahms program and a Bruckner Eighth, that made him an overnight star, after years of toiling in the vineyards of East Germany. He always had a special affection for the musicians, and they for him. This two-disc set gives us a complete BSO Symphony Hall subscription concert from January 8, 1977 (Webern, Haydn, and Schubert) and a bonus from Tanglewood on August 15, 1982 (Mahler).
Obviously, all great conductors must bring to their work a balance among different and even contradictory interpretive elements. And those balances differ significantly between conductors. That is why you would never mistake Leonard Bernstein’s work for Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s! In the case of Tennstedt, the element that was most often at the forefront of his musical personality was warmth, a big-hearted and genial romanticism that suffused almost everything he did. That is not meant to imply that he ignored other elements in the music - he was too intelligent and serious a musician to do that. But bringing a point of view to music means giving different weights to different elements in a score.
Tennstedt’s balance is most important here in the Adagio from the Mahler Tenth Symphony. Others have found a more forceful agonized outcry in this movement, whether at his ensuing death or other tragedies in his life, culminating in the harmonic crisis at the crux of the movement. Tennstedt seems to feel it more as a bitter-sweet farewell. While the playing of the musicians has deep emotional commitment, it also has about it a warmth and richness of color, and rounded edges where others go for slashing incisiveness. This is very convincing, even moving, in a way that is quite different from many performances of this score.
It is wonderful of the St. Laurent Studio to present a complete Tennstedt/BSO concert just as it took place in Symphony Hall. One presumes the recording is taken from the BSO radio broadcasts, and the quality of sound is excellent in both this concert and the Tanglewood Mahler. The Webern receives a richly colored performance, underlining the roots of Webern in the Austro-German romantic tradition while not slighting the more modernistic elements of the music. The Haydn would pass few tests administered by an H.I.P. instructor today, but if you are open to a more ‘old-fashioned’ vision of Haydn you will find it delightful. Although the sonority is that of a modern symphony orchestra, and the attacks lacks the crispness that seems di rigueur now, by no means is this a heavy-handed or loose-limbed performance. It has energy, momentum, and most of all it has geniality. I have little patience for performances of Haydn where I cannot feel, or even see in my mind’s eye, the conductor smiling or winking along the way. And there is plenty of that here. This is a joyful, exuberant, and brilliantly played Haydn performance.
The Schubert is in a similar vein. The music’s lyricism and warmth are emphasized, but not at the expense of rhythmic tautness. Tennstedt’s ritard at the final restatement of the opening tune, in the strings at the end of the first movement, is less severe than many, and he brings that movement to a close with real thrust and perfectly balanced timpani (prominent but not dominant). The second movement emphasizes the con moto in the Andante con moto indication; the tempo is on the quick side but never rushed, and the suppleness of phrasing and warmth of the string playing, along with a great attention to orchestral balance and color, engages us thoroughly. The last two movements also find the right balance between line, lyricism, and momentum. Tennstedt opts on the final chord for a diminuendo, not my preference, but overall this is such a songful and joyful performance that it sweeps away objections.
There are other Tennstedt-led Schubert Ninths, including a live Berlin Philharmonic performance on Testament. The interpretive view is similar in all (including his EMI studio recording, though that lacks the degree of spirit and energy of his live performances). I will say that his relationship with the Boston Symphony was special, and I don’t believe he was ever seen in the same light by the Berlin musicians. I hear a level of orchestral commitment here that goes beyond his other recorded readings - but that difference is small. What is offered here, though, is more than a superb Schubert Ninth. It is the experience of a full Tennstedt/BSO concert, along with the Mahler as a bonus. That makes this release (available from Norbeck, Peters & Ford @norpete.com) treasurable.
As is usual, the St. Laurent Studio provides no accompanying notes, and I wish they would have reduced the between-movement pauses in the Schubert and Haydn (listening at home is a completely different experience from attending a concert). But please don’t take that as a reason to avoid this wonderful set, which brings us a kind of old-fashioned, warm-hearted music making that we could use more of today.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Because he spent the beginning of his career in East Germany, Klaus Tennstedt was virtually unknown in the West until he was in his late 40s. But his international career took off after he left East Germany in 1971. From the time he made his first appearances in North America, with the Toronto and Boston Symphony orchestras in 1974, he was regarded as an uncommonly probing, expressive conductor of works from the mainstream Romantic repertory.
Mr. Tennstedt was born in Merseburg, Germany, on 6 June, 1926. When he was 15, he enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied violin, piano and music theory. He also studied in Dresden during World War II, and he told one interviewer that after the firebombing of Dresden in 1944, he was in the fire brigade and assigned to dig bodies out of the rubble.
In 1948 he was appointed concertmaster of the Halle Municipal Theater Orchestra, where his father was a violinist. Four years later he began conducting the orchestra, and he soon became its music director. In 1958, he became music director of the Dresden Opera and in 1962 he took over the Schwerin State Orchestra and the Schwerin State Theater. During the 1960s, Mr. Tennstedt had an active touring schedule in East Germany, and was a frequent guest of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Berlin Radio Orchestra. He also performed in the Soviet Union and in Czechoslovakia. When preparing for a tour in 1971, Mr. Tennstedt found that his passport had been mistakenly stamped with an exit visa for the West. He left East Germany for Sweden, announced his intention not to return, and persuaded the East German Government to allow his wife to join him. In Sweden, he became the director of the Stora Theater in Goteborg and the conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm. In 1972, he became director of the Kiel Opera in West Germany.
Mr. Tennstedt's first break in North America occurred after the death of Karel Ancerl, the director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. When the orchestra's managing director, Walter Homburger, went to Europe in search of a replacement, he read some reviews of Mr. Tennstedt's work in Kiel. After hearing him conduct Bruckner's Seventh Symphony, he hired him for a series of Toronto concerts in May 1974. He made his Boston Symphony début later that year [C1425].
Mr. Tennstedt became principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic in 1977, served as principal guest conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1979 to 1982, and returned to the London Philharmonic as its music director from 1983 to 1987. After he relinquished the post, he became the orchestra's conductor laureate.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Jan., 1998