Klaus Tennstedt,  Vol. XXXIV;  Lazar Berman (Tschaikowsky & Scriabin) (St Laurent Studio YSL T-1060)
Item# C1823
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Klaus Tennstedt,  Vol. XXXIV;  Lazar Berman (Tschaikowsky & Scriabin) (St Laurent Studio YSL T-1060)
C1823. KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. NDR S.O.: Iphigénie en Tauride - Overture (Gluck) - Live Performance 25 Sept., 1978; KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. Finnish Radio S.O., w. LAZAR BERMAN: Piano Concerto #1 in b-flat (Tschaikowsky); LAZAR BERMAN: Etude in b-flat (Scriabin) - Live Performance, 5 Sept., 1978. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-1060. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


“Lazar Berman, a Russian pianist with a huge, thunderous technique that made him a thrilling interpreter of Liszt and Rachmaninoff and a representative of the grand school of Russian Romantic pianism, had a gentle manner that seemed at odds with his often-muscular approach to the piano. His repertory, though, was broader than his reputation would suggest. It ran from Bach and Handel, through Mozart, Clementi and Beethoven, to Scriabin and Shostakovich. Although Mr. Berman was best known for the grandeur of his Liszt, Chopin, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff playing, he played Mozart and early Beethoven, for example, with a light touch that could surprise listeners who had typecast him as a firebrand. He also proved a supportive and deferential chamber music collaborator in recitals with his son, the violinist Pavel Berman, in the early 1990s.

Lazar Berman studied with Alexander Goldenweiser, a renowned Russian pianist who remained Mr. Berman's teacher at the Moscow Conservatory in the 1940s and 1950s.

Mr. Berman made his professional debut at age 10, playing a Mozart concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic. By the mid-1950s, he had won several competitions in the Soviet Union, as well as prizes at the Queen Elisabeth Competition and at the Franz Liszt competition. A European tour and a legendary recording of Liszt's Transcendental Études for the Melodiya label, in 1959, helped solidify his reputation as a virtuoso player. So did a glowing report from Emil Gilels, one of the greatest Russian pianists of the time, who called Mr. Berman ‘the phenomenon of the music world’. When Harold C. Schonberg, then the chief music critic of THE NEW YORK TIMES, heard Mr. Berman in Moscow in 1961, he wrote that the pianist had 20 fingers and breathed fire.

Soviet authorities, however, prevented Mr. Berman from traveling to the United States until 1976, when he was 45. When he made his New York debut, playing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1 with Lukas Foss and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Schonberg wrote that ‘he may be that rarest of musicians - a real, true blue Romantic, one who understands the conventions and has the ability to put them into effect’. Still, Mr. Berman left the piano world deeply divided. Just as he was idolized by fans of titanic Romanticism, other listeners faulted him for perceived deficits in subtlety or stylistic variety. At any rate, his American career was short-lived. After a flurry of performances between 1976 and 1979, he was again prevented from touring by the Soviet authorities after American books were discovered in his luggage.

By the time he could travel again in 1990, Mr. Berman had largely tired of the concert stage, preferring to devote himself to teaching and to judging competitions, with occasional performances on his own or with his son. He moved to Florence in August 1990 and was granted Italian citizenship in 1994.”

- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 Feb., 2005

“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 debut later that year. [This outstanding performance, described as a 'once in a lifetime' event, in which Tennstedt gave the Boston audience and radio listeners a positively electrifying account of Bruckner's 8th, is still talked about in Boston to this day! After rehearsing, the Orchestra spontaneously broke into applause during a coffee break.]

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