C1997. KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. Vienna Phil.: Symphony #10 in F-sharp - Adagio (Mahler) [The Symphony #10 in F-sharp major by Gustav Mahler was written in the summer of 1910, and was his final composition. At the time of Mahler's death, the composition was substantially complete in the form of a continuous draft, but not fully elaborated or orchestrated, and thus not performable. Only the first movement is regarded as reasonably complete and performable as Mahler intended]; 'Eroica' Symphony #3 in E-flat (Beethoven), Live Performance, 29 Aug., 1982, Salzburg; KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. Vienna Phil.: Bach Variations (Paul Dessau), Live Performance, 30 Sept., 1963, Schwering. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1306. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“For concertgoers, the chances of hearing a great performance of the ‘Eroica’ Symphony is a fraction of what any record collector enjoys. But on this occasion at the 1982 Salzburg Festival, the audience must have been stunned (one hopes), because Klaus Tennstedt outdid himself. Hailed as an inspired conductor of the entire Austro-German canon, he made no single Beethoven recording in the studio to match his Beethoven in concert. An ‘Eroica’ for EMI from 1991 with the London Philharmonic was live, but Tennstedt was variable even in the concert hall. That London performance is quite good, no doubt. The leap he made in Salzburg is transformative - suddenly there is aliveness and passion in every measure, giving a sense that Beethoven wrote music that remains supremely meaningful.
Tennstedt embodied the Romantic ideal of personal involvement when he conducted. Whatever he wrung from a score he wrung from himself. No one since Furtwängler would have considered that the ‘Eroica’ could still be a wrenching experience - here it definitely is. The touchstone for me is always the Marcia funebre, so I was brought up short when Tennstedt made the first movement just as powerful, leading into the slow movement at a sustained level of intensity that is astonishing.
A major factor is the Vienna Philharmonic. Tennstedt made no commercial recordings with them, and according to the orchestra’s online archives, this concert in Salzburg was his only guest appearance. One wonders why, since the performance brought out such enthralling solo playing - the principal oboe, for example, couldn’t be more eloquent. Overall balances display the discipline and character of a great orchestra fully committed to the moment. All of this is aided by an excellent stereo broadcast that has been skillfully processed by producer Yves St.-Laurent.
The finale is taken at a measured tempo by today’s HIP-influenced standards, yet Tennstedt’s phrase-shaping and his ability to create fluid transitions are perhaps the two qualities that make this ‘Eroica’ comparable to Furtwängler’s best. The one sticking point is the pace chosen for the Scherzo, which is not only slower than Otto Klemperer’s Philharmonia recording but ignores Beethoven’s marking of Allegro vivace. Tennstedt isn’t leisurely, and the Vienna horns are glorious in the Trio, but his sense of the movement’s rhythmic pulse is relaxed (more so than on his EMI recording, which makes me wonder if the intensity of the first two movements caused the conductor’s concentration to falter a little).
Tennstedt’s inspired Mahler is scarcely revealed in his EMI cycle with the London Philharmonic, but I expected the sublime Adagio from the Tenth Symphony to be unusually fine here. In actuality it qualifies as another once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Salzburg audience. I can say this in the face of superb performances from Leonard Bernstein and Claudio Abbado, both with the Vienna Philharmonic on DG. What sets Tennstedt apart is the variety he finds in the music - the return of the two main themes is always different, and even the quiet opening viola statement tells us that something exceptional is to follow. As in the ‘Eroica’, the handling of transitions is magical, and the harrowing dissonant tumult at the end merges into the flow of the whole.
Tennstedt wasn’t known for leading modern music, so this reading of Paul Dessau’s Bach Variations is a rarity. The standard line is that Dessau (1894–1979) was a minor conservative German composer, and I’ll admit that I’ve never heard any of his music before this. His Bach Variations, which takes its principal theme from C.P.E. Bach (snatches of J.S. Bach crop up later), dates from 1963. Perhaps the composer’s advanced age accounts for the oddity that two even more obscure composers, Friedrich Goldmann and Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, collaborated on the work. But the result is rather delightful, a set of 11 often scintillating variations that bring forward glittering, imaginative orchestral writing. Dessau’s models might be Reger’s Hiller and Mozart variations or Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by von Weber.
Dessau moved to East Germany in 1948, which narrowed his niche appeal during his lifetime, but the Bach Variations are scarcely less entertaining than their predecessors. Tennstedt clearly believed in the work, and the performance is enchanting - by no means is the Dessau a throwaway.
St.-Laurent Studio has reached Vol. 44 in its invaluable Tennstedt Edition, which has mined rare and unknwon live performances. Everything has been interesting in the dozen or so concerts I’ve heard, and sometimes pure gold has been uncovered, as here. This is Tennstedt at the summit of his powers, delivering a rare emotional experience through his deep connection with Beethoven and Mahler. In short, a ‘must-listen’.”
- Huntley Dent, FANFARE
"Mahler was obsessive and neurotic about many things. He worried about the significance of numbers, he worried about what he ate, he worried about exercise, and all of these worries were tied into his obsession with his own mortality. He also worried about his younger wife, a talented, beautiful woman whom the composer loved deeply, with the same sort of obsession that marked other facets of his life. He had escaped one of his greatest fears, that he would not live past his ninth symphony, by not numbering his ninth symphony.
The Ninth held a fatal significance for Mahler, who believed that Beethoven had set a limit by dying after his Ninth symphony. Mahler called what should have been his ninth symphony DAS LIED VON DER ERDE, thus cheating death, or so he thought. But the Ninth (even though it was really his Tenth) would be Mahler’s last completed symphony, in spite of his ruse. When he died, the Tenth, whose adagio was unfinished, a noble torso only partly clothed.
In 1910, other fears were coming true for Mahler. His wife Alma had had an affair with the architect Walter Gropius, who mistakenly sent a letter intended for Alma to ‘Herr Direktor Mahler’. The letter, in which Gropius begged Alma to leave her husband, precipitated a marital crisis, and the composer went off to Leiden to see Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, ‘the necessity for the visit arose, for him, from his wife’s resentment of the withdrawal of his libido from her. In highly interesting expeditions through his life history, we discovered his personal conditions for love, especially his Holy Mary complex (mother fixation). I had plenty of opportunity to admire the capability for psychological understanding of this man of genius’.
The visit to Freud was one way of working through the crisis; the other was the Tenth Symphony. Mahler covered the pages of its manuscript with tortured outcries – ‘madness, seize me, the accursed! Negate me, so I forget that I exist, that I may cease to be!’, or ‘to live for you! To die for you!’, and even the dedication of the love song at the heart of the symphony’s finale to his wife, using an affectionate form of her name, ‘Almschi!’ Alma stayed with Mahler during his final illness, accompanying him from New York to Paris to Vienna, where he died of a blood infection on May 18, 1911.
Alma Mahler kept the sketches for the Tenth Symphony for 13 years, during which rumors circulated that it was the haphazard work of a temporarily deranged madman, a genius suffering under a psychological collapse brought on by his personal crisis. In 1924, at the urging of Mahler’s biographer Richard Specht, Alma asked her son-in-law, the composer Ernst Krenek, to complete the symphony. She also took the brave step of publishing a facsimile of the sketches, pained inscriptions and all. What emerged was not indecipherable musical lunacy, but rather an entirely lucid score of a five-movement work, with the opening adagio completely orchestrated and scoring on the third movement, entitled ‘purgatorio’, also well underway. The remaining portions of the symphony were in what musicologist Deryck Cooke, who offered a performing version of the entire symphony in 1964, described as ‘various states of completion’. Krenek’s version of the adagio and purgatorio, which incorporated suggestions and retouchings from composers Alban Berg and Alexander Zemlinsky (another man who suffered emotionally because of his unrequited love for Alma) and the conductor Franz Schalk, was premiered by Schalk and the Vienna Philharmonic in 1924. This version was superseded by Cooke’s and by the scholarly version of the adagio published in the critical Mahler Edition in 1964, the version used for the [subsequent] performances.
The adagio, over its 20-minute-plus span, traverses emotional ground familiar to admirers of other Mahler works, especially the final song of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE and the adagio finale of the Ninth symphony. This, his last ‘completed’ music for orchestra, both bids farewell to the romanticism of the 19th century and, with its dissonance and harmonic questing, foreshadows the music to come. In 1910, when Mahler was working on his Tenth symphony, the world was two years from Schönberg’s PIERROT LUNAIRE and three from Stravinsky’s RITE OF SPRING, the alpha and omega of the 20th-century musical revolution.”
- John Mangum, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra