Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

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Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Lance » Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:44 pm

Collecting, as you know, for many years, Klaus Tennstedt [1926-1998] has never had the musical effect on me that I thought he might have, right from the beginning. I have been trying to put my finger on what is "missing," and of course, I blame me rather than him. His Mahler and Wagner interpretations are rated very high by leading critics, and he's done some good work with the German masters (a great Brahms German Requiem. I have more with him on LP but never bothered to update my collection with anything appearing much on CD except collaborations.

So, how do others feel about Herr Tennstedt? He is among your TOP 10 favourite conductors? Do you think he will go down in history as one of the greats? [I might also ask the same question about Kurt Masur, whose work has made a deeper impression on yours truly.]

Here's a little bio info on the man from our friends at Wiki:

Klaus Tennstedt (June 6, 1926 – January 11, 1998) was a German conductor from Merseburg. He studied violin and piano at the Leipzig Conservatory. He became concertmaster of the orchestra at the Halle Municipal Theatre in 1948. However, a finger injury stopped his career as a violinist, and afterwards he worked as a coach to singers at the same theatre. Tennstedt then directed his talents toward conducting. In 1958, he became music director of the Dresden Opera, and in 1962, music director of the Schwerin State Orchestra and Theatre.

Tennstedt emigrated from East Germany in 1971 and obtained asylum in Sweden. He conducted in Gothenburg with the Göteborg Theatre and in Stockholm with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 1972, he became General Music Director of the Kiel Opera in Northern Germany. From 1979 to 1982, he served as Chief Conductor of the North German Radio Orchestra in Hamburg.

In 1974, Tennstedt made his North American debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His first US appearance was shortly after that, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in December 1974, conducting Bruckner's Symphony No. 8. In Norman Lebrecht's The Maestro Myth, the story was told that when the Boston management asked Tennstedt what he wanted to conduct, he replied: "You mean I get to choose?" His appearances were highly acclaimed, and as a result, Tennstedt guest-conducted at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 1975. His USA opera debut was at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in 1983, conducting a production of Beethoven's Fidelio. He also guest-conducted with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

His London debut was with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1976. In 1977 came his first engagement with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), which led to his appointment as the LPO's Principal Guest Conductor in 1980, and eventually as Principal Conductor in 1983. Due to ill-health, however, he stepped down in 1987, and he was later named the LPO's Conductor Laureate. He did return to the LPO for concerts of Mahler in November 1991 (Symphony No. 6) and May 1993 (Symphony No.7). However, on the advice of his physicians, Tennstedt retired from conducting altogether in October 1994.

His recordings include a complete cycle of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. Several of Tennstedt's concert performances have been reissued on CD. ♪
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by lennygoran » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:07 pm

>So, how do others feel about Herr Tennstedt?<

Well you know with my skimpy classical music knowledge I can't give an opinion on that but if I might relate what always comes to my mind when I see that name Tennstedt--he and Vickers got into an argument when they were going to do a Fidelio at the Met--I had never seen either Fidelio or Vickers live and as it grew near to the performance date there were rumors Vickers wouldn't be there. Well that night the performance of Fidelio began--there was no slip in the program that anyone was sick and finally Act 2 began and there was Vickers! What a relief and what a performance--I'm so sorry I never got to see more of Vickers. Regards, Len

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Lance » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:24 pm

Interesting story, Lenny. Well, I too, am a fan of Jon Vickers and have many of his recordings, of which there were really not that many. What a consummate artist! Now, if it was a toss-up to go to hear Tennstedt or Vickers, it's Vickers who would have pulled me into Fidelio. If you're a Vickers fan, you might enjoy reading his biography: Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life by Jeannie Williams. I'm not sure if this was an “authorised” biography or not (seem to think it wasn't) but it was issued in 1999 and provided some good reading.
lennygoran wrote:>So, how do others feel about Herr Tennstedt?<

Well you know with my skimpy classical music knowledge I can't give an opinion on that but if I might relate what always comes to my mind when I see that name Tennstedt--he and Vickers got into an argument when they were going to do a Fidelio at the Met--I had never seen either Fidelio or Vickers live and as it grew near to the performance date there were rumors Vickers wouldn't be there. Well that night the performance of Fidelio began--there was no slip in the program that anyone was sick and finally Act 2 began and there was Vickers! What a relief and what a performance--I'm so sorry I never got to see more of Vickers. Regards, Len
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by moldyoldie » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:27 pm

My listening experience has been that the late Tennstedt is especially worth hearing in live performance recordings leading his erstwhile band the London Philharmonic, such as those released by BBC and LPO's house label. Depending on the work, performances are often impetuous bordering on wreckless. :shock: Exciting and spontaneous as hell! :D ...if you like that sort of thing.

My guess is that for the novice listener, he may be "an acquired taste".
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by JackC » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:34 pm

Tennstedt was the greatest conductor that I have ever heard "live". (I never head Reiner, Szell, Toscanini, etc "live".)

I remember one performance he gave of the Bruckner 4th with the Boston SO that was astounding. He made it sound like the greatest symphony ever written (and Bruckner is not at the top of my personal list of favorite composers). He guest conducted the BSO a few times, in Boston and at Tanglewood, which I believe launched his career in the states (And hearing him guest conduct the BSO and having to live with Ozawa as MD just emphasized what a crime that was!!)

I was studying for my first year law exams when I turned the radio on to take a break. The Met was doing Fidelio, but I did not know it was Tennstedt conducting. It must have been from the series of performances that lennygoran mentions. A few minutes of listening and I forgot about going back to study. I was totally engrossed. By the end I was cheering by myself in my apartment. The singing wasn't great, but the conducting and overall performance was thrilling. If you ever have a chance to hear a tape of the performance - starting with the greatest perforamace of the Leonora #3 I have heard throught the most exciting finale one can image - that will tell you what Tennstedt is all about.

He has a special gift to build tension and excitement in concert.

I have to say his studio recordings never made a great/special impression on me, and very few of his live recordings generate the same thrill that I experienced hearing him with the BSO or on the Met broadcast.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Jared » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:35 pm

I know that in the liner notes to his Beethoven: Violin Concerto, Nigel Kennedy said of Tennstedt (who conducted) that he was the greatest living conductor.. :!:

Mind you, I'm not sure whether you go along with the hype, given the number of other highly controversial statements he made in the same notes!

:lol:

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by bombasticDarren » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:37 pm

I don't have much to say on this subject unfortunately :oops: ...

...but Tennstedt's LPO Mahler cycle is a rather underrated treasure, in my opinion :)

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Barry » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:39 pm

I've long thought of Tennstedt as sort of a later-day Furtwangler in some respects. He seems to have been at his best in the concert hall and even there, he could be uneven. There are various pirate recordings floating around of him conducting Mahler and Bruckner symphonies (not to mention other major composers), and while one performance of a particular Mahler symphony may completely blow me away, another one of the same symphony won't do anything for me at all.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that limiting one's self to his commercial EMI recordings will not give one the true measure of Tennstedt. There are a number of live performances by him with various orchestras on the Memories label that seem to go in and out of stock at Berkshire Record Outlet. I can tell you, Lance, that if you ever see a performance of the Tchaikovsky 6th by him with the Philadelphia Orchestra, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's also on that Memories label and rivals the most thrilling accounts of that symphony that I've ever hears. In fact, the third movement is unbelievably exciting. Of course, if you're someone who prefers his Tchaikovsky more reserved and would rather have a conductor "let the music speak for itself," it won't be for you. There is also a Mahler 9th he led with Philadelphia during the 80s that I've heard that, again, made me think that if Furtwangler had conducted that symphony, especially during the war, this may be what it would have sounded like. It's an absolutely wild performance that is emotionally draining.

If you or anyone else has interest in which Tennsted performances are the ones that represent him best, here is a thread from another board I sometimes visit that addresses that issue:

http://groups.google.ge/group/rec.music ... c5c6cb41ca

One of my great music-related regrets is that while Tennstedt was still guest conducting here when I started going to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, I wasn't really in tune to which guest conductors were the ones to see back then, nor was I a Mahler or Bruckner fan yet, so I never made a point to go see him. By the time I started getting into those composers, he had stopped coming due to health.

There was a great, emotional story in the Maestro Myth chapter that deals with Tennstedt. When he first came to Philadelphia to conduct in the late 70s, he broke down crying during rehearsal and explained to the musicians that his father used to play Stokowski/Philly recordings for him during the dark days of WWII to chear him up and now there he was conducting them. It was more than he could handle at that moment.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by lennygoran » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:44 pm

>Now, if it was a toss-up to go to hear Tennstedt or Vickers, it's Vickers who would have pulled me into Fidelio. If you're a Vickers fan, you might enjoy reading his biography: Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life by Jeannie Williams. <

Thanks, yeah I'm definitely a Vickers fan. Not to be controversial but for years I've heard people talk about Domingo owning the role of Otello and believe me I love Domingo. However the recording which I have to learn the music of Otello is with Vickers-superb. Sometime ago there was a clip of Vickers doing Otello on TV--wow, I'd have to say he can hold up against Domingo--they're both great!

Well YouTube is loaded with clips. Here's an interesting one:
"Often referred to as the most difficult opening lines in all of opera, here are five tenors giving 'er. In chronological order: 1. Giacomo Lauri-Volpi 2. Mario del Monaco 3. Jon Vickers 4. Placido...5.Pavarotti "

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-qpmU1J3Hk Regards, Len

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by stenka razin » Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:29 pm

I saw Tennstedt's debut Bruckner Symphony No. 8 with the Bostonians and can tastify that Mr. T was a magnetic and brilliant conductor and usually better in person, than on disc. That said, his EMI Mahler Symphony box is highly recommended. 8)
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Heck148 » Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:48 pm

Tennstedt could be very inconsistent.

IME, there was a certain rhythmic laxness, imprecision in his performances...he was going for the big phrase, I guess, or maybe, a la Furtwangler, he was going for overall effect, and did not want to get so tied up in the precision... :?:

His best effort, for me - is a live Bruckner 7 with Chicago, that is included in the archival CSO/20th Century collection. his rhythmic laxness is not too noticeable hear, since the CSO plays naturally with great attention to rhythmic accuracy...it is a splendid performance - with a stunning rendition of the Adagio. this builds steadily and reaches a tremendous climax - just when you think they've hit the dynamic limit - it crescendos!! great stuff...

I heard him with the LPO at Boston Sym Hall, doing Mahler 5. good, not great...lacked a little drive. perhaps I'm not being quite fair because shortly before, Abbado/LSO came thru and played the same piece, considerably better. neither matched the cosmic Solti/CSO M5 I heard in Carnegie Hall in 1970.

I saw/heard a segment on Classic Arts Showcase - Tennstedt/Paris ConsOrch, or maybe Orch/Paris - can't remember, but it was a French orchestra - Wagner - Siegfried's Funeral music. this was pretty much of a mess..rhythmically this piece is tough, full of rubato, pushing, pulling, etc.
this performance was very ragged - I don't think any two sections of the orchestra ever played the 2-16-note figure the same way...it was all over the place...

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Wallingford » Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:58 pm

Lance, you're not alone: nearly any conductor whose repertory by and large sticks with the core Germanic items, is a turnoff to me. Tennstedt's interpretations don't shed any new light for me.

I intend on getting one of those live Boston concerts he did--which are available thru Disco Archivia--but that's it.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jan 09, 2010 7:34 pm

bombasticDarren wrote:I don't have much to say on this subject unfortunately :oops: ...

...but Tennstedt's LPO Mahler cycle is a rather underrated treasure, in my opinion :)
His Mahler and Bruckner are beyond reproach...
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Heck148 » Sat Jan 09, 2010 7:40 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
His Mahler and Bruckner are beyond reproach...
Ummmmm... yes, and no...
supposedly there's a first-rate Mahler #1 he did as guest conductor in Chicago...I've never heard it, tho some say it was real dynamite...

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by gfweis » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:09 pm

I had several of Tennstedt's Mahler symphonies on lp about 30 years ago. I didn't keep any of them, as I thought they were at times ponderous, and, frankly, I kind of wrote him off. I might think differently now, who knows? But I do know this: a couple years ago I picked up an Angel lp at the local thrift store of KT doing the Italian symphony and the Schumann 4 with the BPO. The Mendelssohn was one of the very best I had heard. The Schumann was in the monumental style, Furtwangleresque, and was simply spectacular. The BPO play on this lp as if they are truly inspired. I now would be open to hearing (and re-hearing) anything KT recorded.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Seán » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:37 pm

bombasticDarren wrote:I don't have much to say on this subject unfortunately :oops: ...

...but Tennstedt's LPO Mahler cycle is a rather underrated treasure, in my opinion :)
I have his M5 and I don't like it a all. I have heard his M6 - I don't have a copy of it - and it was thrilling.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by CharmNewton » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:54 pm

Lance, if Tennstedt's conducting on record doesn't do much for you, then it just doesn't. No blame required. Maybe this will give you a better understanding when other listeners don't connect with artists you admire.

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Lance » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:38 am

Oh, I'm fully appreciative of that, John. I just have been trying to determine the "why" of my not connecting with Tennstedt. There are people who don't like Rubinstein, Horowitz, or Furtwängler, and that is their privilege.
CharmNewton wrote:Lance, if Tennstedt's conducting on record doesn't do much for you, then it just doesn't. No blame required. Maybe this will give you a better understanding when other listeners don't connect with artists you admire.

John
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:00 pm

Lance wrote:Oh, I'm fully appreciative of that, John. I just have been trying to determine the "why" of my not connecting with Tennstedt. There are people who don't like Rubinstein, Horowitz, or Furtwängler, and that is their privilege.
Yep, that's me... :wink:
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Seán » Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:01 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
Lance wrote:Oh, I'm fully appreciative of that, John. I just have been trying to determine the "why" of my not connecting with Tennstedt. There are people who don't like Rubinstein, Horowitz, or Furtwängler, and that is their privilege.
Yep, that's me... :wink:
I thought that, at least Lance is not talking about you behind your back. :lol:
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by John F » Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:29 am

I've heard only one Tennstedt concert - Bruckner's Symphony #8, his last appearance with the NY Philharmonic - though I had a ticket for another, which he cancelled because he thought the Philharmonic wasn't being cooperative (he may well have been right). He conducted a fair number of Philharmonic concerts in the '80s, but I was too busy with my work to get to any of them. And I'm not sure I've heard any of his recordings. Tennstedt had an enormous reputation in Boston and London, but somehow I never got interested.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Lance » Mon Jan 11, 2010 11:24 am

No, I would never do that! [Talk behind someone's back.] We did have one fellow on board who couldn't stand Wilhelm Furtwängler despite the universal accolades the conductor received from nearly everybody. And so it goes. Even the now legendary Arthur Fiedler gets a bum rap from some people! [Ho, ho, ho!]
Seán wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
Lance wrote:Oh, I'm fully appreciative of that, John. I just have been trying to determine the "why" of my not connecting with Tennstedt. There are people who don't like Rubinstein, Horowitz, or Furtwängler, and that is their privilege.
Yep, that's me... :wink:
I thought that, at least Lance is not talking about you behind your back. :lol:
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Jared » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:02 pm

meanwhile, some of us just aren't discerning or knowledgable enough to have a list of artists we really don't like... :lol: :oops:

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by stenka razin » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:37 pm

Lance, you really had to hear Tennstedt in person, to understand the very special cult status that his reputation has garnered. Tennstedt's presence in front of the Boston Symphony was overpowering.
I saw him at Tanglewood in the 1970's coducting Bruckner and his open rehearsals were spot on. He was the real thing and he made me a true believer. Mr T. could wield his magic baton so magnificently. 8)
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Jared » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:52 pm

I have to tell you that for the past 6 months, I have had the Tennstedt Mahler boxset sat on the infamous pile; partly because a number of the symphonies had received very good reviews, and partly because I found it very reasonably priced in a 2nd hand shop. I must admit to feeling reassured that, whilst most of his output seems to have varied in quality according to CMGers, that at least his Mahler has a solid reputation here.. I will look forward to hearing it, this spring.. 8)

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Seán » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:16 pm

Jared wrote:I have to tell you that for the past 6 months, I have had the Tennstedt Mahler boxset sat on the infamous pile; partly because a number of the symphonies had received very good reviews, and partly because I found it very reasonably priced in a 2nd hand shop. I must admit to feeling reassured that, whilst most of his output seems to have varied in quality according to CMGers, that at least his Mahler has a solid reputation here.. I will look forward to hearing it, this spring.. 8)
I will be very interested to learn of what you make of the recording of the M5.
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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Jared » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:43 pm

^^ not having heard any other M5s to compare it against, I'm probably not the best person to ask! :lol:

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by bombasticDarren » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:48 pm

Seán wrote:
bombasticDarren wrote:I don't have much to say on this subject unfortunately :oops: ...

...but Tennstedt's LPO Mahler cycle is a rather underrated treasure, in my opinion :)
I have his M5 and I don't like it a all. I have heard his M6 - I don't have a copy of it - and it was thrilling.
Agreed Sean...in my original post I omitted to mention that the M6 is indeed noteworthy within the set and, yes, thrilling
:)

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by Harold Tucker » Mon Jan 11, 2010 11:35 pm

Count me among the true believers. I hold the Tennstedt concerts I attended in the same esteem that I hold concerts in my past by Stokowski, Bernstein and Kondrashin (to name a few). I also attended a couple of rehearsals when he appeared at the Cincinnati May Festival back in the 1980's and they were a thrill. I had a large collection of off-the-air concert performances on cassette and I have a bunch of cd's taken from various orchestras historical retrospectives.
One of the outstanding characteristics of his conducting was clarity--all the voices could be heard and all fell into their proper place. In addition to his Bruckner and Mahler , his Beethoven, Schubert and Dvorak were supreme. It is true, alas, that his recordings for EMI lacked the spark that made his live concerts so transcendent. Happily some recordings from his London days are still trickling out. Anne Midgette of the Washington Post seems to be a recent convert and her holiday suggestions were all Tennstedt performances.

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by CharmNewton » Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:44 am

Seán wrote:
Jared wrote:I have to tell you that for the past 6 months, I have had the Tennstedt Mahler boxset sat on the infamous pile; partly because a number of the symphonies had received very good reviews, and partly because I found it very reasonably priced in a 2nd hand shop. I must admit to feeling reassured that, whilst most of his output seems to have varied in quality according to CMGers, that at least his Mahler has a solid reputation here.. I will look forward to hearing it, this spring.. 8)
I will be very interested to learn of what you make of the recording of the M5.
He made two recordings of the 5th. The first one is the one included in the set. The second recording was made around 1992 and might be among his last recordings. I believe it is a concert performance, also with the LPO.

John

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Re: Klaus Tennstedt: Why am I not enamoured?

Post by maestrob » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:47 am

stenka razin wrote:Lance, you really had to hear Tennstedt in person, to understand the very special cult status that his reputation has garnered. Tennstedt's presence in front of the Boston Symphony was overpowering.
I saw him at Tanglewood in the 1970's coducting Bruckner and his open rehearsals were spot on. He was the real thing and he made me a true believer. Mr T. could wield his magic baton so magnificently. 8)
I would say that, compared to Ozawa, he must have been a breath of fresh air.

Like JohnF, I never paid much attention, altho I own a stunning Mahler VI on EMI that seems just right to my ears. It's just that there were always more important recordings to get. Dunno, perhaps I've missed the boat, but I remember enjoying his live Boston concerts on radio. I can't imagine trying Wagner with a French orchestra in those years: that could easily have been a mish-mash without a LOT of rehearsal.

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