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Klaus Tennstedt - The Great EMI Recordings


Release Date: 06/07/2011 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 94433   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenJohannes BrahmsRobert SchumannAnton Bruckner,   ... 
Performer:  Jessye NormanJorma Hynninen
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraBBC Symphony ChorusLondon Philharmonic Choir,   ... 
Number of Discs: 14 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

You may alight on any of the big symphonies in this collection and find yourself swept along by Tennstedt’s power and conviction, although I would particularly commend his energised versions of the two Schumann symphonies and the marvellously fluid and flexible performance of Dvorák’s “New World”. Bruckner’s grand gestures also ideally suit this most Romantic of conductors.

At this price, this bargain set of 14 CDs could be recommended as a superb introduction for the novice to some of the cornerstones of the Romantic classical canon. It embraces seminal Beethoven symphonies through Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorák, Wagner, Bruckner and Mahler to Strauss. Obviously, these are all in the
Read more Austro-Germanic school at the core of Tennstedt’s repertoire, although Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Kodály also get a look in on these well-filled discs. The more seasoned collector will want them as a memento of one whom some would call the last great conductor – with all due respect to Abbado, Gergiev and Temirkanov.

Although occasionally patchy and inconsistent, the greatness of Klaus Tennstedt (1926–1998) is clearly revealed by these recordings; it helps that he is directing some of the finest orchestras of his or any day in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic and his beloved London Philharmonic Orchestra. It has often been said that Tennstedt was best live. Two symphonies here are live recordings; otherwise EMI has made a judicious selection from the studio recordings. For someone who had to be coaxed into the recording studio, Tennstedt was mighty busy for EMI in the mid-1980s. I drew attention in my recent review of his similarly packaged and equally impressive Complete Mahler Symphonies EMI box set to what I might call his tectonic quality; whatever he is conducting is moulded and shaped in function of his overview of the music’s structural integrity. Very often, one begins by thinking that Tennstedt has undercooked the tempo and tension a piece requires, only to be ultimately convinced, if not seduced, by the aptness of his pacing; Tennstedt delivers climactic release in his own time.

His beat is not in fact by any means extreme in the Celibidache fashion, although amongst the most daringly slow items here is the Brahms Requiem, which takes risks with etiolated tempi but stays this side of the stodginess that mars Rattle’s account with the BPO. I think it’s a grand interpretation, far preferable to Gardiner’s perkiness and in the tradition of Klemperer, Previn and – my favourite versions – Karajan. As is so often the case with Tennstedt, the metronome will tell you that the speeds are abnormally slow yet he injects momentum and tension when required. A key point for me is “Aber des Herrn Wort” which takes off as it should and the contribution of the two soloists is superb: both Jörma Hynninen and Jessye Norman have big, V8 voices whose majesty and might suit Tennstedt’s sepulchral conception. Brahms’ First Symphony is played on a comparably large scale. It is not so much slower than my favourite interpretation, which is one of Karajan’s later recordings, the live performance at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988 on the Testament label.

Ultimately, Tennstedt’s conception of how music from the Central European tradition should be played is all of a piece: he favours a massive solidity, unfailingly beautiful orchestral tone and a constant sense of spiritual profundity. In this, he reminds me very much of Karajan. Just as that conductor has no shortage of detractors, Tennstedt may be criticised for the very features which are virtues to some and flaws to others. I am puzzled by reviewers elsewhere who first confirm Tennstedt’s stature in the pantheon of twentieth Century conductors then go on either flatly to excoriate or at least damn with faint praise the bulk of the recordings here. Just as Karajan’s insistence upon rich tone from his orchestra was condemned as “superficial”, “bland” and “smooth”, Tennstedt’s direction of the LPO and the Berlin Philharmonic may be dismissed as prizing “pure sound” above interpretative novelty; certainly, I was newly struck by the virtuosity of the playing here and its sheer beauty as sound.

Time and again when listening to these discs I found myself warming to Tennstedt’s sincerity of utterance. Not everything here is in marmoreal vein: his “Also sprach Zarathustra” is thrilling and takes its place among my preferred versions alongside Karajan and Maazel, while the “A Night on a Bare Mountain” is similarly electric. I have long known and loved the thrust and drive of his 1978 analogue recording of Strauss’s mini-masterpiece the “Konzertstück” for four horns and orchestra.

You may alight on any of the big symphonies in this collection and find yourself swept along by Tennstedt’s power and conviction, although I would particularly commend his energised versions of the two Schumann symphonies and the marvellously fluid and flexible performance of Dvorák’s “New World”. Bruckner’s grand gestures also ideally suit this most Romantic of conductors. However, I can understand doubts about the live Mahler symphony. This extends some five or six minutes beyond the norm – although some of that is vociferous applause at the end. Tennstedt uses the extra time to underline a coarser, more menacing mood than he evoked in his more delicate 1978 recording, yet the climax of the fourth movement is heroic, giving full scope to the Chicago brass, and the audience reaction is appropriately enthusiastic. This account by no means bored me and I suspect its measured majesty will grow on me with time. The Beethoven symphonies, however, could be termed conventional in the same way that Günter Wand’s Beethoven can seem faceless to some and faithful to others. I find them to be direct and unfussy. The “Eroica” is a live recording from a 1991 performance in the Royal Festival Hall and presses all the right buttons. Both the “Pastoral” and the Eighth are studio recordings: the former is light, sprung and joyful, the latter weighty in traditional mode. Similarly, I find no fault with the overtures which seem to me to be models of concentrated propulsion.

The “Tannhäuser” overture on the second Wagner disc of orchestral excerpts is especially thrilling and powerful; indeed that disc of overtures and preludes is markedly more exciting than the disc of orchestral excerpts from the “Ring”. The playing in the latter is sometimes a tad stodgy, just as Tennstedt’s accompaniments to Jessye Norman’s Wagner recital album of the same era were uninspired and as such constitute one of this set’s few comparative failures, rather as the Mahler Nine on the comparable bargain Mahler box set failed to lift off. The Berlin Philharmonic is for once hardly on form: the strings in “Wotan’s Farewell” are decidedly edgy, orchestral tone is often rather coarse and blatty, there are blips in the brass playing and ensemble occasionally goes awry. To compound the disappointment, whoever typeset or proofread the booklet text thinks Wagner wrote something called “Forest Murmers”.

The recording quality on this set is not perhaps the finest; apart from two Schumann items in analogue sound most here are early digital and hence rather opaque, yet still too bright when the sound peaks, with too great a contrast between loud and soft. Nonetheless, the sound is very acceptable, if not on the same level even as the recent spate of bargain box sets in analogue sound from Sony/RCA which are exceptionally full and vivid.

We have the standard EMI bargain box packaging: cardboard sleeves and a booklet containing timing and location details plus a biographical article about the conductor.

- Ralph Moore, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1991 
Venue:  Royal Festival Hall, London 
2.
Symphony no 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: November 19, 1986 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
3.
Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: March 27, 1986 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
4.
Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: May 11, 1984 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
5.
Coriolan Overture in C minor, Op. 62 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: May 12, 1984 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
6.
Egmont, Op. 84: Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1810; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: May 12, 1984 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
7.
Fidelio, Op. 72: Overture in E major by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1814; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: May 12, 1984 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
8.
German Requiem, Op. 45 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano), Jorma Hynninen (Baritone)
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Chorus,  London Philharmonic Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1868; Austria 
Date of Recording: August 19-25, 1984 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
9.
Song of Destiny, Op. 54 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Chorus,  London Philharmonic Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868-1871; Austria 
Date of Recording: May 2, 1985 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
Language: German 
10.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1876; Austria 
Date of Recording: November 22, 1983 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London  
11.
Symphony no 4 in E flat major, WAB 104 "Romantic" by Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: December 16, 1881 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin 
Length: 70 Minutes 28 Secs. 
12.
Symphony no 8 in C minor, WAB 108 by Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: November 24-26, 1982 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 75 Minutes 33 Secs. 
13.
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895-1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: March 29, 1982 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
14.
Don Juan, Op. 20 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Germany 
Date of Recording: March 29, 1982 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
15.
Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Germany 
Date of Recording: March 28, 1982 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
16.
Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 6,8,9,1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 5 Minutes 9 Secs. 
17.
Götterdämmerung: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 6,8,9,1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 10 Minutes 25 Secs. 
18.
Götterdämmerung: Siegfried's Funeral Music by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 6,8,9,1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 9 Minutes 37 Secs. 
19.
Das Rheingold: Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 6,8,9,1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 42 Secs. 
20.
Siegfried: Forest Murmurs [Instrumental] by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 6,8,9,1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 6 Minutes 49 Secs. 
21.
Die Walküre: Leb' wohl..."Farewell and Magic Fire music" by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 6,8,9,1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 21 Secs. 
22.
Tannhäuser: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845/1861; Germany 
Date of Recording: December 15, 1982 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 15 Minutes 29 Secs. 
23.
Rienzi: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1843; Germany 
Date of Recording: December 15, 1982 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 13 Minutes 34 Secs. 
24.
Lohengrin: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: April 16/17, 1983 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 10 Minutes 16 Secs. 
25.
Lohengrin: Act 3 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: April 16/17, 1983 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 
26.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Germany 
Date of Recording: April 16/17, 1983 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 10 Minutes 7 Secs. 
27.
Symphony no 4 in A major, Op. 90 "Italian" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; Germany 
Date of Recording: April 20/22, 1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin 
28.
Symphony no 9 in C major, D 944 "Great" by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1825-28; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: April 21/22, 1983 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin 
29.
Symphony no 9 in E minor, Op. 95/B 178 "From the New World" by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; USA 
Date of Recording: March 14/15, 1984 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin 
30.
Háry János, Op. 15: Suite by Zoltán Kodály
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Hungary 
Date of Recording: November 26, 1983 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London  
31.
Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: November 22/23, 1983 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London  
32.
Night on the Bare Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Russia 
Date of Recording: May 10, 1990 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
33.
Concertstück for 4 Horns and Orchestra in F major, Op. 86 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 17/18, 1978 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin 
34.
Leonore Overture no 3 in C major, Op. 72a by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1805-1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: May 11/12, 1984 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
35.
Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Date of Recording: April 18,20,22, 1980 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin  
36.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 97 "Rhenish" by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1850; Germany 
Date of Recording: October 18, 1978 
Venue:  Philharmonie, Berlin  
37.
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896 
Date of Recording: June 4, 1990 
Venue:  Orchestral Hall, Chicago 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 The Last of the Great Conductors October 11, 2013 By V. Guernon (South Kingstown, RI) See All My Reviews "This box contains almost all the purely orchestral (without soloist or singer)recordings that Tennstedt made for EMI. The exception is his Mahler cycle with the London Philharmonic, which is available in a separate box Tennstedt was an old-school German conductor. His repertoire consisted mainly of Austro-German Romantic works from Beethoven to Richard Strauss. His approach to these works combined the forthrightness and structural integrity of a Klemperer with the elasticity of phrasing of a Furtwangler. None of the performances in this box disappoints, but the two live recordings, the Beethoven Eroica with the London Philharmonic and the Mahler #1 with the Chicago Symphony, are truly outstanding. The other performances range from very good to excellent. The sound of the recordings is generally good, although it is often obvious that most of them are early digital. The worst sounding recording is the set of excerpts from Wagner's Ring. Although the sound is passable, the orchestra sounds dry with little sense of atmosphere, and the brass is a bit strident. The other recordings are better, but they do lack the bloom of a good analog recording. A comparison of the two Schumann symphonies will illustrate my point. Both symphonies were recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic in the Philharmonie, the Rhenish being a 1978 analog recording and the d-minor being a 1980 digital. The analog recording is richer, fuller, with a greater sense of space than the digital recording. All in all, this compilation is a great testament to a conductor who left us far too early. This set is recommended to anyone who treasures great orchestral music, and appreciates how it should be performed." Report Abuse
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