Klaus Tennstedt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Klaus Tennstedt
Klaus Tennstedt.jpg
Klaus Tennstedt Conducting
Background information
Born (1926-06-06)6 June 1926
Merseburg, Germany
Died 11 January 1998(1998-01-11) (aged 71)
Kiel, Germany
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Conductor
Years active 1958–1994[1]

Klaus Tennstedt (German: [ˈtɛnʃtɛt]; June 6, 1926 – January 11, 1998) was a German conductor from Merseburg; he conducted such orchestras as the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Kiel Opera in Northern Germany; North German Radio Orchestra, in Hamburg; the Minnesota Orchestra; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Life and career[edit]

He studied violin and piano at the Leipzig Conservatory. He avoided military service during the Nazi era by joining a Baroque orchestra.[2] 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 1981, he served as Chief Conductor of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra (NDR Symphony) in Hamburg, and during the same period (1979–82) he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.

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, on December 13, 1974, conducting an all-Brahms program. The following week he led Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 to laudatory reviews. 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 so highly acclaimed that as a result, Tennstedt guest-conducted at the Tanglewood Music Festival and Blossom Music Festival in 1975.

His only American opera engagement was a series of seven performances of Beethoven's Fidelio at the Metropolitan Opera, the last of which, on Jan. 7, 1984, was broadcast.

Tennstedt guest-conducted with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In Europe he guest conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the SDR Symphony (now the Stuttgart Radio Symphony 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.[1] He did return to the LPO in 1986 for recording Mahler's Symphony No. 8 ("Symphony of a Thousand", EMI DSB-47625) and for concerts of Mahler in November 1991 (Symphony No. 6) and May 1993 (Symphony No. 7). His last guest appearance in the U.S. was with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1992. However, on the advice of his physicians, Tennstedt retired from conducting altogether in October 1994. The last time he conducted was in June 1994, at a rehearsal of a student orchestra at Oxford University where he was to receive an honorary doctorate a few days later.[2]

In 1978 Tennstedt became the first German conductor of his generation to conduct the Israel Philharmonic, which until then had boycotted German conductors because of their connections with the Nazi regime.[2]

His recordings include a complete cycle of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. Several of Tennstedt's concert performances have been reissued on CD.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ a b Kozinn, Allan (13 January 1998). "Klaus Tennstedt, a Conductor Of Romantic Works, Dies at 71". New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Lebrecht, Norman, & David Lister. 1998. "Obituary: Klaus Tennstedt." The Independent (13 January).
  3. ^ Clement, Andrew (7 November 2003). "Beethoven Symphony No 9: Haggänder/Hodgson/Tear/ Howell/London Philharmonic/Tennstedt". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Ashely, Tim (9 February 2006). "Haydn: The Creation, Popp/Rolfe Johnson/LPO and Choir". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  5. ^ McManus, Michael (9 July 2010). "Klaus Tennstedt: Captured in Concert". Gramophone. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Moshe Atzmon
Chief Conductor, North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Günter Wand