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CD Review

Tennstedt in Stuttgart

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
ICA Classics ICAC5090
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Klaus Tennstedt is known for his EMI Mahler cycle and various Mahler recordings captured live. Yet, both his EMI output and various recordings released after his death reveal him to have both broad musical sympathies and the capability of making music very special. He could be sloppy with technique and often was unable to secure top orchestral playing. However, he is remembered as both humble and gifted, a true servant of music, and his concerts and recordings have a real sense of humanity.

Released for the first time outside Japan, these wonderful Stuttgart recordings are a fine tribute to his memory. He recorded the Brahms for EMI, but this performance is something much more eloquent. It's majestic yet also crackling with tension and energy. The Stuttgart forces simply play their hearts out, and Tennstedt is clearly galvanized by what he has to work with. There is great virtuosity here, but also a great emotional quality. Like his reference Mahler 8th, the conductor's great gift seems to be humanizing the music with a great warmth and depth of feeling. It helps that the playing is noticeably superior to what he usually got with his London Philharmonic. But superior too is the extra kick of spontaneity and excitement.

The Martinů is not a work one would expect in the conductor's discography, but it too is idiomatically rendered and fully worth hearing. If it isn't quite as technically assured as the Brahms, it's just as exciting and qualifies as a success. It also takes Tennstedt out of the "Central European" repertoire box that he's often placed in, and that's worthy in itself. Throughout, the sound provided by Stuttgart Radio is entirely acceptable. An unusual release, possibly geared toward specialists, but anyone who takes time to give it a listen may be very pleasantly surprised indeed.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman