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|Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Symphony no 4 in A major, Op. 90 Italian (1833)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony no 9 in C major, D 944 Great (1825-28)
rec. 18-20, 22 April 1980; 21-22 April 1983*, Philharmonie,
ENCORE 5090222 [77:01]
Little by little, EMI is restoring Klaus
Tennstedt's studio recordings to circulation. The company deleted
almost all of his recordings from its active catalogue shortly
after his death a decade ago, leaving only his studio Mahler
cycle and a couple of concerto discs on issue. However, the
enthusiasm that has greeted the live Tennstedt recordings recently
unearthed by BBC Legends, the LPO house label and Profil has
demonstrated that Tennstedt's music-making remains as viscerally
powerful and emotionally satisfying now as it ever was. More
than that, they have found out a large group of Tennstedt fans
who are desperate to get their hands on his recorded legacy.
recording of Mendelssohn's Italian is a well known quantity.
After the previous mid-price issue of this all-Tennstedt coupling
was deleted (EMI 64085), his Italian appeared in harness
with Muti's recording of the Scottish (EMI Red Line
5729722 and EMI Seraphim 73558). Tennstedt's performance was
rightly preferred to the Italian's Italian for that reissue: this
is a sparkling performance from first note to last. It breathes
the joy of corporate music-making more than any other record
Tennstedt made with the Berlin Philharmonic. Tempi are sprightly
throughout, underpinning a bustling, effusive first movement
and a finale that, though not daemonic, whips by. The strings
are highly impressive here, effortlessly dispatching Mendelssohn's
rapid figurations at Tennstedt's crackling pace. The lilting
second subject of the first movement and both inner movements
have a tender lyricism – the strings shine and the tone of
the horns – in the third movement in particular – is burnished
9th makes an apt coupling for Mendelssohn’s 4th – after
all, it was Mendelssohn who conducted its first performance.
performance has great dramatic sweep and an earthy honesty.
His feel for the natural flow of this music is instinctive.
Just listen to the first movement: it can sound episodic in
lesser hands, but here it moves seamlessly from a broad introduction
to a robust conclusion.
second movement has a rollicking pesante feel, with
sharp dynamic contrasts and accents hit so hard as to be almost
declamatory. Around the 8 minute mark you would be forgiven
for thinking you are listening to Bruckner. This is big, powerfully
projected stuff. The third movement scherzo is similar in feel,
juxtaposing gruff strings with delicate wind interplay and
sighing violin and cello lines, and conjuring a mood that recalls
the merrymaking of Beethoven’s Pastoral. The passage
about 4 minutes in that seems to anticipate Smetana’s Vltava is
infectiously sunny here. The finale is bright and triumphant,
and the references to Beethoven’s 9th are confidently
Berlin Philharmonic’s playing is simply magnificent. The winds
are, as always with Tennstedt, brought forward so that their
gorgeous interplay can be clearly heard, and the strings remain
as sumptuous as ever they were under Karajan. The brass also
clearly relish being let off the leash in the tuttis.
course, this is hardly the last word in Schubert’s 9th.
There are plenty of other wonderful recordings on the books,
from the Classical beauty of Krips’ to the towering integrity
of Wand. Latterly, performances have been increasingly influenced
by period performance practice. Two performances of this ilk
that are well worth hearing are Mackerras’s with the Scottish
Chamber Orchestra on Telarc, and Noseda’s dynamic account with
the BBC Philharmonic, downloadable from Chandos’ website at a very modest cost. Anyone
who heard the latter’s searing performance at the 2006 Proms
will doubtless be fired with enthusiasm for this 2003. That
said, Tennstedt’s way with this score is personal and deserves
to be heard by anyone who loves this symphony.
should point out that there is another Tennstedt recording
of Schubert’s Great C Major in circulation, thanks to BBC Legends.
I have not had the opportunity to listen to that recording,
but my colleague, Michael Greenhalgh, has reviewed it for this site. I commend to you his
comparative analysis of the two recordings.
summary, Tennstedt’s fans will be glad to be able to snap this
disc up. EMI have ensured that they will by releasing it in
their super budget Encore range, and in doing so they have
made these delightful performances available to novices too.
are more treasures in the vaults, though. Please EMI, bring
back the rest of Tennstedt’s recordings. His hyper-romantic
Dvorak 9 and his Brahms and Schumann recordings could easily
fill out a Gemini release. And could we please have a box of
Tennstedt’s intense live recordings of Mahler's symphonies?
Not just 5-7, but CD transfers of 1 and 8 too - hitherto issued
only on Laserdisc and DVD!
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