Klaus Tennstedt

Mahler: Symphony No. 1; Glinka: Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture

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There are indisputably many and varied excellences in this live 1990 performance of Mahler's First Symphony with Klaus Tennstedt and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with moments as exciting, insightful, and incandescent as any ever recorded, but overall the recording is a disappointment. When in full flow, as in the climax and close of the first movement, in the trio of the second movement, in the second trio of the third movement, and in the climax and coda of the finale, Tennstedt and his English forces cannot be stopped, and the results are superb. It also has to be acknowledged that Tennstedt apparently had the shakiest downbeat and the sloppiest cues in conducting. Far too often, entrances, releases, and balances seem almost haphazard, as in the wayward fanfares and tentative attacks of the opening movement's slow introduction, for example. As shown in the 1981 recording of Glinka's supersonic Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture that fills out the disc, Tennstedt's cues and downbeats were just as ragged a decade earlier. The conductor's studio recording of the First was much more polished and together, and nearly as exciting, so only the most dedicated of his admirers are likely to be interested in this version. BBC Music's live stereo sound is more than serviceable, but not especially lovely.

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