Klaus Tennstedt

Mahler: Symphony No. 6

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By nature shy and retiring, Klaus Tennstedt was a reluctant celebrity, and his international career in the last quarter of the twentieth century must have seemed utterly incredible to him. Yet as introverted and introspective as Tennstedt was, it doesn't seem at all obvious in this 1983 concert recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A minor, "Tragic," for this is one of the conductor's most extroverted, aggressive, and potent performances. The symphony itself is an imposing work with tremendous auditory impact and emotional intensity, so it usually leaves a powerful impression, even when the performers are not quite up to the task. However, Tennstedt and the London Philharmonic Orchestra are in the best possible form here, and their vigorous attacks, energetic pacing, volatile dynamics, and explosive climaxes make this performance not merely impressive, but compelling, terrifying, soul-stirring, and ultimately, cathartic. Following the published score, Tennstedt orders the middle movements with the Scherzo first, followed by the Andante moderato, which makes better sense in the symphony's harmonic scheme than Mahler's later, second-guessed ordering of Andante moderato and Scherzo, which younger conductors today seem to have adopted en masse in the presumed interests of historicity. With programmable players, the listener may choose to order these movements either way, but in the case of this recording, such a change is not advised, because Tennstedt clearly intended to create an expressive continuity that becomes apparent when the brutality of the first movement and the mockery of the Scherzo dissolve into the slow movement's haunting lamentation, only to reemerge in the devastating Finale. BBC's CD releases of Tennstedt's concerts are not always consistent in audio quality, undoubtedly because of variable recording conditions, but this double-disc has vivid sonorities and close-up presence, surrounded by the lively acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall. So in terms of interpretation, performance, and sound, this magnificent recording has it all, and is required listening for all Mahler aficionados.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 6 in A minor ("Tragic")
blue highlight denotes track pick