, March 2012
The huge first movement is delivered with the intensity that one almost invariably finds in a Tennstedt performance, especially of Mahler. The LPO responds to his direction with playing that is acute and alive—the brass section is on superb form while the woodwind playing is deft and characterful. The rhetorical trombone solos, such a key feature of this movement, are powerful and sonorous. In a vast movement such as this, which can sprawl in lesser hands, Tennstedt’s ability to keep the bigger picture in view, while paying proper attention to detail at all times, is vital. The music is tumultuous at times but one never feels that the conductor’s control slips. Incidentally, one small but significant presentational point is that ICA allows a good gap between each of the first four movements; for example there’s just over twenty seconds between the end of the first movement and the start of the next one.
In II Tennstedt displays lightness of touch and obtains a good deal of affectionate playing from the orchestra. He brings out the quirky awkwardness of the music in III, which is expertly pointed. When the post-horn interludes are reached the solo instrument is magically distanced. In these episodes Tennstedt achieves a fine degree of nostalgia without overdoing the sentimentality. Each of these passages is excellent but the final one is particularly hushed and delicate.
Waltraud Meier is an expressive soloist in IV…the choral singing is delightfully lively and fresh and, where required, the boys produce a robust sound that’s entirely appropriate.
Tennstedt’s account of the finale is noble and spacious. Comparing it with his studio reading one finds that the basic tempo is a fraction slower, though the difference is not significant. The string playing in the opening paragraphs is first class. As the movement progresses Tennstedt finds the requisite depth of expression but the emotion is never excessive. The conductor’s judgement of pace seems unerring—one is reminded that he was also a fine Bruckner conductor. Tennstedt’s great concentration and inspired playing by the LPO combine in a memorable performance of this eloquent adagio and the final pages (from 19:06) are majestic.
Once again, hearing Klaus Tennstedt live in Mahler is a rich and rewarding experience. I shan’t be parting with his EMI studio recording but this concert performance now supplants it. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review