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Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, October 2009

When Georg Tintner passed away tragically in 1999, not only did we lose a very good conductor, we also lost a great composer. Many times throughout his life, he moved from one conducting post to another until he settled in Canada in 1987, as Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax. He made many good recordings during his career, but the ones that won him many praises and respect are his recordings of all the Bruckner Symphonies for Naxos produced at the very end of his life.

He considered himself a “composer who conducts, with an ambition to write beautiful music”. I believe he was right on both counts. His music is definitely beautiful, and I assume that had he been allowed the option to continue composing throughout his life, that his compositions would have greatly surpassed his need to conduct for a living. Most of his writing was done in the early stages of his life, and his Austrian roots poke through the foundation of all his music. It is music with purpose, intent, vision, and strongly Late Romantic in it’s layout, with long intervals, big harmonic leaps, forward looking but strongly attached to the past in it’s emotional outlook.

The Violin Sonata for example, written in 1944, shows a composer who knows how to introduce different motifs or subjects and develop them to their full potential all the while keeping a clear focus on the work as a whole. The Scherzo movement for example has the subject matter moving from violin to piano and back, from right hand to left hand and back, from dark tinges to bright and bold moments, constantly maintaining a strong momentum and sense of direction at all times. It is hyper-romantic and avant-garde all in one, with the great Cho-Liang Lin pushing the expressive limits of his violin and Helen Huang providing an equally strong line from the piano.

The piano Prelude—Sehnsucht (Longing) is straight out of Scriabin territory. The piano work Auf den Tod eines Freundes (On the Death of a Friend), written when he was a teenager, sounds like something an older Robert Schumann, or even an old Brahms would have written. And the one movement Piano Sonata, written around the same time, is again Scriabinesque in its long intervals, bold harmonies, one could even say a certain level of “idées de grandeurs”, and constant crosstalk between both hands as they share thematic material in one strong solid line from start to finish. Amazing stuff that you would assume was written by someone much older.

Thank you so much to Lin and Huang for taking the time to learn and master these obscure pieces and sharing them with us, and again, Bravo to the people at Naxos for giving us the opportunity to hear great music that might otherwise have been lost forever.

After 1962 he fell virtually silent, owing to a combination of personal tragedies, the loss of his culture and transplantation into alien lands where he was little understood, and not knowing which language to use once serialism had had its day. His inability to express himself was a matter of enduring grief to him. Although his music was not suppressed, as was that of many Jewish composers, he was certainly a “lost composer”. (Tanya Tintner)

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2009

Violinist Cho-Liang Lin is a well-known artist with a wide repertoire and at least 36 recordings under his belt, a number of which I possess and greatly enjoy. It’s always hard to judge a performance of an unfamiliar work with no other recordings against which to compare it. So, all I can say is that in the Violin Sonata, Lin sounds as secure and assured as always. Pianist Helen Huang, who has the lion’s share of work on this disc, plays with an enthusiasm and conviction that make me believe she really believes in this music, even if I don’t. Clearly, this is an interesting off-road vehicle for those who are into some serious backcountry backpacking. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

The Straits Times, May 2008

The Vienna-born conductor Georg Tintner (1917–1999) is better remembered for his recorded cycle of Bruckner symphonies on the Naxos label. His little known original chamber compositions are now revealed for the first time on record. Youthful works completed before he turned 30, these dabbled with atonality but remain largely accessible. His possible influences: the Second Viennese School (Alban Berg in particular), prodigious film-music composer Erich Korngold and even virtuoso violinist Fritz Kreisler.

The most substantial work is a 25-minute Violin Sonata in four movements, which sounds modern on first acquaintance but retains substantial vestiges of Romantic sentimentalism. Finely crafted, it repays further listening. His Chopin Variations for piano (after the very brief Prelude in A major, Op.28 No.7) is witty and inventive while two funereal pieces—On the Death of a Friend and Trauermusik—uncannily foretell his tragic end by his own hand after being stricken by cancer. The high profile performers, both of Chinese descent, perform the music most sympathetically.

Jack Sullivan
American Record Guide, November 2007

Once again, Naxos presents an unsung composer who is well worth reviving, in performances by first-class artists at a budget price. In this case, the composer is the obscure, wandering Austrian émigré, Georg Tintner, the players Cho-Liang Lin and Helen Huang, who play this uncelebrated music with devotion and deep musicality. Tintner’s stylistic range is wide, from the Variations on a Theme by Chopin—idiomatic riffs on the Prelude in A that Chopin himself would have appreciated—to the quasi-serial Violin Sonata. Both the experimental and more traditional pieces are fascinating and often beautiful, but Tintner’s is a lonely voice. He began with a ripe romantic style exemplified by the Sonata in F minor and Chopin Variations, flirted with serialism in the 40s, declared it “a dead end” long before it actually became one, and unlike other composers who sobered up and moved on after the 12-tone mid-century binge, never found a replacement that suited him. A never-completed opera was one of many frustrated projects. After 1962 he ceased composing until he died in 1999, a painfully long dead end to a life full of early promise. ‘Trauermusik’, the last, doleful item on this program, seems almost like an elegy for himself.

Yes the roots of his unease go deeper than stylistic ambivalence. Unlike Weill, Korngold, and other Jewish émigrés who made an uneasy peace with losing their Austro-German culture and who learned to move on, Tintner never seemed to feel comfortable in the various alien lands—New Zealand, Canada, Yugoslavia, and England—where he sojourned after fleeing the Nazis in 1938. One wonders whether he would have fared better in Hollywood, where the 19th Century side of his sensibility might have found a congenial home in the movies: Korngold, after all, was probably as alienated as he was, yet he left behind a glowing cinema legacy. Steiner, Tiomkin, and Waxman led happy, highly productive lives and kept the romantic flame burning on the big screen even as the serialists tried to snuff it out in the concert hall.

The Violin Sonata, premiered in 1949, reflects Tintner’s deep alienation even as he transcends it. The first movement strives for a home key without quite arriving; in its poignant irresolution it is reminiscent of Berg’s Piano Sonata. Yet by the striding Allegro con brio finale, Tintner manages to transform agony into anguished triumph: the glorious A-major chord at the end is arrived at only after great tension and conflict, but it does give the journey a happy conclusion. Cho-Liang Lin and Helen Huang play this troubling, passionate work with over-the-top virtuosity and commitment.

The violin sonata is the major work here, but the others are worth hearing as well, including two thoroughly Bachian fugues. The most beautiful short piece, a piano prelude in the style of early Scriabin, is called ‘Longing’, which could be a subtitle for many of these melancholy, deeply interesting works by a “lost composer” who never found himself. The recording, made at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, maintains Naxos’s usual high standards. It is a shame Tintner is not around to bask in some very belated glory.

Peter Gutmann
Classical Notes, October 2007

…all played with fine enthusiasm by 23-year old Helen Huang… © 2007 Classical Notes Read complete review

Christopher Latham
Limelight, October 2007

My childhood memory of Georg Tintner was of him riding his bicycle to rehearsals throught the streets of 1970s Brisbane. His brilliant white hair made him seem an old man, although he was probably only in his late 50s, but he was possessed by this youthful energy which made him seem to blaze.

He fled the Nazi regime, ending up first in New Zealand and then in Australia where he conducted extensively, before leaving for Canada where he finally took his life in 1999 rather than die slowly from terminal cancer. He is remembered as a great conductor of Bruckner, and history will treat him far better than he was in his lifetime.

The saddest thing for me while listening to his compositions here, played particularly beautifully by Helen Huang and Cho-Liang Lin, is that the wounds of World War II are still with us. Modernism was the reflex reaction to that tragedy, and its dead hand ended up silencing him as a composer. He quickly realized that post-war serialism was a dead-end, and for music it was as oppressive and disastrous a regime as the one he had fled.

It is hard to remember now that one could not write serious music that was not based on 12-tone serialism for more than a generation, until the minimalists broke that deadlock in the 1970s. Tintner, who considered himself a composer who conducted, did not know how to get around this creative roadblock and in his wife’s words, it was “a matter of enduring grief to him”. What we are left with is a torso of early works, and one is left wondering at what could have followed, had his life been lived in a kinder, gentler era.

Given a chance, he could have been one of the greats.

Toronto Star, July 2007

George Tintner, who headed Symphony Nova Scotia for years, may be dead (1917–1999), but the compositions from his young Austrian prodigy days brim with romantic energy while reaching for something more abstract. The beauty in this collection of 11 pieces lies in that tension beautifully rendered by violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Helen Huang on piano. Top track: “Lentissimo” from Sonata for Violin and Piano.

John S. Gray
The WholeNote, July 2007

What took Naxos so long to let us hear Tintner’s own work, after all that Schumann, Brahms and Bruckner? But fear not; patience is rewarded here with an excellent CD.

This new offering concentrates on the late conductor’s smaller works, all for solo piano except for the 1944 Sonata for Violin and Piano. Tintner certainly had a gift in the Scriabin-esque chromatic direction, and these works all display that, as well as his phenomenal mastery of counterpoint.

Helen Huang’s pianistic skill gives the works great vivaciousness, while remaining faithful to the score. Cho-Liang Lin superbly matches Huang in the Violin Sonata.

The stage of Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto played host to this recording, with its legendary tight reverberation. Producers Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver have out-done themselves with utter perfection of recorded sound and near-concert ambience.

Programme notes by Tanya Tintner are the best one can get on the subject. As with other Naxos notes, the body copy in the tri-fold is decidedly on the small side, so have your spectacles handy. The sepia-toned portrait of Tintner as a teenaged boy is almost startling for those who knew the great man in the 1980’s, when he was very much the white-haired sage. Can a recording of his more larger-scale pieces be far behind?

Highly recommended.

Robert Everett-Green
The Globe and Mail, June 2007

Who knew that the Austrian-born conductor, who spent much of his career in Canada, was a composer in his youth? Tintner's richly chromatic piano prelude (written when he was about 19) aches with the sentiment expressed in its title.

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, June 2007

Of the recordings submitted in this review period, the chamber music of Viennese-born Georg Tintner easily provided the most varied and satisfying listening experience. Although he achieved fame as a conductor, Tintner’s ambition was “to write beautiful music.” Without a doubt, he achieved this goal, deftly crafting pieces of music which integrated elements of Romanticism with a 20th century compositional sensibility.

These songs are heartrending and gorgeous, filled with a melancholic fragility with is altogether compelling. Violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Pianist Helen Huang succeed admirably in these renditions, bringing their considerable talents to bear on Tintner’s music. Many of the piano chords employed use voicings which sound oddly akin to jazz, and as the violin threads itself through seemingly endless melodic inflection, it’s impossible not to get drawn into the soundscape. The Variations on a Theme of Chopin is imbued with a sort of sonic curiosity which breathes invention and originality. Auf den Tod eines Freundes (On the death of a Friend) is among the earliest of Tintner’s compositions to appear on this CD, and the song’s tender and mature tone is a truly remarkable accomplishment for a boy of 14 or 15. Taken as a whole, this is an excellent representation of Tintner’s work, and a worthy compilation from a man who identified himself as a “composer who conducts”.

Evan Dickerson
MusicWeb International, May 2007

Like other musicians active around his time such as Furtwängler, Klemperer, Victor de Sabata, Artur Schnabel or Wilhelm Kempff, Georg Tintner viewed composition as his major musical activity, whilst seeking sanctuary in performance as a means of earning a steady income. Thankfully over recent years the compositions of artists such as these have become more widely known thanks in large part to several recordings becoming available. Budget labels including Arte Nova and Timpani have played a large part, Naxos/Marco Polo too, but also others such as Orfeo and Wergo, often championing a particular composer. This disc of world premiere recordings presents the case for Georg Tintner’s output, or at least a representative sample of it. Leaving his uncompleted late opera aside, he did write choral music—his Steht auf! was adopted by the Vienna Boys Choir when he was one of their members in the 1930s—and also a number of songs for female voice.

Just as he was a prodigious conductor from an early age—becoming assistant conductor at the Vienna State Opera at the age of 19—many of the compositions here stem from the early to mid-period of his life. Even a cursory glance at the titles for many of the works tells you much about the man and his outlook. There is a marked belief in the supremacy of form. As in Furtwängler’s writing, Tintner’s belief in the sonata and the fugue reigns supreme, almost to the extent that form becomes an end inextricably linked with the survival of musical culture beyond the politically turbulent times they lived through. Klemperer, in his string quartets at least, does not project this feeling so strongly, whilst Schnabel and Kempff utilise form for lighter, though still well intentioned ends, on the whole. More so than with any of the others though one picks up on the thread of personal tragedy that accompanies Tintner’s life from his childhood as a Jew to his choice to take his own life when no longer able to express himself through music, either as composer or conductor, weakened by cancer.

So this is not joyous music per se, but in its tersely argued pages there is material of undeniable substance. The major works, in terms of length at least, would naturally make the most immediate impact on the listener. The violin sonata presents writing so assured for the violin that given Cho-Liang Lin’s undoubted commitment to it, it is almost a shame not to hear him in other works. Still, with its four movements taking turns at portraying the emotions such as love, defiance, sorrow and triumph, one is taken on quite an intense roller-coaster ride across a course of considerable highs and lows.

Helen Huang accompanies with much need confidence of voicing and fingering, which she brings to the other items on the disc too. Other highlights for me are the single movement piano sonata, which treats concision as a laudable compositional end in itself. Late Romantic in mould though its heady youthful mix of influences from Brahms via Chopin and Scriabin is noteworthy in one so young. The Chopin variations perhaps indicate something of the young composer’s own pianistic prowess. The Prelude, Auf den tod eines Freundes and Trauermusik are the most poignant, underlining the nature of personal loss that affected Tintner so much. To my ears, the two Fugues remind of the importance of Bach as a bedrock of musical values above all else, and the loss that music suffers when it abandons quality of humanity and constancy at its core. Tintner saw serialism as the embodiment of this abandonment, and recognised that the twelve-tone experiment would be short lived.

Supported by brief but informative notes the excellent performances present Tintner as a serious and principled composer.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

Naxos discovered the Austrian-born conductor, George Tintner, late in his life, his landmark series of Bruckner symphonies in their original format setting out his credentials as an outstanding musician. They were followed by a series of recordings of radio broadcasts made in Canada, and now after his death, seven years ago, we also find him as a composer, but probably very different to the one you might expect. The Sonata in four movements, subtitled, Love, Defiance, Sorrow and Triumph, has the style that at times dabbles with atonality, the thematic material not easy to immediately grasp as it moves between modern astringency and romanticism. Certainly posing many questions for the performers, it is a difficult score to mould into its shape, and technically far from comfortable. He was just seventeen when he wrote the Variations on Chopin’s Prelude in A major, the fifteen sections in feeling very much related to the original piece and highly inventive. We move to the end of the 1930’s for Longing which occupies much the same world of sadness expressed in the lyric beauty that we find in the early work, On the Death of a Friend. Tintner was a composition pupil of Josef Marx, the Piano Sonata from his student days being high on impact and following in the steps of Chopin. A period in London in 1939 awaiting acceptance for residency in New Zealand finds the two short Fugues, the disc concluded with the Musica Tragica that was commenced the following year and expressing his thoughts of leaving his native land. The young Helen Huang gives suitably impassioned performances and plenty of technical expertise.

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