BRAHMS Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 – Tennstedt
‘He is a most sympathetic conductor, never clever or perfunctory, never self-conscious…it’s all there, GENUINE, enough of it for other “eminences” to cut big pieces off without diminishing Tenn’s funds.’ So wrote Carlos Kleiber a little over a year before Tennstedt’s retirement from conducting at the age of 68 in October 1994. These are certainly deeply sympathetic Brahms performances. The account of the Third Symphony in particular is quite wonderful, the finest live account to be preserved on disc since Furtwängler’s celebrated 1949 Berlin performance. Whether any aspiring ‘eminence’ could learn from it is a moot point. Like Shelley’s Spirit of Delight, such performances come rarely; they are sui generis, manifestations of special schooling and unique talent. Mercifully this CD ends in silence without applause. The performance of the First Symphony dates from 1992 and is thus closer to the end of Tennstedt’s career. It is cut from similar cloth to that of the Third and for most of its length it is every bit as fine, epic in its demeanour. (‘Quite astounding!’ exclaimed Kleiber of a more or less contemporary televised account of the symphony which Tennstedt gave with the NDR SO in Hamburg.) Make no mistake, this is Brahms-conducting of rare moment and pedigree.