6 June 1926
Merseburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
11 January 1998 (aged 71)
Klaus Tennstedt (6th. June, 1926-11th. January, 1998) was a German conductor from Merseburg. He studied violin and piano at the Leipzig Conservatory. He became concertmaster of the orchestra at the Halle Municipal Theatre in 1948. However, a finger injury stopped his career as a violinist and afterwards he worked as a coach to singers at the same theatre. Tennstedt then directed his talents towards conducting. In 1958 he became music director of the Dresden Opera and, in 1962, music director of the Schwerin State Orchestra and Theatre.
Klaus Tennstedt emigrated from East Germany in 1971 and obtained asylum in Sweden. He conducted in Gothenburg at the Gotenborg Theatre and in Stockholm with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 1972 he became general music director of the Kiel Opera in Northern Germany. From 1972 to 1982 he served as chief conductor of the North German Radio Orchestra in Hamburg.
In 1974 Tennstedt made his North American debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His first United States appearance was shortly after that, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in December 1974, conducting Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8. His appearances were highly acclaimed and as a result he guest conducted at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 1975. His USA opera debut was at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in 1983, conducting a production of Beethoven's Fidelio. He also guest conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Klaus Tennstedt's London debut was with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1976. In 1977 came his first engagement with the London Philharmonic Orchestra which led to his appointment as their principal guest conductor in 1983. Due to ill health, however, he stepped down in 1987 and he was later named the London Philharmonic Orchestra's Conductor Laureate. He did return to the London Philharmonic Orchestra for concerts of Mahler in November 1991 (Symphony No. 6) and May 1993 (Symphony No. 7). However, on the advice of his physicians, Tennstedt retired from conducting altogether in October 1994.
His recordings include a complete cycle of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. Several of Tennstedt's concert performances have been reissued on CD.
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