NDR Symphony Orchestra (North German Radio)

In 1979 Tennstedt became principal conductor of the NDR symphony orchestra. A year and a half later, a concert tour took them to neighboring countries, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. Joining them in Paris on 6 March 1981 was Martha Argerich, piano superstar. The program: the Mozart Symphony in G major No. 32, KV 318, lasting about eight minutes, then the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 and after the interval Gustav Mahler’s 1st Symphony.

Karl Henke, NDR violinist: We arrived in Paris directly after a long coach trip and had to go straight to the Salle Pleyel, where we had a really exhausting rehearsal with Argerich. Tennsted did a great job accompanying, but it was all stressful.

In the evening the pianist received rapturous applause. The magazine La Vie Musicale spoke of her ‘incomparable lightness of touch‘ and ‘consummate elegance‘. The First Symphony by Gustav Mahler followed after the interval. The critic thought Tennstedt seemed unsettled, and his abrupt, uncoordinated manner had a bad effect on the orchestra. Their performance, he thought, 02 English Tennstedt Cover Ebook Web ENwas adequate but nothing special.

And indeed, all was not well with them. Tired? Lacking in concentration? Drained of energy by the long bus ride through the villages? Certainly the trumpets in particular were not on their best form. 

Karl Henke: He was a bit irritated then. He had already exhausted himself quite a bit with Martha. And then maybe something wasn't perfect in the Mahler. At the end, thunderous applause, and the people roared: Bis! Bis! Bis! He misunderstood this, as if sounded something like a hiss.

And so disaster loomed. Karl Henke:

At the end he turned to the orchestra and raised his fist to the brass, probably because of what happened at the start of the symphony. Then he ran past us violins and shouted above the applause: “I won't let you ruin my career“ or something like that. He was completely beside himself. 

Read more in the book.

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