By nature shy and retiring, Klaus Tennstedt was a reluctant celebrity, and his international career in the last quarter of the twentieth century must have seemed utterly incredible to him. Yet as introverted and introspective as Tennstedt was, it doesn't seem at all obvious in this 1983 concert recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A minor, "Tragic," for this is one of the conductor's most extroverted, aggressive, and potent performances.
As the last completed symphony that Mahler wrote, the Ninth has often been heard by audiences as the composer’s swan song: a nostalgic, moving farewell from a composer conscious of his own mortality. This interpretation is of course easily justifiable, as etched into the musical fabric of the symphony are references to the tragedies that befell the composer in the years before his death.
The Symphony No. 7, nicknamed "The Song of the Night," is widely regarded as the most enigmatic of Mahler's cycle and the most difficult to coherently interpret as a symphonic structure, even by this composer's extraordinary standards. The movements are undeniably Mahlerian in their abrupt mood swings and ironic twists, and each offers a wealth of fantastic ideas and brilliant orchestration – arguably the most innovative sounds in all of Mahler's works.
Giulinis Mahler recordings are few but notable. The earliest is of the First Symphony, made in 1971 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a performance that seems to radiate from within, full of delicate colours and telling details as well as a strong sense of architecture. Giulini conducted the Ninth Symphony for the first time at Florence in November 1971 before performing it on a number of occasions in Chicago, where he made his famous Deutsche Grammophon recording of the work in 1976.