A maestro's muse has died

A maestro's muse has died


norman lebrecht

August 14, 2011

Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Klaus Tennstedt will be aware that without the cajoling and constant care of his wife, Inge, he would never have set foot on a concert stage. Klaus was a victim of self-reflection, verging on paralytic self-doubt.

Hours before his US debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Klaus phoned home to say he couldn’t do it. ‘Go in there and conduct! So, bitte!‘ she instructed, and put down the phone.  The event was healined next morning as Bruckner – Tennstedt – BSO – Once in a Lifetime.

A hard-working mezzo when they met, Inge gave up her career and her country, East Germany, to follow Klaus into the unknown. She put up with a lot of misery and never reaped her share of his fame, but her complaints were few and her devotion unwavering. She loved a good joke and often lamented her inability to share Swabian subtleties in other languages. She once cooked me a cod in mustard sauce: I still savour the taste.

So deep was she in the background that I have no pictures of her (please get in touch if you have one to share).

She died this weekend in an old-age home, 13 years after her glorious Klaus.

Requiescat in pace.


  • Greg says:

    I had the honor and privilege to meet Klaus Tennstedt in Cleveland in the ’70’s. His performance with the Orchestra was amazing. I had never heard such power, energy and superb interpretation before. And I don’t think since. I was quite sadden when I heard he had died. I’m sorry to hear of the death of Frau Tennstedt. I remember her sitting behind Maestro Tennstedt off to the side. You could really see the love between them. RIP.

  • John says:

    She was a lovely woman and told me the funniest of all Tosca disaster stories (much much better than bouncing sopranos) – alas too long to repeat here.

  • George Unsworth says:

    I’ll never forget those ‘phone calls at the LPO – alas, all too many of them – which started with a long, drawn out ‘Georrrrrrrrrge? I’m sooooooooo sorry’. By the end of that phrase I knew that I had to find a replacement conductor as Klaus was too ill to conduct. But, typical of Inge, she’d be full of ideas of people to try and absolutely insistent that I should keep in touch to let her know how we were getting on. In happier times, I loved her impish delight in her own ability to keep Nigel Kennedy fetching and carrying for her. She thought it was jolly funny. I just thought he’d finally met his match!

  • David J says:

    Maestro Tennstedt’s actual Boston Symphony debut in December, 1974, was the week before the Bruckner 8 cited with a Brahms program (Academic Festival Overture; Violin Concerto; Symphony 4) that was just as remarkable and sent the clear message that a conductor and musician of the first rank had arrived– in contrast to the Ozawa doldrums. As a student in Boston, I attended the repetitions of both programs and saw immediately how the orchestra was rejuvinated, even in the Brahms staples. After the Brahms debut, Tennstedt related to me how he chose to open his debut program with the Academic Festival Overture in recognition of the great centers of learning in Boston. I subsequently met him and his wife backstage several times and also witnessed her boundless support for and nurturing of him and his unique musical talent. May the both rest in peace.