Tennstedt, Klaus, brilliant German conductor; b. Merseburg, June 6, 1926.; d. Kiel, Jan. 11, 1998. He studied piano, violin, and theory at the Leipzig Cons. In 1948 he became concertmaster in Halle an der Saale, beginning his career as a conductor there in 1953. After serving as a conductor at the Dresden State Opera (1958-62), he was conductor in Schwerin (1962-71); also appeared as a guest conductor throughout East Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. In 1971 he settled in the West; after guest engagements in Sweden, he served as Generalmusikdirektor of the Kiel Opera (1972-76). In 1974 he made a remarkable North American debut as a guest conductor with the Toronto Sym. Orch., and also appeared with the Boston Sym. Orch., which led to numerous engagements with other major U.S. orchs. In 1976 he made his British debut as a guest conductor of the London Sym. Orch. He was chief conductor of the North German Radio Sym. Orch. in Hamburg (1979-81); was also principal guest conductor of the Minn. Orch. in Minneapolis (1979-83). From 1980 to 1983 he was principal guest conductor of the London Phil., and then served as its principal conductor from 1983 until a diagnosis of throat cancer compelled him to give up his duties in 1987. He continued to make guest appearances in subsequent seasons. On Dec. 14, 1983, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in N.Y. conducting Fidelio. In 1994 his worsening health compelled him to announce that he would no longer conduct in public. His appearances around the globe elicited exceptional critical acclaim; he was ranked among the foremost interpreters of the Austro-German repertoire of his day.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire