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Tanya Buchdahl Tintner: Out of Time – The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner

img  Tobias Fischer

The classical music world lost a true master of the podium with the passing of Austrian conductor Georg Tintner (1917-1999). Those who had personal contact will recall Maestro Tintner’s kindness and humility, while those familiar with his recordings on Deutsche Schallplatten, Naxos, Philips and others can trace a pathos in his music-making that is both humble and provoking. What seems lacking in the ensuing years after his death is a written reminiscence on this enigmatic figure. It is timely that the conductor’s third wife and widow, Tanya Buchdahl Tintner, herself a cellist and music writer, fulfills this daunting task with her authoritative biography. “When it was over I realized that I hadn’t known him nearly as well as I had thought and I set out to find him. It has taken me many years to piece his life together (p.2).” With over 10 pages of references, 34 pages of rare photos, and over 200 interviews conducted, Out of Time – The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner is a tribute to the legacy of a fallen musical meteor.

Divided into four parts, Buchdahl-Tintner provides a vivid account on Tintner’s periods in four continents – Europe, New Zealand/Australia, Africa, and lastly, Canada. A devoted vegan, a generous human-being, and a man of strong will, Tintner is best remembered for his efforts as a composer, his merits as a conductor and his unparalleled lifelong contributions as a music coach and lecturer.

As a student of Joseph Marx in composition, Tintner’s creative spur blossomed during his early-to-mid career from 1930-1970s. Influenced by the late Romantics as Scriabin and Richard Strauss, these include over a dozen of songs (e.g Frühling*, 1936), vocal (e.g. Tanya’s Fugue, 1975), solo and chamber works (eg. Violin Sonata in A, 1944; The Ellipse, 1959)*; a selection of which was recorded by Cho Liang Lin and Helen Huang on Naxos (cat# 8.570258).

As a student of Felix Weingartner in conducting, Tintner belonged in the same league as de Sabata#, Furtwängler, Horenstein, Klemperer, Toscanini# and Walter. He was noteworthy for his baton-less conducting technique that was communicative, and was blessed with absolute pitch and a memory capacity second to none. As a recluse who identified few as his “true friends,” Tintner maintained lifelong friendships with artists as David Helfgott, Denis Matthews, and Hephzibah Menuhin. Throughout his life, he collaborated with a roster of luminaries as Jorge Bolet, Rudolf Buchbinder, Philippe Djokic, Alicia de Larrocha, Ross Pople, Menahem Pressler, among others. To this day, Tintner is acclaimed by his wide array of interpretations, ranging from Beethoven to Brahms, Bruckner to Berg^. Similarly, he remained a strong proponent in contemporary music, as documented in his recordings on works by the New-Zealander Douglas Lilburn (Naxos, cat # 8.557244) and Canadian Oskar Morawetz (CBC Records, cat # PSCD-2027-5), to name a few.

Finally, Tintner, until the very last years of his life, continued as an avid music educator, conductor and choral coach. Perhaps, he is best remembered for his tireless dedication and inspiration, especially to members of youth orchestras. Remarkably, his wholesome energy with the National Youth Orchestra in Canada since 1971 cannot be dismissed, as exemplified by this quotation from a student: “…I had never really seen or met a person like this before, and no description would have such a profound effect on me as Mr. Tintner in person, really did. His total dedication to the art and humanizing of that same thing set a great example to me. He is a great conductor, and I love NYO for bringing him to conduct us (p.233).” Likewise, Tintner’s encyclopaedic knowledge can also be appreciated by audiences who had the fortune to attend his lectures. For example, his faculty and scholarship in the music of Bruckner and Mahler, in particular their psychology, relationships and roots to humanity, can conjure a spirit as novel and vibrant as the famous Norton Lectures delivered by Leonard Bernstein.

What would have given additional resource to this biography would be a discography and videography, particularly the latter, which is rare even at the expense of convenience of the internet today. For those who are interested in a selected discography, please visit a special page on Georg Tinter made by Naxos here.

In summary, Buchdahl-Tintner writes lucidly throughout her biography, with an interchange between first and third person speech as the context demands. She provides speculation, supported by evidence, to an important question that hovers over the legacy of Georg Tintner – why, despite his artistic talents, was Tintner never able to achieve the recognition he rightfully deserved, but only until the latter part of his life? Did fate leave out one of its wonderful children or was there a flaw behind Tintner the artist that was to blame? Buy and read this wonderful biography, Out of Time – The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner, and the answer will surely capture your widest imagination behind this musical meteor.

By: Patrick P.L. Lam

Homepage: University of Western Australia Publishing

*Tintner considered these to be his most important compositions (pp.59, 71, 143)
#Tintner had the greatest admiration for these two Italian conductors (pp. 32-34; 330)
^Tintner undoubtedly considered Beethoven’s Fidelio to be his favourite opera, while the first tune of Mozart’s Minuet and Country Dance K.463 No.1, the second tune of the Adagio of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and the beginning of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony among his most favourite melodic tunes (p.143). The Minuet and Country Dance was performed at Tintner’s funeral (p.385).

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