KIEL, Germany (AP) _ Klaus Tennstedt, a former chief conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra whose career took off after a celebrated New York debut in 1977, has died. He was 71.

Tennstedt died Sunday at his home in Heikendorf near the northern city of Kiel, a family spokeswoman said today.

Known as the ``High-Voltage Maestro'' for his intense conducting style, Tennstedt studied at the Leipzig Conservatory during World War II and held several conducting jobs in former communist East Germany before fleeing to the West in 1971.

After a stint as musical director in Kiel, he took over the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1974. His New York debut three years later established Tennstedt's reputation, rooted in his interpretations of composers such as Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler.

He became one of the most sought-after conductors in the United States. The New York Times named him musician of the year several times.

From 1983 to 1987, he was the London Philharmonic's principal guest conductor and musical director. On his first tour with the orchestra in 1984, he took them to Hong Kong and Japan for 16 concerts in three weeks.

He also was the first German conductor to be invited to perform with the Israel Philharmonic.

Born in 1926 in the eastern city of Merseburg as the son of an orchestra musician, Tennstedt took piano and violin lessons as a child. A hand deformity quashed his hopes of a solo career, and Tennstedt turned to conducting.