At his best Klaus Tennstedt was like a latter-day Furtwangler in terms of spontaneity, unpredictability, and deep Romantic instincts. What better test than the Dvorak Ninth, which has become so hackneyed over the years? Tennstedt rises to the challenge with a new-minted reading. It's full of thrills and spills, with unexpected tempo changes and rubato. We really are back in Furtwangler's world -- my favorite world -- and the Berliners respond with vibrant, exciting playing. You'd never suspect that this music bores anyone, despite the fact that the score was probably familiar to all these musicians before they got to high school.
The fly in the ointment is that the recording dates from 1984, the bad old days of early digital. It's fuzzy at times and overly bright, with a glassy surface and too much contrast from very soft to very loud. As a result, there's an air of unreality to the orchestra. My ears adapted after a while, but no one could call this very good sound. You will have to decide if Tennstedt's inspiration is compensation enough -- it was for me. How refreshing to hear the Largo played with such innocence and naturalness. It alone makes this CD worthwhile. The Kodaly is a generous and impressive filler, but if you search Amazon, there are much cheaper used copies of the Dvorak alone.
Overall, I'd call this the best "New World" I've heard from Berlin, keeping pace with another gripping account under Fricsay.