This 16-disc set contains what is without a doubt the most distinguished collection of Mahler performances ever to have been assembled in one place. DG has sensibly collected all of Bernstein's Mahler for Polygram labels, including the London "Das Lied von der Erde," and all of the orchestral song cycles: "Song of a Wayfarer," "Kindertotenlieder," "Rückert-Lieder," and "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." All of these recordings have been issued separately to general critical acclaim, and despite a veritable warehouse of new Mahler discs in the '90s, Bernstein's versions by and large still reign supreme.
I don't see this as an opportunity to rehearse details of the oft told tale of all the similarities between Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein. In summary, then : the conflict between composing and conducting; the Jewishness and sundry other bits of prejudice; Vienna and New York as significant centres of influence and intrigue; overwork and self-neglect as contributions to an early death. All of that, and more, is easily available from other sources.
As part of a 9 DVD series from Deutsche Grammophon, Leonard Bernstein rehearses Symphonies 5 and 9, and Das Lied von der Erde
Fans of Leonard Bernstein will not want to miss the chance to snap up this limited edition 60-CD set, Bernstein Symphony Edition. With a list price of just over two dollars per disc, it's a bargain not to be missed. What's most impressive about these recordings of well over 100 symphonies made between 1953 and 1976, almost all of which feature the New York Philharmonic, is the scope and depth of Bernstein's repertoire.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.