Between 1994 and 2011, Pierre Boulez recorded the symphonies and songs of Gustav Mahler for Deutsche Grammophon, and for many listeners these recordings are high points in his catalog, while others regard them as idiosyncratic recordings for specialists. The basis of both views stems from Boulez's meticulous conducting and exacting performance standards, which produce music of extreme lucidity and precision, yet which can also seem overly cerebral and dispassionate. Boulez's approach to Mahler may seem clinical, and this is a reasonable assessment of the way he treats details, textures, timbres, dynamics, and rhythms as indicated in the score, clearly and cleanly, without adding personal touches or interpreting the music through Mahler's biography or his own mythology.
Bernstein leads the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra through Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 8-10 and Das Lied von der Erde . Special highlight: the breathtaking vocals on Symphony of a Thousand !
Bernstein conducts Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 5-7; Ruckert Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder with the New York Philharmonic and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Nobody interprets Mahler like the brilliant Bernstein!
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.