Notes and Editorial Reviews
At first glance, it may seem odd to couple Mahler's most exalted work with one that ranks among his most personal and tragic. Sony could have issued the symphony alone on a single disc, but chose not to for a very good reason: This is an excellent Kindertonlieder with both Lenny and Janet Baker at their absolute best. Dame Janet recorded this work earlier with Barbirolli, but here she's far more detailed in her phrasing and declamation of the text. Bernstein is also at his best - underling all of the dark, grim noises in the lower registers of the orchestra. As for the symphony, this was always considered a great performance, but had been criticized for its less than stellar sonic qualities at the climaxes (read: distortion). Sony has gone a long way towards remedying things by transferring the work at a lower level. As a result, the huge endings for both Parts I and II have much greater bloom and expanse than previously. Although Bernstein's vocalists are not as great as those in the Solti recording on an individual basis, they do work better as an ensemble -- witness the passage for the three penitent women in Part II. This is a triumph for all concerned.
--Barry Guerrero, ClassicsToday.com