Notes and Editorial Reviews
In short, what Bernstein gave us was the total Mahlerian package... these first versions have lost none of their freshness or sense of discovery. As such, they are irreplaceable, and incomparable.
The young Leonard Bernstein was already at the height of his conducting powers during his 1958–69 reign at the New York Philharmonic, and none of his achievements from that period had greater impact than the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies. Indeed, the 1962 release of the Third, a galvanizing recording that arguably has still not been surpassed, can be said to have launched the “Mahler Renaissance”. Other incomparable performances from this landmark set are the Seventh and Eighth. The latest remastered 12-album reissue also includes Bernstein’s 1972 live Israel Philharmonic recording of Das Lied von der Erde – “a fine, committed performance … highly enjoyable” (Gramophone) – with soloists Christa Ludwig and René Kollo.
Excerpt from review of prior release of this set:
These interpretations are particularly important because they completely belie Bernstein's reputation as an indulgent artist given over to excess and emotional exaggeration. In fact, by today's standards, what Bernstein gives us here is Mahler that captures all of the music's extremes of excitement and color while never losing sight of the music's structure and carefully planned proportions. Bernstein's Mahler is, in fact, shapely. Nothing that he does lacks clear justification in the printed page. I can point to countless examples of recent Mahler conductors who are both more self-indulgent and less observant of detail than Bernstein ever was--Levine, Segerstam, Sinopoli, Rattle, and Norrington among them--without being notably more in sync with the music's expressive point.
In short, what Bernstein gave us was the total Mahlerian package, and while he did better some of these performances in his DG cycle (notably Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5), these first versions have lost none of their freshness or sense of discovery. As such, they are irreplaceable, and incomparable.
– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz)