It has been said that Leonard Bernstein was always searching for immortality and in the music of Gustav Mahler, he found it. No matter how much you acknowledge the mythification of these two great musicians, the recorded legacy that Bernstein has left behind simply corroborates the special connection he had to Mahler's music.
Mahler's symphonic forms are massive, and without proper guidance they can seem aimless. This is especially true of the 7th symphony, which has baffled musicologists and conductors alike. Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, perhaps feeling the presence of Mahler himself--he too conducted this orchestra--imbue the symphony with passion, sarcasm, irony, triumph and chaos, letting contrasting emotional ideas flow into each other like meandering thoughts.
The symphony is shaped like an arch, with the central scherzo being the most important. Bernstein creates a chamber music atmosphere in the inner three movements, thereby allowing the last movement to be an answer to the first. To perform Mahler well is to see the end from the beginning, the way a sculptor must see the image trapped inside a block of marble. This recording is one of Bernstein's many artistic masterpieces.