Leonard Bernstein / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Mahler: The Symphonies

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Of the two Mahler cycles Leonard Bernstein recorded in his career, the most influential and culturally important was the first, recorded with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s and early '70s for Columbia, then later reissued by Sony. Even though it has been criticized for several faults, not least of which were Bernstein's willful choices of tempos, phrasing, and dynamics, it has nonetheless been recognized as one of the foundations of the Mahler revival and of true historic value. The second cycle was recorded in the 1980s for Deutsche Grammophon, and though these recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic were noted for their polish and greater faithfulness to the scores, they were less musically significant overall, for they came after many other conductors had raised performance standards for Mahler recordings, transcended Bernstein's interpretive powers, and expanded listeners' range of choices. The DG recordings were gathered in a 1991 box set of 13 CDs and laid out in a sequence fairly close to their numerical ordering, with few breaks between discs. This 2010 set presents the CDs in a trimmed-down box on 11 CDs, with the symphonies dramatically out of sequence and with breaks in all except the Symphonies No. 1 and No. 5. The reduced packaging and squeezed-in programming may be attractive to collectors who like saving space and who won't listen to the set often, but it will prove to be frustrating and confusing to people approaching Mahler for the first time. While Bernstein's legacy will hardly be affected by these externals, they are of some consequence to the listener's ease of playing and satisfaction with the product, which in turn will color reception and may dissuade some from giving this later cycle serious consideration for its musical worth.

Track Listing - Disc 11

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand"
1 06:26 Amazon
2 03:05 Amazon
3 04:31 Amazon
4 01:35 Amazon
5 04:29 Amazon
6 01:06 Amazon
7 01:49 Amazon
8 02:22 Amazon
9 01:22 Amazon
10 04:24 Amazon
11 03:55 Amazon
12 04:50 Amazon
13 01:13 Amazon
14 03:56 Amazon
15 01:22 Amazon
16 06:01 Amazon
17 06:27 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick