Bernstein's Mahler

DGG have just rereleased their complete set of Mahler Symphonies recorded ‘live’ by Lennie on 16 LPs.

I have had individual LPs of some of these releases in the past, and they are close to definitive accounts.

So if you like your Mahler white hot, now is your chance. It may not come again.

You may want to supplement the set by acquiring Bernstein’s superb account of the Ninth, recorded by Bernstein with the Berlin Philharmonic (also on DGG), the only time that he conducted that great orchestra. (The recording in the big box is with Amsterdam’s Concergebouw.) Both are great performances.


Hl graham55.
Some would say I’ve over idulged with Mahler and LB! Perhaps?
I have the LP box set of the symphonies on CBS. Not the best recorded but certainly worth a listen.
With DG and their common interest with other labels in re-selling their prime catalogue I have aquired the symphonies in both LP and CD formats. I played the 5th the other day and thought the recording quality a bit dated, unlike the performance.
Overall Bernstein holds the top place for me in Mahler symphony sets.
The recent Rattle 2nd at the Proms also hit the spot. The 4th on a recent Record Review with Roth needs further investigation.

Hello, Douglas.

Yes, I have some (not all) of Bernstein’s earlier New York Phil/CBS Mahler recordings on CD. I don’t think that he or his orchestra were quite ready to make those records. But you need to remember that, when those recordings were made, Mahler was ‘new territory’ for the orchestra. Bernstein (along with Jascha Horenstein and Bernard Haitink) was very much at the head of conductors responsible for bringing Mahler back into the public consciousness.

The later DGG recordings were made with orchestras (including the New York Phil) who knew Mahler well.

I am very much looking forward to getting my set, and I’ve ordered an extra set as a gift for my son.

I know that @JosquinDesPrez just acquired this set and is a bit of a Mahler “fanatic.”

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The composer had a saying: “My time will come”. Hard to deny that.

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By far my favorite Mahler. I have them all on CD, in hi-res FLAC, and the first, second and fifth on vinyl. That said, I may have to do this!

I think I can count Kubelik and Solti among them as well.

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Yeah, I got my set on the U.S. release day. I have been going through all the LPs to make sure they sound good. I bought two sets to make sure I can assemble a good set, and I already have three LPs that need to be replaced out of the second set, and then return one as defective.

Nevertheless, these sound great. I also like the Bernstein Columbia recordings of the 60s. There are some real gems there (2nd and 3rd for example).

Yes on both counts (Kubelik and Solti). I apologise to their memories.

It’s more than slightly dispiriting to hear that you’ve received bad pressings of some of the LPs. Are they German pressings?

My experience is that DGG German pressings are usually amongst the best in the industry, along with Philips (their sister company within the Polygram Group).

I gave up buying Decca LPs twenty odd years ago, because I got so fed up having to return bad copies. (The rather grumpy manager of Blackwells Music Shop in Oxford refused to sell me LPs because he knew that there was a fair chance that I’d be back within a few days wanting to swap them for decent copies.) Of course, if you could find Decca records pressed by Telefunken in Germany, you had a much better chance of a nice clean copy.

Anyway, leaving aside the quality of the pressings, what dd you make of Bernstein’s readings of the works? Please don’t spoil my (high) expectations!

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These are pressed in Germany. I can’t say where but my guess is Optimal or Pallas. Both plants are not without issues now and then. Getting a 16-LP set with everything perfect is sort of a crap shoot these days. I knew that, which is why I bought two sets.

I agree that in the old days under Polygram, DG and Philips pressings were generally very reliable. However, it’s all now under UMG, and they no longer have the deep experience of producing vinyl. But for the most part they do a pretty good job. I have other Archiv/DGG reissues done in recent years by UMG and they have been great.

I don’t have too much to say yet about the performances. I’ve really just been focused on checking pressing quality. However, I haven’t heard anything I didn’t like. The 2nd was great. I’m playing the 6th now and it is quite good. I’ll come back and dig in more later.

I will probably get into them even more after it starts getting cold and I can’t sit outside anymore. I’ve also ordered a new cartridge and that should show up about the time the cold sets in and I spend more time with records again.

I look forward to reading every one else’ takes on this set. It’s great to have it.

I have thought on and off about getting this, and you sealed the deal. I just ordered the vinyl reissue on Amazon.

As an aside and a bit off topic, other DG reissues coming out shortly are Daniel Barenboim’s excellent 3-LP solo piano set of Mendellsohn’s Songs Without Words, as well as Kubelik’s 4-LP DG cycle of Schumann Symphonies with the Berliner. I have not yet seen the later on Amazon, but I have the former preordered.

Question for the gallery… but you probably will never be able to answer it😀

My first introduction to recorded Mahler was from a friend who recommended Tennstedt on EMI. I loved it and still do.
My friend (who incidentally introduced me to ‘proper HiFi (Linn / Naim) coloured my judgement of Berstein as too fast and self indulgent, his words not mine and I’ve never listened too him and Mahler.
Maybe it was @graham55 CBS / NY Phil set he was basing his opinion on.

Time to give Bernstein a go?

I’m laid up in a care home at the moment, so I can’t listen to these Mahler LPs, or any others that I’ve been ordering, just yet. I’m hoping to be home within the next week or so, so there will be much drinking of cappuccinos and listening to LPs then.

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Bernstein might have been born to conduct Mahler. Personally, I don’t much like Tennstedt’s way with Mahler, and the London Philharmonic with which he recorded the Symphonies is not in the same league as the Amsterdam, Vienna or New York ensembles that Lennie had under him. (But others will almost certainly disagree with me. I’m an enthusiastic amateur, not a professional music critic.)

The older CBS (now Sony) discs were never state of the art, and are now 50-odd years old, and it shows.

The DGG sets are light years ahead, in terms of sound quality, and DGG had really perfected their ‘live’ recording techniques for Lenny. He preferred to record his music ‘live’ and patch later, if necessary. No audience noise is heard (audiences were told that the concerts were being recorded and were asked not to applaud immediately before the start or after the end of the performance). So you get a real orchestra playing live music, but without audience ‘participation’.

If you want to try out just one Symphony, I suggest that you go for the Vienna Philharmonic account of the Fifth, recorded in Frankfurt a week after Bernstein and the orchestra had played the same piece to an awestruck Proms audience in London.

But don’t hold off getting your hands on a copy of the complete set. It has just been rereleased, after many years’ absence from the catalogue. and this may be your last chance to get hold of it.

Good luck, and do report back here on how you get on.

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The new set is limited to 2600 copies worldwide. I have nos. 275 and 600. Given the high price this might be available for a little while, but anyone who wants it should get it now, or maybe end up crying later.

I still have several of the Analogphonic reissues mastered by Kevin Gray on backorder. However, they have been on backorder for over two years, and I’m not so sure they will be repressed at this point. Once I have a good set out of this reissue I plan to cancel the Analogphonic orders.

Bernstein was buried with his score of the fifth. He probably interprets that one, and the second, better than anyone. Completely connected to the music. Channeling the composer. Just stunning. Both of them bring tears to my eyes every time in multiple places.

Someone who has purchased this already, if it is permitted on this board, and not too crass, could you tell me what you paid? I see sets available from $295.00 to $509.00 USD. Is there a difference, or are some sellers just trying to gouge us!

I got mine from Target for $414 (including sales tax). Amazon has had it for $509 (plus sales tax) while Amazon Marketplace sellers have been all over the map.

$509 is the official retail price, FWIW

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The 2nd is my favorite Mahler symphony and has been for as long as I remember, and Bernstein’s is great, as is his 60s version. The 5th has become more and more a favorite, as the 6th. But the 3rd is also near the top of my list.

I recently got vinyl reissues of Zubin Mehta’s 2nd (Vienna/Decca) and 3rd (L.A. Phil/Decca) and have enjoyed those too, although I need to give them some more listening time.