. . . [Beethoven Symphonies]: The orchestra has a signature sound that is passed on from player to player, from one generation to the next. The sonority of their string sound is nurtured and protected. The aura of their winds, particularly the oboe is specific to the VPO. The burnished brass is legendary. Also Bernstein had certainly matured considerably as a conductor and a musician regardless of where he conducted. The differences [to an earlier cycle] are unmistakable interpretively and most certainly in the quality and reality of the recorded sound. These evaluations apply equally to the four Brahms symphonies. The DG years documented Bernstein's finest music making both at home and abroad . . . the sound on every disc that I played is disarmingly real. I went straight to disc 58 to hear a recording of a longtime favourite that I knew so well, Liszt's "Faust Symphony", the one with the Boston Symphony. I don't recall the sound being so compelling and real. It made me very happy to be in Symphony Hall where it was recorded.

The cycle of Beethoven symphonies . . . [is] surprisingly up to speed with prevailing ideas about tempo, while his Haydn -- No 88 is Bernstein at his most kittenish -- packs an authoritative punch . . . [in his] Brahms -- the finale of the Third Symphony being a prime example -- the sounds and spectrum of shadings Bernstein was able to pull from an orchestra never wavered. His VPO Beethoven "Eroica" was one of the records that, when I encountered it during my early teens, changed my life. The physical hit and depth of the sound left me floating on an ecstatic high . . . it's good to be reacquainted with some equally great records I'd forgotten about, especially Franck's Symphony in D minor, while Bernstein's performance of his own "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs" with the Vienna Philharmonic roars from beginning to end.

In his boxed set, Bernstein seems greater [than ever] . . . His slow Dvorák Symphony No. 9 first left the world respectfully puzzled; now it seems to touch core truths. But one is more baffled than ever by his crazily inflected "Carmen" with Marilyn Horne . . . [his deathbed "Candide"] has an odd majesty. As much as its deliberation feels contrary to the piece's nature, the disc is still the work of a major artist on so many levels. I wouldn't be without it.

. . . [these deeply personal readings] are well worth hearing and studying.