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.