Essential Bernstein on CD and DVD
11-CD Mahler: The Symphonies (DG, 2010)
9-DVD box set: Mahler (DG, 2005)
The CD set is one of the best Mahler symphony cycles on the market, and indisputably the best in Bernstein's discography in terms of orchestral finesse and intense reading.
Performed in the 1980s by three orchestras directly related to Mahler, this set will remain a major document of Bernstein's final say on the ill-fated Austrian composer he championed for almost four decades. The DVD set, recorded a decade earlier, is the first Mahler cycle on video and is an important reference for music lovers.
The Little Drummer Boy - An Essay on Gustav Mahler (DG, 2007)
This documentary highlights Bernstein's brilliance in deconstructing a complex story into a simple tale. No one could tell a better Mahler story than Bernstein.
West Side Story (MGM Special Edition, 2003)
The 1961 film of the modern-day Romeo and Juliet, which picked up 10 Oscars, is the best testimony to Bernstein's genius as a composer. The 2003 release comes with the original script, almost like an opera libretto. The original vintage sound in classics such as Tonight and Somewhere is timeless.
Candide (DG, 2006)
An operetta that preceded West Side Story, Candide is now best known for its exhilarating overture. But Bernstein's 1989 live performance with the London Symphony Orchestra showed the whole thing was equally good, especially when he surprised everyone with an impromptu speech just before the downbeat.