Continuing his impressive series of Anton Bruckner's symphonies on CPO, Mario Venzago leads the Bern Symphony Orchestra in period style performances of the Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1889 version) and the Symphony No. 6 in A major (1881 version), using scores edited by Leopold Nowak. Venzago strives for historically informed performances that give varying perspectives on Bruckner's development, employing different orchestras with each release to reveal important differences in the composer's orchestral conceptions and to show that there wasn't one prescription of how the symphonies should sound. Instead, Venzago rejects the massive and heavy-handed interpretations of the early 20th century and tries to re-create the 19th century sound world in all its variety and intimacy. The glistening, vibrato-less string tone, pungent woodwinds, and crisp brass and timpani are easily distinguished from the more homogenized tone colors of a modern symphony orchestra, and Venzago ensures that these distinctive timbres aren't obscured by keeping the orchestral sections lean and discrete.
The symphonies of Georges Onslow (1784-1853), rather than following the path blazed by countryman Hector Berlioz, instead adopt the German romantic style epitomized by Schumann and Mendelssohn. For example, the high-spirited Symphony No. 2, a smart and finely crafted work continuously self-propelled by busy string writing, presents a very Schumannesque profile (explicitly so in the scherzo), while the orchestration, with its bucolic woodwind writing, owes much to Mendelssohn. Symphony No. 4 immediately announces its weightier countenance with a powerfully portentous introduction reminiscent of Schubert. Onslow enlivens both the first movement and finale with skillful pacing and an unerring sense of dramatic timing, but it's the spiritually elevated adagio–the emotional center of the work–that remains most in the memory.
This is the first complete coverage on period instruments - and very impressive it is..— Penguin Guide
This 16-disc set contains what is without a doubt the most distinguished collection of Mahler performances ever to have been assembled in one place. DG has sensibly collected all of Bernstein's Mahler for Polygram labels, including the London "Das Lied von der Erde," and all of the orchestral song cycles: "Song of a Wayfarer," "Kindertotenlieder," "Rückert-Lieder," and "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." All of these recordings have been issued separately to general critical acclaim, and despite a veritable warehouse of new Mahler discs in the '90s, Bernstein's versions by and large still reign supreme.