If you're looking for a big-hearted, quasi-nineteenth-century view of this work, you may warm to Bernstein's 'old-fashioned' reading. As one might expect, his speeds tend to be deliberate and portentous in the slower movements, swift and dramatic in the faster ones. They are all carried off with the conviction this conductor brings to all his work. Certainly in the context of the live performance in a church from which this well-engineered recording originates, the reading would have seemed convincing. In the rather more analytical atmosphere of home listening, the effects can seem a trifle contrived. The chorus, as compared with those in the versions listed above, make heavy weather of the choral writing but there is a fair balance with the Bavarian Radio Symphony who, as always, show themselves to be a first-rate orchestra.
The soloists are a creative group, both singing alone and as an ensemble. Mane McLaughlin soars beseechingly at the top. The choice of Maria Ewing for the second soprano or alto part is sensible as her tone balances well with the other three voices. Jerry Hadley is the secure, slightly faceless tenor, Cornelius Hauptmann the somewhat too vibrant bass, who unfortunately breaks his opening phrase in the ''Tuba mirum''.
I cannot see any reason, in a heavily populated field, to prefer this version to any of those listed above or indeed to several others. The Gillesberger/RCA at medium price presents a less sophisticated, more direct vision of the work. Of the more recent sets, the Schreier (Philips) remains a satisfactory compromise between old and new ideas about the piece's interpretation. Gardiner (also Philips), as ever, is fresh and urgent with an excellent quartet of soloists. More in the Bernstein line is Sir Colin Davis (Philips, again) and he avoids the more sentimental aspects of Bernstein's approach.'