Rafael Kubelík’s Deutsche Grammophon Mahler recordings with his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra appeared between 1967 and 1971: the first complete survey of the Mahler symphonies using the same conductor and orchestra throughout. (Leonard Bernstein’s slightly earlier survey did not employ the New York Philharmonic for No 8.)

Kubelik Rafael Kubelík. Photo © Siegfried Lauterwasser / DG

In many ways, Kubelík provided the antidote to Bernstein’s heart-on-sleeve approach. Listening again to these performances, Kubelík concentrates on the music’s pastoral and lyrical aspects; stronger in the innocence of the early symphonies than the angst of the late ones. He seems especially attuned to the world of No 4, where his wife, the Ballarat-born soprano Elsie Morison, sings an artful fourth movement solo. Kubelík’s Third remains true to Mahler’s original nature-oriented program, and the Jewish music in No 1 lilts authentically. However, he skates over the darkness in No 7, which comes across as merely playful, and...