This is not only a fine bargain set, with two of Mahler's most loved works, but also a set with two of the best Mahler recordings money can buy: the classic Paul Kletzki performances.
First, Kletzki's interpretation of the 4th symphony from 1957, with Philharmonia Orchestra, ranks among the very best of the classic recordings (e.g., Barbirolli, Horenstein, Kubelik, Abravanel).
The special quality with the Kletzki take consists in his straightforward but sensitive approach, which emphasizes the shifting moods of Mahler's music. And he has Emmy Loose, who gives us of one of the best child-like performances of this movement ever, comparable to Battle, for Maazel, and Davrath, for Abravanel.
Secondly, we get an excellent performance of Das Lied von der Erde in the version for a baritone instead of a mezzo (together with the tenor part), recorded in 1959. It is a classic though underrated accounts: Paul Kletzki is again conducting the Philharmonia, and Murray Dickie (tenor) and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) are soloists.
At face value, and with recording history in mind, one could have expected that this recording would be no match for the later very famous Bernstein version, with Vienna PO, having Fischer-Dieskau and King as soloists.
But in my view, Kletzki is here a far better interpreter than Bernstein - he is simply more frantic and straightforward, less sentimental. And this makes a great deal when comparing these discs: where Bernstein lets his passion interrupt the flow of the music, so that we hear more of Bernstein than of Mahler, Kletzki makes the Philharmonia play as if it were the last day of the world - as I suppose Mahler would have done it.
Regarding the soloists on the Kletzki take: Dickie is impressive, even if he's not a Heldentenor like King. And Fischer-Dieskau, in fine voice, is singing with a sense of discovery. On the Bernstein take, by contrast, he sings more or less on routine.
Moreover, having the age of these recordings in mind, the recording quality is acceptable. Unfortunately, however, EMI has not remastered the original analogue recording for this 2005 compilation. We still get the old 1990 and 1993 remasterings, which - esp. in the case of Das Lied von der Erde - are not as good as possible. In Das Lied, the upper register is sometimes very harsh, especially when Dickie sings. But don't let this setback prevent you from discovering these excellent interpretations.
Recommended, despite the sound for Das Lied.