Bernstein is often praised for his Tchaikovsky and Mahler recordings, but what many people seem to forget is how great a conductor he was of Sibelius' music. He keeps this music aggressively afloat and avoids the meandering trappings that lesser conductors take to make up for their lack of power and control on the podium. Rest assured, these symphonies are given the Bernstein workout. One passionate note at a time, which for me, works for Sibelius' music. Too often you have a conductor like Barbirolli or Davis who sleepwalks through these symphonies. I have heard almost every modern Sibelius symphony cycle on the market. The ones I keep coming back to are Segerstam/Ondine, Berglund/EMI, Vanska/BIS, and this Bernstein cycle.
The highlights for me are his readings of symphonies 1-3 and 6, "Pohjola's Daughter," and "Luonnotar." These performances alone are worth the price of the whole set. The NY Philharmonic Orchestra are just outstanding. They give intense performances that are memorable. The audio quality is also excellent.
You simply can't go wrong with these recordings. If you love Sibelius and like Bernstein, then I see no reason why you shouldn't acquire this cycle. 4 1/2 stars