William Schuman is unquestionably one of the most important symphonists to have come out of America, and if you are looking for a single disc introduction to his music, look no further. The recordings are some 30-40 years old, but they sound remarkably well on this excellent transfer, and Bernstein knew just how these works should go better than virtually any other conductor. The 3rd Symphony is the best-known of the Schuman symphonies and makes a stunning impact here. The Symphony for Strings likewise receives the definitive recording here (despite some strong competition from Gerard Schwarz on Delos), and the 1970 sound is still very good. But it's the recording of the 8th Symphony which is the finest-sounding on this CD. Bernstein premiered it as part of the opening season of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1962, and this recording followed soon after. The work is in Schuman's later, more astringent and dissonant manner, but it is also a fascinating example of Schuman's propensity for putting old wine in new bottles: the last two if its three movements are reworkings (actually, "recompositions" would be the more accurate word here) of the last two movements of his 4th String Quartet of 1950, and it says much for Schuman's orchestral mastery that at no point is one aware of the music's chamber origins. Quite aside from that, however tough some listeners may find this work next to the 3rd Symphony, there's no mistaking the searing eloquence of the central, threnodic slow movement. And as for the finale, fasten your seatbelts, for the New Yorkers treat us to one of their most extraordinary displays of jaw-dropping virtuosity. A very, very important CD indeed, no question about it!