Das Lied von der Erde, for alto (or baritone), tenor & orchestra
Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" is a symphony of six songs, usually performed by a tenor and a mezzo-soprano or baritone, as specified in the score. This 2017 Sony Classical release features superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann as the soloist throughout, so the expected alternation of singers is replaced with one artist's unified interpretation. Joined by Jonathan Nott and the Vienna Philharmonic, Kaufmann displays a phenomenal tessitura that enables him to sing the tenor songs with great intensity while losing little of that power in his lower range. Even so, there is a qualitative difference between Kaufmann as tenor, where his tone is penetrating and heroic, and Kaufmann as baritone, where his voice is much rounder, warmer, and intimate. Listeners may be surprised to find both qualities side by side in "Der Einsame im Herbst," "Von der Schönheit," and most significantly, in "Der Abschied," a baritone song that Kaufmann has long wished to make his own. This is an innovative approach to performing "Das Lied von der Erde" that may unsettle traditionalists and purists, but Kaufmann's passionate singing and Nott's insightful direction make this an important recording of the work, quite apart from considerations of the composer's intentions.