Michael Tilson Thomas's Mahler cycle has been characterised by outstanding sound - all the recordings have been taken from concerts in the San Francisco Symphony's home at the Davis Concert Hall - superb orchestral playing, and less convincing interpretations. There is much to admire about this account of Das Lied von der Erde, too, though those who prefer this greatest of orchestral song cycles to dig more deeply might find its objectivity not to their liking. It is intriguing as well because of Tilson Thomas's preference for a baritone rather than the more usual mezzo or contralto as one of the soloists. It's an option that Mahler allows in the score, but it's only rarely taken up, and previously on disc the only notable versions are those conducted by Paul Kletzki and Leonard Bernstein, both featuring Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Thomas Hampson may not deal with text as inimitably as the great DFD, but he works it hard, especially in the final Abschied, even if Tilson Thomas's prim conducting keeps all that at arm's length. Stuart Skelton is the equally expressive tenor, though he never quite packs the power some of the vocal lines need.
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde