In live performances and recordings of Mahler's orchestral song cycle it's usually the casting of the tenor soloist that proves to be problematic, but in this case it is the choice of mezzo-soprano. No doubt with some help from the recording engineers, Gregory Kunde is perfectly adequate in his numbers – occasional moments of strain are inevitable in what is some of the most demanding writing for tenor in the concert repertory, and his tone is rather unvaried, but he characterises his three songs well. Hans Graf's conducting is similarly efficient enough, middle-of-the-road in his tempi and sparing in his use of rubato, while the Houston Symphony proves itself a highly competent band. The disappointment comes with Jane Henschel's contribution; there is only the occasional sculpted phrase to provide a reminder of what a fine artist she can be. Otherwise the "beat" in her voice is unsettling, robbing the music of any poise, and particularly making the final Abschied a bit of an endurance test.
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde – review