vision of Mendelssohnís symphonic evocation of Italy begins
sunny, light and scintillating. That La Chambre Philharmonique
is a period instrument orchestra, with here just 9 first violins,
8 seconds, 6 violas, 6 cellos and 3 double basses, is indicative
of its capacity for buoyancy of texture and agility of articulation.
This opening movement (tr. 1) is truly Allegro vivace.
Set against this a welcome contrasted touch of raucousness in
the period horns and mellifluousness in the period woodwind.
Krivine also makes the second theme (1:24) both relaxed yet
carrying the music forward. The new theme in the development
(5:22), introduced by the second violins as the subject of a
fugue, is neat and consistently light but gathers verve nicely
with especial help from the horns. The climactic passages for
full orchestra are more stimulating than dramatic. The recapitulation
of the second theme by violas and cellos (7:41) is attractively
intimate. Indeed the whole is delightfully shaped.
To the slow movement
Pilgrimsí March (tr. 2) Krivine brings at first a sober dignity
and touch of asceticism with the first theme appearing just
on oboe, bassoons and violas. But its repeat (0:34) comes with
those sheeny violins and flutesí embellishments. Itís like having
the experienced, dour pilgrims at the front and then the eager
first timers. This pattern is repeated for the second half of
the theme (0:59) and again Krivine points the contrast between
the deliberate and the effusive. All of this is, as marked,
Andante con moto, thatís rather faster than normal walking
pace, and you feel these pilgrims glide rather than march. The
second theme, introduced by the clarinet (2:18), is a completely
sunny one. The pilgrimsí vision at the end? The purposive march
returns (2:56) but so does the vision (3:51) now treated with
great delicacy by Krivine, especially the innocent first flute
garnishing before the entire procession recedes into the distance.
The third movement
Minuet (tr. 3) is again light and graciously pointed, the Con
moto moderato marking clearly observed. I like the clarity
of the growing dynamic and emotion of the second half of the
theme (0:58) scrupulously set within the overall picture. The
Trio (2:21) is consistent in its quiet pointing. Its horns expressive
accents, crescendi and sforzandi are appealingly
realized even if their difficulty in execution is apparent.
Krivine gives a
frisky, invigorating picture of those Neapolitan girls Mendelssohn
recalls dancing at Amalfi in the Saltarello finale (tr. 4).
The playing is very fast, as marked, spikier than before and
with a climax of swirling quavers which allows the strings and
woodwind in turn to demonstrate their virtuosity but just as
a contribution to a unified impression of the intoxication of
I compared the 1994
recording by Anima Eterna/Jos van Immerseel (Channel Classics
CCS 6694) as this is the only period instrument version currently
available with the same coupling. Here are the comparative timings:
body at 8,8,5,4,3 is even slimmer than Krivineís to more feathery
but less sheeny effect. His recording is airier but with the
orchestra set back a little in comparison with Krivineís. Immerseelís
is a stylish account but Krivine brings more animation to the
opening and the closer focus of his recording is more arresting.
Thereís also a greater spontaneity, even a sense of risk taking
about Krivineís approach. Immerseel brings more bounce to the
first movement second theme, but I prefer Krivineís greater
serenity. Immerseelís development is firmly conveyed but the
gradual increase in sonority is neither as boldly nor as excitingly
shaped as Krivineís.
With Krivine thereís
more of a rush of blood about the recapitulation while his return
of the second theme is more characterful and has a better integrated
flute and clarinet backcloth.
March, markedly slower than Krivineís, is a more sombre affair.
All is control, dignity and decorum, with the first theme repeats
respectful. The second themeís vision seems only a distant hope.
Immerseel gives us a vivid study of melancholy. I prefer Krivineís
focus on the goal, the light at the end of the journey, without
disguising there are hardships on the way. He also conveys more
tellingly the party disappearing at the end.
has a smooth, stylish grace with every aspect integrated and
flowing. Thereís something miniaturist about his Trio, his horns
more secure than Krivineís but also more contained. In the Minuet
Krivine has a lighter touch in the strings and more buoyancy
in the woodwind. His phrasing is a little more pointed, the
melody more expressively shaped, though Immerseelís overview
approach is equally valid. Thereís more detail to savour in
Krivineís and his Trio, because its squarer rhythms are emphasised,
is more of a contrast.
is crisp and effective with smouldering flutes to open, but
it doesnít have Krivineís excitement through his touch of abandon
and starker dynamic contrasts. Krivine also invests the central
build up of string swirls (tr. 4 2:31) with more carefree interest
and gossamery texture.
The other symphony
on this disc, Mendelssohnís Reformation, intended for
the ceremonies celebrating the tercentenary of the Augsburg
Confession, is more formal and rhetorical, at least in its outer
movements with their overt religious content. But Krivine still
makes the first movement introduction sunny, albeit with a reverent
caste. Three trombones, absent in the Italian, add to
the glowing wind band and brass fanfares are answered by an
ethereal Dresden Amen from the strings (tr. 5 2:08). The Allegro
con fuoco main body of the movement is stormily presented,
the second theme (4:12) more humane yet still troubled. Krivine
sails through it all with a kind of Rubens sweep. The development
is delivered with a fervour that makes you think of Berlioz
though it doesnít have his ability to spring surprises. Except
at the end (7:52), when the Dresden Amen returns, a benediction
which results in the following recapitulation of the stormy
material in chastened form before this turns from 9:19 into
a frenzied coda, a rousing call to arms when attempts at conciliation
After this a delightful
scherzo in B flat major (tr. 6), jubilant and tripping with
carefree wind fanfares, a trombone free zone. Who knows what
it means in context? Iíd go for a world without schisms. The
Trio (1:54) has comely oboes in duet then violas and cellos
serenading. It could all be by Schubert except itís more given
to lingering closing passages, the Trio melody returning briefly
in the coda. Krivine keeps the Allegro vivace tempo but
still suggests a haven of luxury by a smoothly phrased Trio.
The brief slow movement
(tr. 7) is a sensitive aria in G minor sung by the first violins.
The mood is penitential but thereís hope as well as sorrowing,
smooth contours as well as the anguish Krivine conveys through
finely graded dynamics. It leads straight into the finale (tr.
8), a symphonic fantasia on the Lutheran chorale† Einí feste
Burg ist unser Gott!, A safe stronghold our God is still.
And fairly action packed at that. The theme is introduced by
flute then serene, smooth woodwind band, with the double bassoon
appearing for the first time at 0:31 to enrich the bass. Indeed
Iíve never heard a double bassoon more vividly recorded than
here. I even wondered if itís a serpent Mendelssohn also allows
to play this part, but itís not listed as such.
present Allegro vivace at 1:11, a rather bullish Allegro
maestoso at 1:43 and supply a rugged fugato from 2:24. But
the wind lead a more unified theme at 3:06 which has some of
the features and jollity of the scherzo. From 4:15 the strings
provide a gentle backcloth for woodwind solo elaborations on
the chorale theme which at 5:39 blazes across the stringsí fugato
before its closing appearance from 7:17 in great breadth from
full orchestra. Krivine treats it all as a jamboree and itís
easy to catch the euphoria.
Here are the comparative
timings with Immerseel:
in the first movement is more solemn, formal and deliberate.
His Allegro is a touch stiffer, its second theme lighter,
perhaps because of his fewer strings and there is more dramatic
weight from the heavy brass battalions. Krivineís is a smoother
phrased serenity, more actively witnessed. His Dresden Amens
are more poised. His Allegro is more urgent to go places,
a conflict of fervour. His second theme has more warmth and
In the scherzo Immerseel
is, for once, faster and lighter. Itís deliciously done and
comes with a tranquil, warm Trio but I still prefer the greater
immediacy, bite and humour of Krivineís crisper articulation
and more forward recording while his Trio conveys an unaffected
slow movement is concentrated, serious and sensitively shaped
but for me itís a little too considered. I prefer Krivineís
more natural flow, more direct sorrowing, more appreciable melodic
line and phases of emotion, such as the second, more melting
phase at tr. 7 0:55 then more anguished climax at 1:19.
is splendidly full throttle, its introduction stately yet surprisingly
passionate as it develops in more marked dynamic contrasts than
Krivine, foreshadowing the mood of the following Allegro.
Itís a joyously savoured celebration with a bouncing Allegro
maestoso, sturdy fugato but the second, scherzo like, theme
is perhaps over subdued at first. Krivine prefers to allow the
introduction to unfold naturally and concentrates throughout
on firm shape and purpose. The density of the sonorities emerges
more clearly. His is a finale of exhilarating kinetic sweep.
The fugato is more tightly controlled to more biting effect
and the second theme makes its cheerily distinctive mark more
Iíve just two critical
comments about this NaÔve CD. Firstly, in a recording notable
for its forwardness and clarity the timpani seem a little buried,
without the impact one expects in period performance and gets
from Immerseelís. Secondly, though Krivineís consistently animated
approach works for me, it results in a total playing time of
54:13, which is short measure for a full price CD these days.
An opportunity for illuminating comparison was missed in not
including one or more of Mendelssohnís string symphonies.
That said, if you
want this coupling on period instruments, which I prefer in
these works for their greater vibrancy of tone and clarity of
rhythm, this Krivine CD is the one to go for. While carefully
thought out in terms of phrasing and dynamics, these performances
also have great spontaneity. You could imagine they were recorded
live in concert.