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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Symphony No.9 in E minor, “From the New World”, Op.95 (1893) [42:23]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra, Op. 86 (1849) [17:59]
David Guerrier; Antoine Dreyfuss; Emmanuel Padieu; Bernard Schirrer (horns)
La Chambre Philharmonique/Emmanuel Krivine
rec. Grenoble, France, January 2008
NAÏVE V5132 [60:00]
Experience Classicsonline

La Chamber Philharmonique is a period instrument band of the highest excellence. Emmanuel Krivine shows himself to be an equally fine musician here, although my previous live experience of him did not indicate that this would be the case. He accompanied Argerich in Prokofiev at the Festival Hall back in March 2004, and whilst Argerich delivered the goods, the remainder of the concert left much to be desired.
 
The Dvořák begins with a rhythmic distortion that one would presume to be based on research – the string neighbour-note figure seems over-long; the wind answer returns to the “standard” version. This quirk aside, the movement is given an authentically-informed performance, with transparency being the order of the day. The Allegro molto is nicely sprung and, in keeping with the spring-cleaning of text, the lead-in to the flute second subject is minimal; this is as opposed to the all-out ritard. that seems to be the norm. Portamento occasionally surfaces on the strings, an aspect of informed practice that is as refreshing as it is ear-opening. The exposition repeat is observed.
 
The tempo for the Largo is expertly chosen – slow enough to retain the solemnity of the opening chorale, flowing enough to sustain the famous melody. A special mention is due for the oboe at 7:35 – oboist Christian Moreaux enters haltingly, and most effectively. The Scherzo blazes towards its close; the finale is noteworthy for its expert horn playing, especially the “hunting” quartet of horns at around 8:30. The finale begins with an unstoppable momentum. This is refreshing playing with some wonderful solo moments. Luca Luccetta’s silken clarinet provides one of them.
 
Comparison with Marin Alsop’s recent, excellent Naxos version with the Baltimore Symphony reveals complementary approaches that deserve to share shelf-space. Alsop is perhaps more traditional but still gives a tremendous account – and her filler, the Symphonic Variations, receives an even finer performance.
 
The horns used for the Dvořák were a mix of Raoux (Paris, early nineteenth century) and Viennese (made by Anton Franz Cizk in 1905). For the solo piece, only Viennese valved horns are used. Schumann deliberately wrote it for valved instruments. I like Alain Chotil-Fani’s use of understatement in the booklet. The piece is still little known, he says, despite the composer’s own comment about it as “one of the best things I’ve done”. He goes on to say, “The difficulty of assembling a quartet of top-quality soloists may explain its relative rarity in the concert hall”. May? The writing is terrifically difficult - for the top two players especially - and the mere mention of “Konzertstück” instils fear into any self-respecting player’s heart.
 
The horns here make a relatively self-effacing entrance, surely contrary to Schumann’s intent. At the other extreme, a performance I owned on LP in the early 1980s, now seemingly out of print, was an account by a quartet headed by the great Hermann Baumann, whose opening could only be described as raucous. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the four players here, who work not only as a unit but also with unfailing musicality. The virtuosity of the finale, not only in terms of negotiating extremes of range but also in terms of nimbleness, is a joy here. The high (sounding) ‘A’ here, performed at considerable speed, actually made me laugh out loud it was so unreasonably well-placed and sounded. Bravo to all concerned – Krivine ensures that the orchestral contribution is never routine.
 
Barenboim’s Chicago recording of this piece shows off what is one of the world’s great horn sections; Thielemann’s with the Philharmonia is another fine version. But my preferred version is now this Naïve one. A tremendous disc.
 
Colin Clarke
 

 


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