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Mendelssohn, Symphonies 4 and 5, La Chambre Philharmonique, Emmanuel Krivine (released February 27, 2007)
Also from La Chambre Philharmonique:
Mozart, Mass in C Minor, with Accentus (2006)
Judging by Krivine's achievement in bringing together a group like La Chambre Philharmonique, he can motivate musicians, which will be half the battle for Slatkin's successor. Krivine has a convincing touch in music of different styles, even leaning towards historically informed performance, as seen in La Chambre Philharmonique's first recording. Released last year, it featured the chamber chorus Accentus and soloists like Sandrine Piau performing the Mozart C Minor Mass. His NSO concert included works by Dvořák, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Khachaturian.
The group's new CD is an elegant rendition of two Mendelssohn symphonies, the fourth ("Italian") and the fifth ("Reformation"). Krivine leads his forces through a quicksilver and airy Italienische, in which the smaller size of the orchestra (strings in numbers 9-8-6-5-3, for example) lightens the ultrafast outer movements (Allegro Vivace and Saltarello) to marvelous effect. As experience recently in a concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the less dense and generally more accurate and lean sound of a small group provides a fine sonic antidote to the bloated sound of larger symphonic ensembles. Mendelssohn indicated that both middle movements are to be played with motion (Andante con moto and Con moto moderato): the slow movement bubbles underneath the surface and the "minuet" swirls gracefully.
This reading of the Reformationssinfonie has beautiful moments, as in the crystalline statement of the "Dresden Amen" motif, which Wagner also used as the Grail theme in Parsifal. The weightier moments, however, point out one of the deficits of a smaller orchestra, as more heft would be nice in some of the big chorale-like passages. Mendelssohn seemed to have the thick, full texture of an organ in mind in some of these sections, which La Chambre Philharmonique attempts to conjure. The demands occasionally drive individual players to push their sound one notch too far, with stridency as a result. The fourth and fifth symphonies were the only ones that Mendelssohn did not allow to be published in his lifetime, which is why they are brought together here. They make an odd pair, with the Italian standing out from its more self-conscious partner.
Naïve V 5069