I've become fascinated with period instrument recordings, especially in the past decade and a half, noting as memorable examples, Sir John Eliot Gardiner's traversals of the Beethoven and Schumann symphony cycles with his handpicked ensembles, as well as period instrument-inspired recordings conducted by the likes of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Charles Mackerras, among others. However, this period instrument recording of Dvorak's 9th Symphony "From the New World" from conductor Emmanuel Krivine and his La Chamber Philharmonique orchestra, isn't one likely to win converts to the cause of period instrument performance, especially with regards to late 19th Century composers like Dvorak. Why? There are two key reasons that become quite obvious as soon as one hears the opening notes of the symphony's first movement. Krivine has opted to whittle down too much the requisite forces required to perform this score, which received its world debut at Carnegie Hall in 1893, with the composer conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; this is a majestic, complex, and sonically rich score that demands a full orchestra of at least seventy five to eighty musicians, not the fifty five which comprise Krivine's ensemble. Krivine also offers a rather dull, uninspiring interpretation, which seems replete with inexplicable, rather dramatic, shifts in tempi and accentuated rests, also for dramatic effect.
In stark contrast to this problematic performance of the Dvorak score, Krivine and his talented band of musicians provide an exciting, quite vivid, interpretation of Schumann's Konzertstuck for four horns and orchestra that compares favorably to Gardiner's interpretation. Here Krivine is more successful in emphasizing the most dramatic qualities of this three-movement work, and both he and the orchestra are able collaborators to the four horn soloists; David Guerrier, Antoine Dreyfuss, Emmanuel Padieu, Bernard Schirrer, whose fine performances compare most favorably to any I have heard, for example, from the likes of the horn sections of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Berliner Philharmoniker. If you are still inclined to acquire this recording, then do so solely for the Schumann work. Otherwise, there are other, more traditional, and far better, recordings of the Dvorak 9th symphony available, ranging from classic accounts from the likes of Kubelik with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Solti with the Chicago Symphony, to more recent ones with Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker and Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.