Roger Norrington

Dvorák: Symphony No. 9; Carnival Overture

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While Roger Norrington has garnered accolades for his historically informed recordings of the Classical repertoire, critical reactions to his renditions of late Romantic music have been mixed at best, and often negative. It's not that Norrington has no right to step out of his box as an early music conductor, nor is it especially difficult to accept authentic re-creations of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, or Antonin Dvorák, presumably as their composers heard them. The chief problem lies with Norrington's generally arid approach to Romantic music, which seems based upon the best research available but is seriously hampered by a lack of sympathy for open-hearted expressions. Norrington takes Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, "From the New World," along with the charming Carnival Overture, Op. 92, as demonstrations of nineteenth century orchestral techniques, sonorities, and seating arrangements, rather than as two of the most original and stirring works of their time. These performances of the "New World" Symphony and the Carnival Overture are too clinical in execution and sterile in expression to convince many that this is what Romantic feeling, let alone Dvorák's special Bohemian feeling, is all about, especially after a long performing tradition that has emphasized this music's Nationalistic and emotional coloration. Norrington may have hard historical facts on the period's performance practice to bolster his choices, but because the end results are far from the expansive and passionate spirit of the music, this stingy recording will find few defenders. Hänssler's recorded sound is clean and crisp, and the reproduction of the glorious brass of the Radio-Sinfonieorchester-Stuttgart des SWR is this disc's strongest selling point.

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