There's no questioning the musicianship and professionalism on this disc. And the listening public's been done a service as this may be the first (nearly) complete recording of the Journal du Printemps in decades. An awful lot of scholarship and research must have gone into this production: Just a glance at those liner notes will tell you this is no slapdash job.
Seems like the main thing with pre-classical repertoire these days is to avoid the dense, padded sound of the last generation. One need only recall Stokowski's Bach transcriptions. Even the more reduced and modest arrangements of the French Baroque by the likes of Roger Desormiere and Fernand Oubradous sound positively bloated when placed next to contemporary performances on period instruments.
There's a precision and intimacy to Ms. Gaigg's interpretation that commands respect. All the same, her approach may be ill-suited to the material. Olaf Krone's liner notes mention that the Journal du Printemps was written for the court in Baden-Baden, where the francophile margrave sought to imitate the style of absolutist France. At grandiose Versailles, the big egos and big hairdos seem to have inspired a similarly colossal sound. The Sun King's twenty-four violins was just the core of the orchestra; often it was doubled or tripled. And the appetite for Large Music seems not to have diminished after the Grand Monarch's demise: By Rameau's time, one reads of up to three hundred musicians doing the honors.
Wall-to-wall sound normally precludes appreciation of the individual musicians, and it would be a pity to do so given the talent in this ensemble. It's just that this sort of music might be better served with larger forces. It may be fair to say that modesty, intimacy, and restraint were uncharacteristic of the Baroque courts, whether in France, Germany, or elsewhere. The autocrats wanted scale, grandeur, and lots of show. So while beautifully played, this nuanced interpretation is rather inadequate to the task. Ms. Gaigg doubtless has her pick of many talented musicians seeking employment with her justly acclaimed Orfeo Baroque. She may wish to consider hiring a dozen or more of these applicants to give her next entry a fuller, deeper sound with more scope and presence.
If period authenticity is one of the chief goals in performances of this repertoire, it might be well to recall that for absolutist courts, Bigger wasn't just Better, it was "de rigueur."