New Releases Featuring Mendelssohn, Cimarosa, Poulenc & Piaf

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This week's featured releases include a new set pairing the song traditions of Francis Poulenc and Edith Piaf; the Ebène Quartet playing Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn; and a collection of Cimarosa overtures.

The Rascal and the Sparrow
Poulenc Meets Piaf
Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano
Steinway & Sons
Available at

Francis Poulenc and Edith Piaf died within 10 months of each other in 1963 and had parallel careers as proponents of the French song tradition. In "The Rascal and the Sparrow," Italian-American pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi brings together songs made famous by Piaf with Poulenc's own art songs in graceful arrangements for solo piano. Included is Poulenc's Improvisation No. 15 in C minor, subtitled “Hommage à Edith Piaf,” dedicated to the singer famously known as "The Little Sparrow.” Other Poulenc numbers include his “Métamorphoses,” “Les chemins de l'amour” (popularized by Susan Graham and Véronique Gens) and “Montparnasse.” Piaf is represented with "Non, je ne regrette rien,” “Mon legionnaire” and “La vie en rose," among others. The album, due out on Sept. 24, is just the latest from the Steinway & Sons label, which has had an impressive run since its founding in 2010.

Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn
Ebène Quartet
Virgin Classics
Available at

The Paris-based Ebène Quartet first caught the attention of American audiences with their eclectic programs that fused core classical repertoire with jazz and pop standards. While their stylish covers of Beatles and Miles Davis tunes remain a calling card, the ensemble has embarked on weightier projects too, like this album of works by brother-and-sister composers Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. If you think of Felix Mendelssohn as a composer of mainly sunny, carefree works, the two minor-key quartets here show his stormier, more dramatic side, particularly in the String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, composed just two months before his death, and very shortly after the death of his beloved sister. By contrast, Fanny Mendelssohn's own String Quartet in E flat major is a work of heartfelt melodies and grand, Beethovenian gestures.

Listen to the Ebene's 2011 Greene Space appearance, and watch them discuss their Top 5 pieces for string quartet:

Domenico Cimarosa: Overtures Vol. 3
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla
Patrick Gallois, conductor
Available at

The Jyväskylä Sinfonia, from Central Finland, has built a sizable catalogue of recordings on the Naxos label, most recently this collection of Domenico Cimarosa's popular opera overtures. Cimarosa is sometimes regarded as a footnote among 18th-century composers. But while he never achieved the fame of his contemporary, Mozart, his works are charming examples of the period’s style, as well as a precursor of Rossini’s later innovations. This recording illustrates Cimarosa’s melodic invention and rhythmic vitality in overtures to nine of his 65 operas, including one of his most popular: I due baroni di Roccazzura.