New Releases of Elgar, Monteverdi and Fritz

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This week's new releases include Renaissance works by the New York vocal ensemble Tenet, the mighty Elgar Cello Concerto played by Jean-Guihen Queyras, and the works of Gaspard Fritz.

Uno + One: Italia Nostra

In just five years, the early-music vocal ensemble Tenet has become a respected fixture on the New York concert scene. The group, which features one voice per part, is particularly well-regarded for its annual performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610. Here it showcases another side to Monteverdi's work: his songs and madrigals for one and two voices. Soprano and artistic director Jolle Greenleaf is joined by fellow soprano Molly Quinn, plus a small period ensemble that includes violinist (and head of Juilliard's early-music program) Robert Mealy. Along with Monteverdi, the album features numbers by several of his contemporaries including Castello, Kapsberger and Rossi. While the CD packaging doesn't reveal a lot about what's inside, the results are uniformly superb, and the acoustic of Trinity Church Wall Street provides a warm glow around even the crunchiest dissonances. An album release concert is planned for Oct. 12.


Elgar Cello Concerto & Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations
Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Jiri Belohlavek, conductor
Harmonia Mundi
Available at

The Elgar Concerto and the Rococo Variations are pillars of the solo cello repertoire but stylistic opposites: One is a stylistic exercise, the other a grand elegy. Yet as French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras describes it in this album, "the 'A side' of one points to the 'B side' of the other, in a kind of virtual counterpoint." The Elgar concerto has some lighter moments despite its profound nostalgia; the Rococo Variations has underlying melancholy in the slow variations. Such is the theory. Queyras plays both works with a warmth and stylish sensitivity, enabled by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiri Belohlavek.

Gaspard Fritz: Sinfonias
La Stagione Frankfurt
Michael Schneider, conductor
Available at

Gaspard Fritz (1716-1783) is not exactly a household name, but then again, neither are the names of any other Swiss composers from this Classical era. Fritz trained in Italy and worked mainly as a teacher though he left behind a series of six violin sonatas and several sinfonias, five of which are included here. His music is affable and lighthearted; it won't inflame any passions but it provides a pleasant enough background soundtrack and La Stagione Frankfurt plays with grace and finesse.