New Releases of Elgar, Monteverdi and Fritz

Sunday, September 22, 2013

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.


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