The countertenor makes a guitar album, while the Brooklyn foursome mix madrigals and minimalism in lockdown
An album full of pleasures’: Philippe Jaroussky, left, and Thibaut Garcia. Photograph: James Bort
In their first joint album, À sa guitare (Erato), the French duo of star countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and classical guitarist Thibaut Garcia give their eloquent take on music from the Renaissance to the late 20th century. Drawing on French, Spanish, Italian and English repertoire, their recital bursts with the unexpected: the pure sound of Jaroussky, who always sings in the falsetto register and is best known for his expertise in baroque opera, taking on the four characters of Schubert’s Erlkönig, Garcia’s dextrous ingenuity making you quite forget that his thunderous part was written for piano; the startling segue from a solo guitar piece by the Brazilian Dilermando Reis (1916-77) to Mozart’s elegiac evening song Abendempfindung, K523.
There’s much more, from Poulenc and Fauré to Rossini, Lorca, Purcell, Dowland and Britten. I am always dubious about the concept of late-night music, but the pair’s smoky, sensuous version of September by the Parisian singer Barbara has forced a rethink. Purists – do they still exist? – might shudder at this elegant merry-go-round, but for the rest of us this is an album full of pleasures.
The Attacca Quartet, exuberant New Yorkers who play to the highest standard and bring fresh perspectives to the string quartet repertoire, have mixed Renaissance music and 20th-century minimalism on their new album, Of All Joys (Sony). The title, appropriate for a lockdown endeavour, comes from John Downland’s lute song Flow My Tears (Lachrimae): “And tears and sighs and groans my weary days/ Of all joys have deprived” – included here in its softly anguished instrumental version.
Close contemporaries of Dowland also feature: the Miserere of Gregorio Allegri, in this arrangement, metamorphosing into a wistful, prolonged contemplation; the madrigal Weep O Mine Eyes by John Bennet newly poignant without the original text or voices. In complement and contrast, Philip Glass’s well-known String Quartet No 3 “Mishima” is the centrepiece, with Arvo Pärt’s Summa to open the disc and, as a hushed adieu, his Fratres. Thoughtful and rewarding throughout.