The annual committee of the PdSK decides on the ten Annual Awards, recognizing the best productions of the past year. The committee consists of a rotating cast of ten jurors from various expert juries. Each juror of the PdSK can nominate productions for the Annual Awards. Annual awards are awarded to the winners as part of public concerts or literary readings (in the field of spoken word).
From 2014 onward, the Long Lists of Annual Awards can be found on the same page as each year’s award winners.
Camille Saint-Saëns: Ascanio. Jean-François Lapointe, Bernard Richter, Ève-Maud Hubeaux, Jean Teitgen, Karina Gauvin, Clémence Tilquin, Chœur du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Chœur et Orchestre de la Haute école de musique de Genève, Guillaume Tourniaire. 3 CDs, B-Records LBM 013 (Note 1)
Camille Saint-Saëns composed thirteen operas and for a long time, only »Samson et Dalila« was known. There are now six more on CD. The conductor Guillaume Tourniaire had already made a name for himself as a committed and competent Saint-Saëns interpreter in 2008 with the one-act play »Hélène«. With this recording of the five-act opera »Ascanio«, which premiered in Paris in 1890, he has succeeded in a captivating, source-specific rediscovery of a masterpiece. The young soloists of the ensemble are excellent, and excellent too are choir and orchestra from the Geneva University of Music. The entire spectrum of the opera composer Saint-Saëns can be experienced: tableaus in the style of the Grand Opéra stand next to sometimes lyrical, sometimes dramatic arias and scenes that are as diverse in vocals as the orchestra is when it comes to sophisticated vividness. In the almost half-hour ballet music, Saint-Saëns repeatedly adds original music from the 16th Century: Based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, »Ascanio« is the continuation of Berlioz’s »Benvenuto Cellini«. For the annual committee: Michael Stegemann
Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphonien Nr. 2 & 21 »Kaddish«. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Gidon Kremer, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica. 2 CDs, Deutsche Grammophon 483 6566 (Universal)
Conducting in the 21st century is no longer just a man’s business. Finally! Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla belongs to the first generation to take this for granted – with full risk, without any concessions to market routine. Her trademark is innovative programs, her conducting style is highly expressive, her technique sovereign, she likes to combine new and unknown music for her DG debut, she selected two works by the Jewish-Polish-Russian composer Mieczysław Weinberg, who is only gradually gaining full recognition posthumously. His second symphony from 1945 has a classicist format, but the unmistakable black-melancholic, folklore-based flow of melodies, typical of Weinberg, which Gražinytė-Tyla dynamically arranges with the Kremerata. The symphony op.152, an epic lament, is dedicated to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto and culminates in a soprano vocalise: the conductor sings. For the annual committee: Eleonore Büning
The annual award was presented on the 9th October 2019 as part of a concert in the Elbphilharmonie of Hamburg.
Reinbert de Leeuw
Franz Liszt: Via Crucis. Collegium Vocale Gent, Reinbert de Leeuw. Alpha Classic 390 (Note 1)
There is a Franz Liszt who was also separate from the clichés attributed to him: deeply religious, spiritual, far from worldly vanity and virtuoso gimmicks, through the use of which he had become a late-romantic audience favorite at a young age. With his Stations of the Cross-cantata »Via Crucis«, he wrote a futuristic piece that pulls the rug out from under the diatonic harmony. It sounds timeless and is committed to a higher power. The choir is small, the organ or piano part consistently focused on the structure. You can hear Lutheran chorales, pentatonic and Gregorian passages, and marvel at those visionary transfigured moments in which the abbé opens the door to atonality. Reinbert de Leeuw recorded »Via Crucis« in the piano version once before in 1986 with the Netherlands Chamber Choir. This second recording with the Collegium Vocale Gent is beguiling and radical, and at the same time a rigorous meditation exercise: a mystery like no other in this world. For the annual committee: Joachim Mischke
The annual award was presented on the 17th December 2019 as part of a private concert in Waterloo (Belgium) to Reinbert de Leeuw, who unfortunately died on 14th February 2020.
GrauSchumacher Piano Duo
Philippe Manoury: Le temps, mode d’emploi. GrauSchumacher Piano Duo, SWR Experimentalstudio. SACD, Neos 11802 (harmonia mundi)
In the beginning, a pianistic-digital thunderstorm is brewing, in the end, the tones only trickle out of the loudspeakers. In between is an adventurous journey through virtual soundscapes. Philippe Manoury, a composer with many years of experience in the field of live electronics, knows how to use the computer to make music that does not disappoint His time and space study »Le temps, mode d’emploi« extends the sound of the two pianos to an artificial hypersound, which puts the listener at the center of a dizzying musical event. The GrauSchumacher piano duo acts virtuously, it delivers all the right colors, unleashes wild hunts and crashing chords, and spreads magical glitter. The technically demanding production benefits significantly from the work of the Freiburg experimental studio – and the fact that the work was even born is thanks to a commission from the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, which is always active at a high level. Sometimes everything just fits! For the annual committee: Max Nyffeler
Martin Elste & Carsten Schmidt
2000 Jahre Musik auf der Schallplatte. Alte Musik anno 1930. Eine diskologische Dokumentation zur Interpretationsgeschichte. Hrsg. von Martin Elste und Carsten Schmidt. 1 CD + Buch, Gesellschaft für Historische Tonträger, Wien ISBN 978-3-9502906-3-9
This opulent edition presents a musical archaeological find: it is the historical-critical new edition of a recording project, developed by the musicologist Curt Sachs in 1930, that explores the history of early music – from antiquity and the Jewish music tradition to Josquin des Préz and Monteverdi to Bach and Rameau. The CD provides the original shellac records in digitized quality. In addition to the introductory text by Martin Elste, the preciously furnished accompanying book contains a critical report on sound restoration, a documentation of the creation and reception of the recordings, the facsimile explanations by Curt Sachs in German, English, and Spanish, as well as illustrations of the musical material used at that time, and texts by the interpreters about the recordings, photo portraits and biographies of the performers, along with contemporary record reviews. A unique paragon of modern discological research! For the annual committee: Wolfgang Schreiber
The annual award was presented on the 1st November 2019 at the annual conference of the Gesellschaft für historische Tonträger (society of historical sound storage media) at Dresden.
Émile Parisien Quartet
Double Screening. Act 9879-2 (Edel)
The French saxophonist Émile Parisien, born in 1982, is one of European jazzes windfalls. His music hits the legs without neglecting the brain, it loves dense structure, as well as grippy punchlines, and possesses a two-fold wit. In addition, it always sounds like its author, although he draws jazz from a variety of different sources. Yes, the Émile Parisien Quartet sounds effortless and homogeneous even when it strikes a balance between free jazz and the reduced avant-garde language of Anton Webern. The album »Double Screening« also succeeds in another feat: it illustrates the excessive overload of the digital age using purely acoustic means. Parisien’s music calls for a hotly contested resource called attention – but it rewards it in abundance. For the annual committee: Christoph Irrgeher
The annual award was presented on the 28th October 2019 as part of a concert at Elmau Palace.
Shamania. RareNoise CD 00131573 / LP 00131569 (Cargo)
Concentrated female power comes together in the band »Shamania« by the Danish-American percussionist Marilyn Mazur. She once played with Miles Davis, today she performs with ten Scandinavian jazz performers, between the ages of twenty-eight and sixty-four. Together they have created an extraordinary album. Like shamans, they conjure up a musically captivating ritual through play and scat and prove themselves to be truly cosmopolitan crossover artists without renouncing their homeland – for example, when the melodic-vocal arrangement fuses Nordic with African and Asian. For Mazur, »Shamania« is like a primeval force, a motto under which highly virtuoso musicians come together as if for a female tribal gathering. They push each other, unfold bouncy swing, the happy rhythms of which in the final »Space Entry Dance« release almost bodily primal forces as if the goal was to ascend dancing into shamanistic heaven. But please: ladies first! For the annual committee: Heinz Zietsch
Ato Records CD 39226202 / LP 39226441 (Rough Trade)
National Public Radio, the public service broadcaster of the USA, has already chosen this new Texan soul formation as the »Breakout Band of 2019«. And yet, the Black Pumas are not a soul band, at least not one in the traditional sense, defined for example by brass sections, such as those of Earth, Wind & Fire. But the grammy-crowned and experienced Latin rock guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and the young singer Eric Burton also serve up an opulent soul orchestra menu with their sensational two-man-project debut. The album was produced in the studio in Austin. The ten songs are retro and far more than just retro, yet at the same time absolutely modern. Burton has a charismatic soul voice that develops a unique pull, Quesada contributed almost all compositions and arrangements. You don’t have to be a prophet to predict: If the music world hasn’t lost touch with reality, there will be more prizes in the future. For the annual committee: Torsten Fuchs
The annual award was presented on the 18th February 2020 as part of a performance in the club Uebel&Gefährlich of Hamburg.
Vernissage My Heart. Maschin Records CD 426040913060 / LP 0913061 (Universal)
A wild mix of music – from indie rock, cloud rap, ambient, psychedelic, to guitar solos, funk, and a little auto-tune: the Austrian group Bilderbuch combines all these genres into a very special show on their sixth album »Vernissage My Heart«, which follows directly after »Mea Culpa«. Maurice Ernst sings, whispers, and scats in various tones about Frisbee games in early summer nights, weddings on Santorini, and other escapist ideas. The Playstation memory card becomes a metaphor for past love affairs, the LED light becomes one for the start of the journey towards freedom – where you will have to pay the price of loneliness. Bilderbuch has grown up, yet they still sound new and exciting. Sounds for the wide world, distant galaxies, and a boundless Europe – for which you can issue yourself an EU passport, by the way. Because Bilderbuch has »a freedom to give«. The best gift of the year! For the annual committee: Juliane Streich
Western Stars. Sony CD 19075941972 / 2 LPs 19075937511
He is already the »boss of the awards« anyway: twenty Grammys, an Oscar, and the Medal of Freedom are probably stored somewhere in the living area of Bruce Springsteen’s ranch. And one of his tournament horses gallops in the artwork of »Western Stars«. He sent the E-Street band home, which creates space for strings and focuses on the nucleus of the thirteen reveling songs: kitsch-free pearls in the grid square of Americana, West Coast, Country, and Zydeco, which reflect the everyday life of average Joe and the loser, who is still always lucky. It is only on the second night drive that these songs develop their full brilliance. After his one-man Broadway shows, Springsteen has the element of surprise on his side again, he unearths the unknown beneath the known and takes a nostalgic-ironic look on the myth of America. And on its people and a country that was always impossible to reduce to just its president. For the annual committee: Torsten Fuchs
Tim Cole & BaoBao Chen
Small Island Big Song. Alena Murang, SiaoChun Tai, Charles Maimarosia, Sammy Samoela u.v.a.m.. CDBaby 787099608095 (Direktvertrieb)
Of course, the German Record Critics’ Award is not a climate awareness award, even if it would make sense in these times. However, if around fifty traditional musicians from sixteen islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans come together to discover their cultural similarities, then that alone is an exciting project. If, also, all of these islands are likely to be among the first to disappear as the sea level rises and with them an incomparable culture, then record criticism and climate awareness go hand in hand. A musical warning, sometimes gentle and moving, mostly rhythmic and stirring. The great outdoors is the studio, countless rare instruments are used, and different languages merge into a truly great and convincing song. Unique and poignant! For the annual committee: Mike Kamp