Quarterly Critic’s Choice

The best and most interesting new releases of the previous three months are awarded a place on the Quarterly Critic’s Choice. Evaluation criteria are artistic quality, repertoire value, presentation, and sound quality.

From 2014 onward, the Long Lists are stored directly with each Quarterly Critic’s Choice.

Quarterly Critic’s Choice

Orchestral Music & Concertos

Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 / En Saga

Jean Sibelius: Symphonie Nr. 1 e-moll op.39; En Saga op.9. Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Santtu-Matias Rouvali. Alpha 440 (Note 1)

A star has risen – over Gothenburg and its orchestra, founded in 1905. Since 2017, the Swedish traditional orchestra has worked with the thirty-three-year-old Finn Santtu-Matias Rouvali as chief conductor. What has been created in these two years needs to be heard to be believed! And the recording of Jean Sibelius’ first symphony makes it audible. The first movement begins mysteriously, with a lonely clarinet over a whisper of a drum roll – until eruptive energy breaks through. The sound is tight, the rhythms sharp and the accentuation is executed with utmost care. The orchestra brings in a tangible, radiant forte and simultaneously shines with a staggering color-palette: Sibelius, in thrilling freshness. For the jury: Peter Hagmann

Orchestral Music & Concertos

Hector Berlioz: Harold en Italie; Les Nuits d’été

Tabea Zimmermann, Stéphane Degout, Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth. harmonia mundi HMM 902634

To mark the 150th anniversary of Hector Berlioz’s death, the French label presents his »Symphonie en quatre parties avec un alto principal« from 1834, matching the historical splendor of sound: Tabea Zimmermann’s singing viola tone enters into a dialogue with Les Siècles. François-Xavier Roth encourages his ensemble to radiant precision and eloquent transparency and through their fine lines and elegant shading, his interpretation of »Harold en Italie« gains the grace of a delicate drawing. At the same time, the finale of the Byron-inspired work shows him to be equally skilled at sweeping, onward pushing bows. In »Les Nuits d’été« Stéphane Degout proves that this fine song cycle also works with baritone colors. For the jury: Wiebke Roloff

Chamber Music

Quatuor Modigliani: Portraits

Works by Leroy Anderson, Samuel Barber, Alexander Borodin, Roman Hoffstetter, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Fritz Kreisler, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giacomo Puccini, Sergej Rachmaninow, Dimitri Schostakowitsch, Franz Schubert, Anton Webern. Mirare MIR 414 (harmonia mundi)

Encores are free of charge. Not big gifts, they are instead little things that you should not inspect too harshly. The situation is quite different with this highly distinctive encore collection by the Quatuor Modigliani. It is only the second album of the group with their new first violinist Amaury Coeytaux, and already the fruit of their labor is apparent: thirteen treasures are offered to the listener. None of it fits together! But every single piece is put into a new light and in each of them this brilliant formation simultaneously celebrates itself with breathtaking stylistic confidence. Misconceptions are casually cleared up, the works move from early Webern to belatedly discovered Hofstetter, and even the title of the album constitutes a bank shot: »Portraits« bows to the unique clarity and beauty of the pictures of the great namesake Amedeo Modigliani. For the jury: Eleonore Büning

Keyboard Music

Joseph Haydn: Piano Sonatas

Joseph Haydn: Klaviersonaten c-moll Hob. XVI:20 & C-Dur Hob. XVI:48; Partita Hob. XVI:6; Variationen über »Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser« Hob. I:430; Variationen (Sonata, Un piccolo divertimento) f-moll Hob. XVII:6. Kristian Bezuidenhout. harmonia mundi HMM 902273

For his first Haydn album, Kristian Bezuidenhout, the discreet revolutionary, again uses a fantastically sounding copy of the Viennese Walter Fortepiano from 1805. He uses the astonishing breadth of the instruments’ tone colors to illuminate, with skillful agogics and flowing tempos, the internal polyphony, fine humor and above all the improvisational air of Haydn’s subtle, and peppered with delicate surprises, composition technique. The piano version of the »Emperor’s Hymn Variations« is a true discovery, the early C minor sonata is a manifesto to the simplicity and grandeur of a different time, with unexpected visitations of present reality: as if one were watching Haydn compose. For the jury: Attila Csampai

Keyboard Music

Le Clavecin mythologique

Works for harpsichord by Jean-Henri d’Anglebert, François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Forqueray, Pancrace Royer and Jacques Duphly. Anne Marie Dragosits. Encelade ECL 1801 (Klassik Center)

The clavecinists’ art of characterization, situated between theatricality and intimate dialogue, often used the themes and subjects of classical antiquity. With pieces of these kinds, Anne Marie Dragosits spans an arc from the progenitor d’Anglebert to Jacques Duphly, one of the last representatives of the genre. Her selection from the vast repertoire is not only dramaturgically convincing, but it also speaks directly to the listener. Dragosits has explored every twist and turn of the music in terms of narrative content, her performance never becoming schematic. Thanks to Jürgen Brunner, the precious Taskin harpsichord from the Hamburg Museum of Art and Trade, on which Dragosits plays, develops an overwhelming depth of color in this intimate, transparent and warm recording. For the jury: Friedrich Sprondel

Opera

Georg Friedrich Händel: Acis and Galatea, HWV 49a

Jeremy Budd, Grace Davidson, Stuart Young, Mark Dobell, Simon Berridge, The Sixteen, Harry Christophers. 2 CDs, Coro COR16169 (Note 1)

A musical gem! The renowned period performer Harry Christophers and his ensemble The Sixteen Händels have recorded »Acis and Galatea« in excellent quality, using the revised English version of the Serenade, originally composed in 1708 for a wedding party in Naples. With five singers, who act both as soloists and choir, and nine musicians this lineup comes very close to the British premiere of 1718 and achieves a performative clearness that beautifully brings out the charm and freshness of the music. The production impresses with lightness, accuracy and the naturalness of the song: it lets Ovid’s story of the mythological lovers and the jealous giant Polyphemus shine in bright colors. For the jury: Max Nyffeler

Operetta

Emmerich Kálmán: Die Faschingsfee

Camille Schnoor, Daniel Prohaska, Nadine Zeintl, Simon Schnorr, Maximilian Mayer, Erwin Windegger, Chor und Orchester des Staatstheaters am Gärtnerplatz, Michael Brandstätter. cpo 555 147-2 (jpc)

An operetta in Vienna, Paris, Budapest or Berlin? Sure! But after his »Csárdásfürstin« Kálmán simply turned his recipe for success, class-wise, upside down and transferred the matter to the Munich carnival of 1917: There, on the way to her engagement, Princess Alexandra meets the poor painter Viktor Ronai, love at first sight that ultimately triumphs. Joseph E. Köpplinger, the artistic director and producer of the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, has convincingly refurbished the dialogues of the »Faschingsfee«. Together, conductor Michael Brandstätter and a convincingly sounding ensemble home in on the pulsating hunger for life. A forgotten work revived. For the jury: Wolf-Dieter Peter

Choral Music

Cardoso: Requiem

Manuel Cardoso: Lamentationes für Gründonnerstag; Missa pro defunctis a 4; Magnificat secundi tona a 4. Cupertinos, Luís Toscano. Hyperion CDA68252 (Note 1)

For ten years now, the ten singers of the Portuguese ensemble Cupertinos have dedicated themselves to the rich heritage of their country, especially unpublished vocal polyphony from the 16th and 17th centuries. The singers approach the works of the Lisbon chapel master Manuel Cardoso with brilliant intonation and inspiring freshness, as well as an almost boyishly pure vibrato reduction in the soprano. In polyphonic passages, individual lines gently grow out of the ensemble and flow back into it; homophonic passages achieve an effortless ease. The interpreters’ great love for the subject is transferred onto the listeners. For the jury: Susanne Benda

Lieder and Vocal Recital

Offenbach Colorature

Arias from works by Jacques Offenbach. Jodie Devos, Adèle Charvet, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Laurent Campellone. Alpha 437 (Note 1)

Offenbach must have come to her from day one. How else could you explain that the Belgian soprano Jodie Devos is so adept at the full, lively and cleverly mixed range of expressions of this migrant who moved from the Rhine to the Seine? With elegant verve and stupendous virtuosity, cheeky wit and fine irony, yet at the same time completely free of mannerisms, she conveys the biting deeper meaning of bravura pieces such as »Les plus beaux airs sont toujours fades« (from »Vert-Vert«) just as well as the, hidden in trilling acrobatics, tragedy of Olympia from the »Contes d’Hoffmann«. It is mostly lesser-known pieces that are presented here to celebrate Jacques Offenbach’s bicentennial. Laurent Campellone and the Munich Radio Orchestra provide excellent accompaniment. Fantastic! A spectacle! For the jury: Albrecht Thiemann

Early Music

François Couperin: Les Nations (1726)

Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset. 2 CDs, Aparté AP197 (harmonia mundi)

The collection of instrumental chamber music, entitled »Les Nations. Sonades et Suites de Simphonies en Trio« was published in 1726 by François Couperin, and consists of four parts. They each consist of an Italian-style sonata and then a French dance suite, and are called »La Françoise«, »L’Espagnole«, »L’Impériale« and »La Piémontoise«. Referring to four political powers – France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and Piedmont. However, the thirty-six movements do not provide lexical saturation, instead, they fuel the listeners’ curiosity. This is in part due to Couperin’s imaginative combination of the French and Italian style, but also to the enormously colorful and committed implementation by the ten musicians from »Les Talens Lyriques«: thoroughly earnest good mood music. For the jury: Thomas Ahnert

Contemporary Classical Music

Emmanuel Nunes: Minnesang | Musivus

Emmanuel Nunes: Minnesang für 12 Stimmen a cappella; Musivus für Orchester in vier Gruppen. SWR Vokalensemble, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Emilio Pomàrico. Wergo WER 73782 (Naxos)

The »Minnesang« appears like a hymn to love, composed, a cappella, for twelve voices by Emmanuel Nunes in 1975 and 1976 based on texts by Jakob Böhme. They are divided into six pairs, each consisting of one female and one male voice, with each spatially placed as far apart as possible. In »Musivus« too, composed in 1998, the instruments of the four orchestra groups are distributed on four-stage levels, which results in a strong spatialization of the sound, captivatingly presented by Pomàrico and his ensembles. Intelligent, vivid music in the best possible interpretation! For the jury: Marita Emigholz

Historical Recordings

Wilhelm Furtwängler, Berliner Philharmoniker: The Radio Recordings 1939-1945

22 CD/SACD & 1 book, Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings BPHR 180181

The introduction of the magnetophone tape marked a new era in sound recording. The mere possibility of recording longer works without interruptions motivated the previously skeptical Wilhelm Furtwängler to agree to preserve the concerts he had performed with his »Berliners« in the ultimately destroyed philharmonic hall from 1939 to 1945. For many years, these recordings were Russian spoils of war. They only returned to Germany in the course of political rapprochement. Now they are available in a new, sound-optimized CD edition, a worthy retrospection on one of the great German conductors. For the jury: Christoph Zimmermann

Crossover Productions

Grand Ensemble Koa: Beat

Neuklang NCD 4195 (in-akustik)

Out of a jazz house collective in Montpellier under the direction of bassist and composer Alfred Vilayleck grew the nine-piece »Koa« – composed of soprano, tenor, and alto saxophone, trombones, keyboards, vibraphone, and drums. The first CD was inspired by the brutal king of surrealists Ubu, and the second by the Hindu precept of non-violence. The latest album devotes itself to texts by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, intoned without a hint of nostalgia by Caroline Sentis. A small bell signals the swinging start and on the electric guitar Serge Lazarevitch plucks retro accents before the avalanche of new music, modern jazz, and hard rock improvisations breaks loose, as fast and varied as a road movie that you secretly wish would never end! For the jury: Nikolaus Gatter

Film Music

Roma – Motion Picture Soundtrack

Leo Dan, Rocío Dúrcal, Juan Gabriel, José José, Rigo Tovar, Javier Solís, Christie, Yvonne Elliman, Orquesta Pérez Prado, Trío Chicontepec, Roger Whittaker, Ray Conniff & The Singers, Javier Bátiz, La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata, Los Socios Del Ritmo, Lupita D’Alessio, Angélica Mariá, Acapulco Tropical, Elbert Moguel y Los Strwck. Columbia 190759259320 (Sony)

Film music aspiring to be more than just a backdrop has become rare. Director »Alfonso Cuarón« did everything right with »Roma«: he decided against »film music« and for music that also tells his story, enhancing its impact. Who knew before watching what life in Mexico City felt like around 1970? But if you see the film and experience what it felt like turning on the radio there and hearing these hits, which everyone knew, everyone could hum along to, you understand why charming and strong people felt and needed this music to be part of their everyday life. For the jury: Joachim Mischke

Music Film

Mstislav Rostropovich – L’Archet indomptable (The indomitable bow)

A film by Bruno Monsaingeon. Works by Peter Tschaikowsky, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach; talk with Olga & Elena Rostropowitch, Natalia & Ignat Solshenizyn. Mstislaw Rostropowitsch, Yehudi Menuhin, Wilhelm Kempff. Blu-ray Naxos NBD0082V / DVD Naxos 2.110583

In the beginning was the suitcase. Mstislaw Rostropowitsch handed it over to the music director Bruno Monsaingeon a few years before his death. Inside: footage, unorganized, often hardly usable, based on the life and career of this great musician. Monsaingeon assembled the material into a successful portrait of the formidable cellist, pianist, conductor and pedagogue, who, after having achieved early fame in his Russian homeland, was politically ostracized for standing by Solzhenitsyn and rehabilitated only after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The film integrates the memories of the artist’s two daughters as well as comments from the widow and son of Solzhenitsyn. Rostropowitsch plays Bach, Beethoven and Tschaikowsky in the bonus material. For the jury: Lothar Prox

Jazz

Petrucciani: One Night in Karlsruhe

Michel Petrucciani, Gary Peacock, Roy Haynes: One Night in Karlsruhe. SWR Jazzhaus JAH-476 (Naxos)

At the time of his death in a New York hospital twenty years ago, Michel Petrucciani, thirty-six, had achieved popularity far beyond jazz audiences. Aware that he was only granted a short time on earth due to a rare brittle bone disease, the pianist played with particular intensity, and with playful grace always prevailing. A dream cast, so far only documented on one album, came together in 1988 for this Karlsruhe appearance. Petrucciani, with his effortless confidence, engages in a vibrant musical conversation with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Roy Haynes, in five original compositions and standards each. Their interplay: a feast of breathtaking virtuosity, sparkling ingenuity, delicate lyrics, touching emotional warmth and bubbling enthusiasm. For the jury: Marcus A. Woelfle

Jazz

Joachim Kühn: Melodic Ornette Coleman

Piano Works XIII. ACT 9763-2 (edel)

With this solo album, Joachim Kühn bows to the great jazz innovator Ornette Coleman, who inspired him throughout his life and with whom he was allowed to work closely for several years. From the 170 pieces that Coleman created specifically for the joint concerts, the pianist chose a selection that illuminates the lyrical character and melodic beauty of Coleman’s music. The dedication to the idol simultaneously turns into a self-portrait, showcasing Joachim Kühns mastery of thematic insight, and above all reveals a deep devotion to the music. For the jury: Bert Noglik

World Music

Lulo Reinhardt: Gypsy Meets India

DMG 54.218203.2 (Broken Silence)

This album is the continuation of a conceptual classic of world music. How much openness would the German Sinti guitarist Lulo Reinhardt now demand from his Indian guests from Kolkata – the established tabla virtuoso Subhasis Bhattacharya, his internationally renowned brother Debashish (slide-git) and his as a singer acclaimed daughter Anandi? You can hear that Reinhardt realizes his compositions without any shows of dominance. Hindustani elements are interspersed, such as Alaap or Raga, but also a few flamenco building blocks. True contact takes place. For the jury: Johannes Theurer

Traditional Ethnic Music

Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin: Karin

MuziekPublique MZP010 (Galileo)

»Karin« was the old name of Erzurum in Anatolia – until the end of the Ottoman Empire this city was considered an ethnic »melting pot«. The two interpreters – one Armenian, the other Turkish – chose this title of their second CD deliberately, they wished to highlight especially the similarities of Anatolian musical traditions. And they succeeded, from beginning to end. They created an atmospheric, quiet album, full of poetry, with Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish, Georgian songs, with varied and colorful instrumentation, perfectly recorded. For the jury: Tom Daun

German language Singer/Songwriters

AnnenMayKantereit: Schlagschatten

Vertigo 7705069 (Universal)

Once upon a time, minstrels wanted to sing like Orpheus. By now, creatively multifaceted artists from Dota to Stoppok have found ways to enrich the popular genre. Currently, the successor generations of Mey or Wader are represented by bands like AnnenMayKantereit, with mainstream and platitudes in their texts and music being deliberately omitted. The second AMK studio album, Schlagschatten, knows about the symptoms of our times like »I believe on the way up everywhere there are drugs«. Or there are folk, calypso, and pop ingredients in the handmade melange of the Cologne Quartet. All of this is intensively sensibly combined. The latest AMK record, certainly, is coming close to contemporary orphic vocals. For the jury: Jochen Arlt

Folk and Singer/Songwriters

Katie Doherty and The Navigators: And Then

Steeplejack 019023 (in-akustik)

Katie Doherty from Northern England is not a newcomer. Around ten years ago she send out the first promising signals as a singer/songwriter, then worked musically for the theater. Now she is back and convincingly so. No matter whether she addresses private, observational or socially critical topics, she does it with gripping songs and above all with powerful, emotionally charged vocals. And the two navigators let off steam on the Scandinavian-Balkan instrumental track »Polska«, while Doherty exults intensely in the background. Honest, soulful music. For the jury: Mike Kamp

Rock

J.S. Ondara: Tales of America

Verve 6792709 (Universal)

At seventeen, J. S. Ondara loses a bet in Nairobi, Kenya, that »Knocking On Heaven’s Door« was a Guns N’Roses song – and thus discovers Bob Dylan. That is why he wants to become a singer/songwriter. Three years later, in February 2013, he arrives in Minneapolis, Minnesota; he won the visa in a green card lottery. After another six years, his sensational debut album is released. You can hear references to Dylan and Tracey Chapman, Neil Young and Ray Lamontagne. Above all, however, you hear a twenty-six-year-old folk and blues troubadour with a tenor and falsetto voice, who in eleven sparsely but effectively arranged songs already confidently goes his own way. For the jury: Manfred Gillig-Degrave

Hard and Heavy

Candlemass: The Door To Doom

CD/LP/DL, Napalm NPR813DP (Universal)

Candlemass had actually said goodbye to the studio business in 2012 with the rather weak »Psalms for the Dead«. Now the Swedish Epic Doom gods have impressively returned to the snail rock Olympus with »The Door To Doom«. Sure, thick nectar and viscous ambrosia are no longer as abundant as on the classic albums of the late eighties, but they are still a needed refreshment for those who hunger for heavier stuff. The Hephaistos-like thundering dark riffs by mastermind Leif Edling are threateningly crowned with the dramatic vocal melodies of the first singer Johan Länquist, who returned from the pit of Hades after several decades. A comeback fat, excuse me, fit for the gods! For the jury: Felix Mescoli

Electronic and Experimental

Little Simz: Grey Area

CD/LP/DL, Age 101 AGE101001 (Rough Trade)

Little Simz is the name the London artist Simbiatu Ajikaow uses when making hip-hop. She herself describes it as »Rap Experimental«. In »Offense«, the first track on the album, she confidently compares herself to great artists, and not just musicians: Picasso, Jay-Z, and Shakespeare. Her music aims to be as independent as the works of these colleagues: powerful, modern, and angry. Before producing the album, Little Simz had been on tour for a long time, separated from friends and family. While she was happy and fulfilled by making music during this period, she was also lonely. »Grey Area«, the title of the album, reflects this feeling between euphoria and sadness. For the jury: Ruben Jonas Schnell

Blues and Blues-related

John Mayall: Nobody Told Me

Featuring Joe Bonamassa, Larry McCray, Todd Rundgren, Alex Lifeson, Steven Van Zandt, Carolyn Wonderland. Forty Below FBR 022 (H’Art)

John Mayall, the father of British blues, celebrated his 85th birthday last year. Hard to believe when you listen to this album: the old master once again shows, with bravura, all those who built on him how modern blues has to sound! Instead of taking things slower, he invited six renowned guitarists to come to his studio and recorded an album with them that is just overflowing with freshness, drive and joie de vivre. Throughout his career, Mayall now and again set blues milestones. This album is another. For the jury: Karl Leitner

R&B, Soul and HipHop

Solange: When I Get Home

DL, Columbia 0886447578018 (Sony)

Above all the daring of this album is surprising. Solange could have easily just continued the closed, personal and history-conscious soul of the predecessor »A Seat at the Table«, with which she had stepped out of the shadow of her older sister Beyoncé. »When I get Home« initially appears fleeting and unpolished. Soon, however, this openness of the beats and the melodies turn into an associative journey through Houston, dreamy and tender, reminiscent and tentative – until we see, beyond the homages to musicality and lifestyle of her home, a flicker of the wider horizon of the black american south. For the jury: Markus Schneider

Spoken Word

Maxim Leo: Wo wir zu Hause sind

Die Geschichte meiner verschwundenen Familie. Ulrich Noethen, Direction: Margrit Osterworld. 6 CDs, Argon 978-3-8398-1702-5

Maxim Leo used to »envy people with large families«. After his travels and research, the basis of this in a sense historical novel about the history of the Jewish Leo family, he presumably discarded his juvenile envy. The time in the villa in Rheinsberg was legendary, between woodruff lemonade and house music, visited by famous contemporaries. Originally based in Berlin, the family fled to Vienna, London and Haifa. Today they have regained their close connection to the German capital. An extraordinary portrayal of Jewish life stories, with three strong women at the center. A book with both delicate and harrowing scenes. And Ulrich Noethen is once again the ideal interpreter. For the jury: Friedel Bott

Recordings for Children and Youth

Jochen Till: Luzifer Junior (Teil 5) – Ein höllischer Tausch

Christoph Maria Herbst. 2 CDs, Der Audio Verlag 978-3-7424-0955-3

After Luzie and Lilly learn that they are siblings, the usual quarreling ensues. While bickering over the demonic manual it happens: they swap bodies. Which naturally leads to all sorts of hijinks, and sooner or later to the pressing question as to how to revert the change. The reader Christoph Maria Herbst brings the characters to life in a magnificent way and gives each one a voice all of its own. He does this with so much audible joy that listeners young and old are spellbound. For the jury: Margit Hähner

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