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

Haydn 2032 – Vol.10: Les Heures du Jour

Joseph Haydn: Symphonies No. 6 D Major Hob. I:6 »Le Matin«, No. 7 C Major ob. I:7 »Le Midi« & No. 8 G Major Hob. I:8 »Le Soir«, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Serenade No.6 D Major KV239 »Serenata notturna«. Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini. Alpha Classics ALPHA 686 (Note 1)

When the art-loving Prince Esterházy brought the young Joseph Haydn to his court as vice-conductor in 1761, it was impossible to foresee what consequences this would have for the history of music. However, Haydn had already become truly original in form and expression before joining the estate. Giovanni Antonini’s delightfully colorful and inspired recording of the »Tageszeiten« symphonies from the same year is proof of this and another milestone in his complete recording of »Haydn 2032« with the Il Giardino Armonico ensemble. A great success, complemented by Mozart’s »Serenata notturna«, the compositional wit of which is thoroughly celebrated. For the jury: Michael Kube

Orchestral Music & Concertos

Zal

Miłosz Magin: Piano Concerto No. 3, Violin Concerto No. 1 »Concerto rustico«, Vocalises Nos. 1-4, Nostalgie du pay (excerpt), Stabat Mater for Strings and Percussion. Lucas Debargue, Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica. Sony Classical 19439870312

Only very few people know the Polish-French composer and pianist Miłosz Magin, born in 1929. In the shadow of the avant-garde, he was a loner whose oeuvr deserves attention. This is demonstrated by this top-class recording of his Piano Concerto No. 3 from 1970 and the Violin Concerto No. 1 (»Concerto rustico«) from 1975. More than anything, it impresses with the passion of its interpreters: Lucas Debargue, Gidon Kremer, and the Kremerata Baltica bring Magin’s melodically intense, post-impressionist, yet always permeated with folkloric influences, music to life. For the jury: Michael Stegemann

Chamber Music

Ciaccona

Roberto Gerhard: Chaconne, Heinz Holliger: Drei kleine Szenen, Brice Pauset: Kontrapartita, Johann Sebastian Bach: Pieces from the Partitas for Violin solo Nos. 1-3 BWV 1002, 1004 & 1006. Ilya Gringolts. SACD, BIS Records BIS-2525 (Klassik Center)

Bach and the modern age – an inexhaustible topic. Ilya Gringolts enriches it with another facet with his new album »Ciaccona«. Before the mighty Chaconne from Bach’s Partita in D minor emerges as the profound finale of a highly original program, the Russian violinist serves the listener as an eloquent guide through the world of contemporary music. In these encounters with the selected solo works of modernism as well as in the individual movements of the Bach partita, which he alternates with Brice Pauset’s »Kontrapartita«, Gringolts shows himself to be a clever, even brilliant, as well as passionate virtuoso – whether on steel or gut strings. For the jury: Bernhard Hartmann

Chamber Music

Stolen Music

Arrangements for Piano Trio. Claude Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune; Paul Dukas: L’apprenti sorcier; Arnold Schönberg: Verklärte Nacht op.4; Maurice Ravel: La Valse. Linos Piano Trio. CAvi 8553035 (harmonia mundi)

A genre to be redefined, music history to be rewritten. The Linos Piano Trio has taken on a monumental task! First, the three uncovered forgotten roots: with their debut CD, they proved that the piano trios of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach are more than just piano sonatas with accompaniment. Now they have expanded their repertoire with four spectacularly virtuoso adaptations. The heart and darling piece of the new album is Eduard Steuermann’s enigmatic piano trio version of Schönberg’s »Verklärte Nacht« from 1932. The performance of the hits by Debussy, Dukas, and Ravel is also ravishingly musical, astonishingly homogeneous, and absolutely stylistically confident. For the jury: Eleonore Büning

Keyboard Music

The Visionaries of Piano Music

Works by William Byrd & John Bull. Kit Armstrong. 2 CDs, Deutsche Grammophon 486 0583 (Universal)

Kit Armstrong – pianist, conductor, composer, mathematician, and multilingual polymath – introduces two »visionaries of piano music« on his debut CD for Deutsche Grammophon: William Byrd and John Bull. And he reveals what gorgeous music these two masters of the 16th and early 17th centuries, contemporaries of William Shakespear, have created. Sophisticated counterpoint, the most versatile art of variation, virtuoso fantasy, beautiful cantabile, and above all, the highest level of emotion characterize this musical treasure, as do Kit Armstrong’s interpretations. Three visionaries among themselves. For the jury: Gregor Willmes

Keyboard Music

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Art of the Fugue BWV 1080

Samuel Kummer. 2 SACDs, Aeolus AE-11291 (Note 1)

Naumburg, St. Wenzel: Here, at the breathtaking organ built by Zacharias Hildebrandt in 1746, Samuel Kummer, playing colorful and gripping music, Kummer delivers with a grandiose »The Art of Fugue«, what Frescobaldi had demanded in the foreword to »Fiori musicali«: „I consider it very important that the organists can play from the score; not only for those who feel the need to exert serious effort with such compositions – but this matter necessarily serves as a clear demarcation for identifying the true virtuosos and distinguishing them from the ignorant. „ A truly exceptional experience. For the jury: Martin Hoffmann

Opera

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio

Christian Elsner, Lise Davidsen, Georg Zeppenfeld, Christina Landshamer, Cornel Frey, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Günther Groissböck, Aaron Pegram, Chao Deng, Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden, Dresdner Philharmonie, Marek Janowski. 2 SACDs, Pentatone PTC 5186 880 (Naxos)

»I have courage!« – this does not only apply to the beaming Lise Davidsen as Leonore in this recording of »Fidelio«. When the live concerts in Dresden’s new Kulturpalast, which had been planned for summer 2020, fell victim to the Corona measures, chief conductor Marek Janowski decided to record Beethoven’s opera with the dedicated cast under studio and safe-distance conditions – and to mix in the choirs later. The result, created in the concert hall of the house, is a flawlessly well-rounded interpretation with leading German and German-speaking representatives from all roles, which Janowski, using his unique stringency and clarity, endows with a gripping dramatic breath. For the jury: Michael Stallknecht

Opera

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Die tote Stadt

Jonas Kaufmann, Marlis Petersen, Andrzej Filończyk, Jennifer Johnston, Mirjam Mesak, Corinna Scheurle, Manuel Günther, Dean Power, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Kirill Petrenko, Stage Direction: Simon Stone. 2 DVDs/Blu-ray, Bayerische Staatsoper Recordings BSOREC1001/2001 (Naxos)

Kirill Petrenko and the Bavarian State Orchestra exaggerate the leaden music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s »Die tote Stadt« into the ethereal: What sounded as though out of a grave at its first performance in 1920 in Hamburg and Cologne, now sounds more like Franz Schreker than Franz Lehàr in this November 2019 performance. The director Simon Stone has relocated the story to the here and now: Everything focuses on the mourning work done within the dream following the loss of the great, the idealized love. Marlis Petersen surpasses himself as a singing actress, Jonas Kaufmann brings the prefabricated house owner overwhelmed by his feelings. For the jury: Robert Braunmüller

Choral Music

Arvo Pärt: Passio

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John. Sampo Haapaniemi, Martti Anttila, Linnéa Sundfær Casserly, Sirkku Rintamäki, Mats Lillhannus, Jussi Linnanmäki, Helsinki Chamber Choir, Nils Schweckendiek. SACD, BIS Records BIS-2612 (Klassik Center)

The deeply religious composer Arvo Pärt has often intoned the great Gloria and the even greater Hallelujah, sometimes he uses his music as though to quietly laugh into his magnificent beard. But in the »Passio« from 1982, there is no thought of positive emotions, this version of the St. John Passion is like an exercise in penance with a tiny cast, yet the ending shines in the most glorious D major. The Finnish new recording with great soloists, an exquisite chamber music ensemble and the Helsinki Chamber Choir under Nils Schweckendiek overwhelms with intensity, inner calm, and timing. For the jury: Wolfram Goertz

Lieder and Vocal Recital

Robert Schumann: Complete Songs

Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber; with Sibylla Rubens, Camilla Tilling, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Christina Landshamer, Martin Mitterrutzner, Julia Kleiter, Anett Fritsch, James Cheung. 11 CDs, Sony Classical 19439780112

Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber did not want to create a famous Schumann archive, but rather to investigate the heft of those 297 miniatures for solo voice(s) that make up the essence of this composer. What these recordings – of »Dichterliebe« (2004) and »Liederkreis« op. 39 (2007) to the »Spanische Liebeslieder« op. 138 (2020) – offers, exceeds the boldest expectations: sonority, eloquence, sense of color, the most refined sensibilities for subtexts, inspiring immersion in a cyclically revealed oeuvre that exploded in two bursts (1840-41, 1849-52). All of it live, developed with the like-minded. With this feat, the baritone and his piano partner have become the measure of all things Schumann-Lieder. For the jury: Albrecht Thiemann

Early Music

Enigma Fortuna

Antonio Zacara da Teramo: Complete Works. Francesca Cassinari, Alena Dantcheva, Gianluca Ferrarini, La Fonte Musica, Michele Pasotti. 4 CDs, Alpha Classics ALPHA 640 (Note 1)

He worked at the papal court around 1400, and his music is as puzzling as his life: Antonio Zacara da Teramo. With their fascinating, strange sounds, intricate polyphony, and complex rhythm, the numerous mass movements embody the avant-garde of that time, while the lyrics of the secular songs often border on the bizarre and insane. Under the direction of Michele Pasotti, the La Fonte Musica ensemble makes music with an enthusiasm that borders on fanaticism. It makes the discovery of this hitherto largely unknown composer and his complete works an extraordinary, downright exciting experience. For the jury: Uwe Schweikert

Contemporary Classical Music

Clara Iannotta: Moult

... paw-marks in wet cement (ii), Troglodyte Angels Clank By, dead wasps in the jam-jar (ii). WDR Sinfonieorchester, Münchener Kammerorchester, Klangforum Wien, L’Instant Donné, Wilhelm Latchoumia, Aurélian Azan-Zielinski, Michael Wendeberg, Enno Poppe, Clemens Schuldt. Kairos 0018004 KAI (Note 1)

She risks everything, knows neither compromises nor routine, experiments sensually and tirelessly. For Clara Iannotta, the exploration of sound and noisy sound action is an existential question. This attitude makes the composer, who was born in Rome in 1983 and lives in Berlin, one of the leading voices of her generation, and this showcase of her work captures it in exemplary fashion. It is carried not only by specialist ensembles such as the Klangforum Wien or L’Instant Donné but also by the WDR Symphony Orchestra and the commendable Munich Chamber Orchestra. They interpret Iannotta’s music comfortably straightforward, with not a moment of distance. For the jury: Egbert Tholl

Historical Recordings

Otto Klemperer conducts the Concertgebouw Orchestra

Legendary Amsterdam Concerts 1947-1961 Live. Annie Fischer, Johanna Martzy, Kathleen Ferrier, Maria Stader, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Heinz Rehfuss, Jan Bresser, William Primrose, Hans Henkemans, Hubert Barwahser, Willem Andriessen, Gre Brouwenstijn etc. 24 SACDs, archiphon 699026 (Direct sales)

Otto Klemperer’s fame is based primarily on his extensive discography for EMI. The first publication of all radio recordings made between 1947 and 1961 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam notably sharpened the conductor’s profile. We experience a musically unleashed musician, unheard until now, distinct from his studio recordings. The edition comes with a richly illustrated book that provides detailed information about Klemperer’s career and the restoration of the rare audio documents. The remastering is excellent. For the jury: Norbert Hornig

Crossover Productions

Michael Mantler: Coda

Orchestra Suites. Janus Ensemble Wien, Christoph Cech. ECM 2697 (Universal)

Not many Austrians are granted a foothold in the American jazz scene. Michael Mantler, trumpeter and composer, is one of them. Having moved to the USA in 1962, he founded the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra with Carla Bley. This album presents the now seventy-eight-year-old as a crossover artist who has turned away from free jazz and combined an advanced jazz vocabulary with the means of contemporary classical music: In gloomy orchestral works, conducted by Christoph Cech, whipped dissonances meet with tonal islands, crisp string rhythms with abstract solos, and sweet woodwinds with a tart electric guitar. For the jury: Christoph Irrgeher

Jazz

Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller: In Harmony

2 CDs/2 LPs, Resonance Records HCD-2060 (harmonia mundi)

The recordings of two concerts, in 2006 at Merkin Hall in New York City and in 2007 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, posthumously recall two musicians who were traveled on the border, the transition between late classical jazz and early modern jazz. The joy of playing between trumpet and piano stems from the blues, the folk foundation of which is essential for Roy Hargrove. Together with Marcus Miller, he transforms the classics of the Great American Songbook into folk music in the best blues sense. Effortless, elegantly swinging, timeless. The atmosphere is captivating. A highly informative booklet with interviews and statements from contemporaries as well as many photos is available as an encore. For the jury: Lothar Jänichen

Jazz

Kenny Garrett: Sounds From The Ancestors

CD/2 LPs, Mack Avenue MAC1180 (in-akustik)

It’s not his first homage to the ancestors, but none before was more complex or diverse. The spirit of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Coltrane, Miles, and Art Blakey shines through, truly showcasing Kenny Garrett’s creativity without creating a pastiche. This alto saxophonist’s spiritual jazz prayers combine soul, funk, hip-hop, and post-bop with African and Caribbean ingredients. Ronald Bruner is a propeller on the drums, whereby Garrett’s playing has an almost percussive effect. Coltrane’s hymn »A Love Supreme« sounds comparatively incidental. When Pedrito Martinez and Dwight Trible flank Garrett’s horn with their shouts in the title track, there is a simmer: it is almost at the boiling point. For the jury: Guenter Hottmann

World Music

Pulcinella & Maria Mazzotta: Grifone

CD/DL, Pulcinellamusic PULCI 007 (L’Autre Distribution)

This production represents a creative exchange of Mediterranean cultures: Maria Mazzotta, the shining voice from Salento, Italy, meets the folk-jazz free spirit Pulcinella from Toulouse, France. The great thing in common between Mazzotta and the quartet is the improvisation. Folk and jazz live through creative re-interpretation, not through imitative repetition. Singers and instrumentalists make the melodies come alive – the repertoire ranges from Piaf chansons to Italian lullabies. Proud of the origins of the songs, with terrific technique, free in expression. For the jury: Jodok W. Kobelt

Traditional Ethnic Music

Kudsi Erguner & Lâmekân Ensemble: Fragments Des Cérémonies Soufies

L’Invitation à L’Extase. Seyir Muzik 2GN013 (Galileo)

»Music has the power to strengthen faith,« said Al Ghazali, one of Islam’s most influential thinkers. The Sufi brotherhoods put themselves in a state of ecstasy through song and dance to become one with God. Kudsi Erguner, the well-known virtuoso on the Turkish ney flute, and the Lâmekân ensemble present ritual chants of the Mevlevi Order, which refers to the Persian mystic Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi and has existed since the 13th century: meditative Sounds based on the classic Arabic maqam scales. Instrumental improvisations on ney, Arabic lute and violin, powerful percussion, gentle singing, and poetic-spiritual texts. For the jury: Tom Daun

German language Singer/Songwriters

Folkländer: So viele Wege Vol.1

Löwenzahn Verlag HD20218 (Galileo)

What is immediately noticeable is what is not there – Jürgen B. Wolff’s sensitive adaptation of the Furey song »So viele Wege«. Since the new Folkländer CD is to be followed by another, one can hopefully enjoy it whenever Vol. 2 is released. The groups’ specialty has always been to present traditional and own material incredibly fresh. The composition of the songs gives food for thought, and everything is well-seasoned with humor, irony, and satire. The band, founded in Leipzig, has been making music with different line-ups for more than four decades, but: »As long as we are still playing folk songs, we are still young.« For the jury: Kai Engelke

Folk and Singer/Songwriters

Florian Schneider: Hals an Hals & Bein an Bein: Schangsongs

Self-published 7640172463871 (Direct sales)

Florian Schneider is a Swiss singer-songwriter, but fortunately for the North German-minded ear, he sings close to a Southern-influenced Standard German. His songs and performances seem to have fallen out of time – a reminder of long sunken days in which people like him still roamed the country and were called Bänkelsänger. But there is nothing old-fashioned about his love, travel and horror songs and ballads. He writes a lot of it himself but also likes to translate the pieces of famous colleagues, and he impresses with bloodthirsty murder ballads that even Helmut Qualtinger could not have made more creepy. For the jury: Gabriele Haefs

Club and Dance

Joy Orbison: Still Slipping Vol. 1

CD/LP, XL Recordings XL1188 (Indigo)

Joy Orbison, real name Peter O’Grady, has been a known fixture as a DJ and producer for over a decade. But the Briton had not yet released an album. With »Still Slipping Vol. 1« he has now made up for this. It almost feels like a mixtape: the 14 tracks are held together by scraps of conversation from his family life. The numbers are characterized by an introverted gentleness, everything rounds into an emotional whole, despite the heterogeneous material: Orbison quotes the range of electronic music from the UK that makes up his repertoire, from bass to breakbeat to garage house. Will- and skillful. For the jury: Cristina Plett

Electronic and Experimental

J. Peter Schwalm & Markus Reuter: Aufbruch

CD/LP, Rare Noise Records RNR129 (Cargo)

»It feels like a dystopian future in which the industrialized urban landscape of the past has started to overgrow with greenery«: This is how J. Peter Schwalm, a specialist for electroacoustic composition, describes his first collaboration with guitarist Markus Reuter. The awakening announced by the title: it is still ahead of us. First, a lot has to be put to rest. The album begins with hard, cold, rugged layers of sound. It is only towards the end that organic moments of hope emerge from the machine soundscapes through the scenic vocals by the singer Sophie Tassignon. Fascinating sound art! For the jury: Guido Halfmann

Blues and Blues-related

Tedeschi Trucks »Band« feat. Trey Anastasio: Layla Revisited

(Live at Lockn’). 2 CDs/3 LPs, Fantasy FAN01224 (Universal)

It takes courage to re-record an album steeped in as much history as »Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs« (1970) while retaining the order of songs. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks exemplified that courage and performed an incredibly sure-footed balancing act. The goal was not to falsify or distort the original’s legacy, yet they were not content with a simple reproduction of the pieces around the classic »Layla«. They found exactly the right balance, both for the (crucial) guitar work, as well as for the vocals. Of course, Eric Clapton’s original is never far from the listeners’ mind, but »Layla Revisited« is an outstanding album by the Tedeschi Trucks Band. For the jury: Karl Leitner

R&B, Soul and HipHop

Nas: King’s Disease II

Digital, Mass Appeal NASMAII2021 (Membran)

Nas, the defining figure of the »golden« 1990s, is not just hanging on today. In a biotope populated by platform-mayflies and mumble rappers, he has set an album that doesn’t make hide behind the broad shoulders of his debut production, »Illmatic«. Finely worked rap poetry meets operatic »Sounds of Blackness«, expertly produced by Hit-Boy. Nas, currently in charge of a master class, created »King’s Disease II« without the need for any nostalgia. He stands there like a wise, old tree, the fruits of which the young mumblers will hopefully savor. For the jury: Torsten Fuchs

Spoken Word

Molière – Die große Hörspiel Edition

Der Bürger als Edelmann, Tartuffe, Don Juan, Die Schule der Frauen, Der eingebildete Kranke, Der Menschenfeind, Der Geizige. Bernhard Minetti, Will Quadflieg, Maria Becker, Hans Korte, Rosemarie Fendel etc., Direction: Gert Westphal, Wilhelm Semmelroth, Leopold Lindtberg, Music: Peter Zwetkoff, Winfried Zillig. 8 CDs, der Hörverlag ISBN 978-3-8445-4308-7

Molière’s comedies impress with their sharp wit and elegant dialogues. The »Große Hörspiel-Edition«[Big Radio Play Edition] brings together seven of the most famous pieces. They were staged by the ARD broadcasters from the 1950s to 1980. Directors such as Wilhelm Semmelroth and Gert Westphal have created audio dramas that carry the listener into other worlds, with and above all thanks to the commitment of brilliant actors such as Elisabeth Flickenschild, Bernhard Minetti, Rosemarie Fendel, Hans Korte, and many others. A detailed, well-designed booklet rounds off this excellent box. For the jury: Dorothee Meyer-Kahrweg

Recordings for Children and Youth

Dita Zipfel: Wie der Wahnsinn mir die Welt erklärte

Alexandra Ostapenko. 4 CDs, derDiwan Hörbuchverlag ISBN 978-3-941009-80-6

13-year-old Lucie just wants to get away from mom and her oh-so-understanding friend Michi, away from the brother who hangs out with bad guys, away from Jessie and her bullying clique. Then she comes across the crazy Mr. Klinge with his strange aversion to girls and his vegetable fetishism. And becomes his cookbook ghostwriter, learns a lot about ghoul eyes (peas), dragon hearts (tomatoes), and mermaid brains (raspberries). In the end, she even finds her real name. A powerful piece of children’s literature about being different, one’s own path, delightfully weird and highly philosophical. Wonderfully read in all its facets by Alexandra Ostapenko – cheeky, rebellious, affectionate, searching, assertive. Chapeau! For the jury: Juliane Spatz

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