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

Liszt: Faust Symphony

Franz Liszt: Faust Symphony, Mephisto Waltz No. 3 (arr. A.Reisenauer/K.Karabits). Airam Hernández, Gentlemen of the Opera Chorus of the German National Theatre Weimar and the State Youth Choir of Thuringia, Staatskapelle Weimar, Kirill Karabits. Audite 97.761 (Note 1)

Liszt’s tone poem »A Faust Symphony«, like many of his other scores, is one of the unexplored treasures of the 19th century. The work, which was composed in 1854 and later expanded with a »Chorus mysticus« in the finale, cannot often be heard live. This recording with the Staatskapelle Weimar under Kirill Karabits shows the composition as it is: symphonic in ambition and tone, dramatic in expression, with high-octane portrayals of the central characters Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. Transparent in sound, almost like chamber music in places, this production is a persuasive argument for the work. For the jury: Michael Kube

Orchestral Music & Concertos

Rautavaara, Martinů: Piano Concertos Nos. 3

Einojuhani Rautavaara: Piano Concerto No. 3 »Gift of Dreams«; Bohuslav Martinů: Piano Concerto No. 3. Olli Mustonen, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Dalia Stasevska. SACD, BIS Records BIS-2532 (Klassik Center)

»Gift of Dreams« – the title of Rautavaara’s piano concerto refers to a four-note motif which the composer had already underlaid with the Baudelaire words »le don des rêves« in 1978. With compelling consistency, Stasevska and Mustonen organise the unfolding of a small nucleus into a huge panorama of sound. The result pulls you irresistibly into a dreamlike soundscape. Imaginative playing, a wealth of pianistic ideas and the lightning-fast agility of their interplay also make Martinů’s rarely-heard third piano concerto a startlingly spectacular surprise. For the jury: Jörg Lengersdorf

Chamber Music

Ravel, Schumann: String Quartets

Maurice Ravel: String Quartet in F major; Robert Schumann: String Quartet op. 41 No. 3. Leonkoro Quartet. Mirare MIR674 (harmonia mundi/Bertus)

What a calling-card! Founded in 2019, the Berlin-based Leonkoro Quartet offers a beauty of tone that ranges from surreal sound-worlds to intense physicality on its debut CD. The four musicians play with both sensitivity for detail and dramaturgy and an intelligence and curiosity for hidden messages and concealed forms. The listener journeys from amazement to rapture and from rapture to the highest sympathy for this young ensemble. They make everything sound new: even the famous string quartets by Schumann and Ravel. For the jury: Susanne Stähr

Chamber Music

»Sterne steigen dort…« (Stars are rising there…)

Portrait of the composer Albert Maria Herz. Asasello-Quartett, E-MEX-Ensemble, Christiane Oelze. Genuin GEN 23837 (Note 1)

Maria Herz (1878-1950) became more successful when she added the male Albert to her name. The intensity of her music is moving. It is dense, expressive, charming and imaginative. The album title »Sterne steigen dort…« is taken from a line of poetry by Stefan George; the five orchestral songs based on texts by the symbolist composer are full of enigmatic sounds. Christoph Maria Wagner has arranged them effectively for chamber music ensemble. The Asasello Quartet, the E-MEX Ensemble and Christiane Oelze explore this music with versatility, sensitivity and passion of the very highest level. It is good that the composer is finally being rediscovered. For the jury: Elisabeth Richter

Keyboard Music

1923

Works by Frederick Delius, Joseph Achron, Josef Matthias Hauer, Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler and others. Yaara Tal. Sony 19658803802

»Simultaneity of the non-simultaneous« – this is how Tobias Bleek, booklet author and inspiration behind this project, summarises the essence of these collected works from 1923 (and the surrounding period). Yaara Tal takes her listeners on a fascinating journey through time, revealing the musical juxtaposition and coexistence of late Romanticism, atonality and various 12-tone approaches through to moderate modernism. The pianist dedicates herself to the pieces – which are mostly very short – with great nuance in articulation and tone. The fact that she also presents numerous rarities lends the production additional excitement. For the jury: Gregor Willmes

Keyboard Music

Frescobaldi and the South

Works by Girolamo Frescobaldi, Giovanni de Macque, Rocco Rodio, Scipione Stella, Francesco Lombardo, Bernardo Storace and others. Francesco Corti. Arcana A547 (Note 1)

Girolamo Frescobaldi’s extremely modern and subjective musical style had its role models. The stupendous keyboard music of the Neapolitan School in particular, with composers such as Rocco Rodio and Giovanni de Macque, inspired Frescobaldi, who was born in Ferrara, to ever more daring experiments in sound. Francesco Corti gets to the bottom of this phenomenon with astute intuition and outstanding enthusiasm in his new production »Frescobaldi and the South«. On his marvelous journey of discovery, Corti takes us all the way to Sicily to meet Bernardo Storace, Frescobaldi’s great admirer. For the jury: Martin Hoffmann

Opera

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: David & Jonathas

Reinoud Van Mechelen, Caroline Arnaud, David Witczak, François-Olivier Jean, Antonin Rondepierre, Geoffroy Buffière, Virgile Ancely, Chœur et Orchestre Marguerite Louise, Gaétan Jarry, directed by Marshall Pynkoski, Choreography: Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Set: Christian Lacroix. 2 CDs, DVD & Blu-ray, Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS102 (Note 1)

Charpentier’s student oratorio »David et Jonathas« is about male love and the definition of good rule. This live recording, in picture and sound, is by far the most splendid, eloquent and moving complete recording in the catalogue to date. The best forces have been mobilised here to extend historical performance practice to the aesthetics, gestures, feel and equipment of a Gesamtkunstwerk that is both dramaturgically operatic and politically highly explosive. For the jury: Eleonore Büning

Opera

Leoš Janáček: Káťa Kabanová (Katja Kabanowa)

Corinne Winters, Evelyn Herlitzius, Benjamin Hulett, Jarmila Balážová and others, Concert Association Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Jakub Hrůša, directed by Barrie Kosky. DVD/Blu-ray, Unitel 809108/809204 (Naxos)

Barrie Kosky strikes at Janáček’s centre: the underrated Czech composer is the 20th century’s most outstanding champion of women-love-suffering-dying. Katja’s central question »Why can’t people fly?« is answered by the scene with a »prison front« of villagers, all of whom avoid facing the reality of their lives. Corinne Winter’s touching Katja and Jarmila Balážová’s sunny Varvara’s dreams of love light up in a utopian way – in contrast to the cutting coldness of Evelyn Herlitzius’ Kabanicha – all thanks to conductor Jakob Hrůša. Haunting and oppressive. For the jury: Wolf-Dieter Peter

Choral Music

Reconnaissance

Kaija Saariaho: Choral Works. Helsinki Chamber Choir, Timo Kurkikangas, Anna Kuvaja, Uusinta Ensemble, Nils Schweckendieck. SACD, BIS Records BIS-2662 (Klassik Center)

As we float in a melodious spectral-astral universe, wormholes of expressivity open, plunging the spheres into an abyss: linear time is erased by this strange resonance of apocalypse with utopia. The science fiction vision of »Reconnaissance« is juxtaposed with the timeless texts of deranged poet Hölderlin. Kaija Saariaho does things differently: »Horloge – tais toi!« ticks inexorably towards transience. Time stopped for the composer on 2 June 2023, and the recording became a both a worthy memorial and an impassioned plea for the extraordinary qualities of Saariaho’s music: structural clarity and boundless sensuality. For the jury: Martin Mezger

Lieder and Vocal Recital

Franz Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin D.795

Konstantin Krimmel, Daniel Heide. Alpha Classics ALPHA 929 (Note 1)

Not every new recording of Schubert’s epochal »Müllerin« is strictly necessary. Especially in the field of art song, there is a tremendous tendency to overproduce. Konstantin Krimmel’s courageous step into the holy of holies of song is cleverly considered. With small variations and astutely-judged freedoms, he gives the all-too-familiar a personal spin, but maintains a fine balance with the marvelous Daniel Heide at his side. And for all his creative intelligence, the sheer beauty of Krimmel’s baritone is pure joy. For the jury: Holger Noltze

Early Music

Antoine Gosswin: Selected Works

Antoine Gosswin: Mass movements, motets, chorales, songs, madrigals. Le Miroir de Musique, Baptiste Romain. Ricercar RIC 450 (Note 1)

Baptiste Romain and his ensemble Le Miroir de Musique are committed to a marginal figure of Renaissance polyphony, Antoine Gosswin (ca. 1546-1597/98), who entered the service of the Bavarian ducal family as a teenager. The selected mass movements, motets, madrigals and German songs prove him to be a technically accomplished, compositionally original musician who mastered all the forms of his time. With its brilliant, colourful performance, the ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists makes a convincing plea for the hitherto virtually unknown Gosswin. For the jury: Uwe Schweikert

Contemporary Classical Music

Archipels

Piano Works by Rebecca Saunders, André Boucourechliev, James Clarke, Rolf Riehm. Nicolas Hodges. bastille musique bm025 (rudi mentaire distribution)

No, it isn’t a player piano! The glissandi in Rebecca Saunders’ »to an utterance – study« alone take your breath away. Nicolas Hodges achieves things that used to be technically impossible except from player pianos. But it is the poetic subtlety of his soundscapes that is truly breathtaking. You can feel that Hodges has been living in the worlds of these composers for a quarter of a century. His vivid accounts of André Boucourechliev’s Archipelago, Rolf Riehm’s centuries-long journey to Venice and James Clarke’s bell-like sonata become soulful journeys through our everyday lives. For the jury: Margarete Zander

Historical Recordings

Wolfgang Schneiderhan: Complete Recordings on DG (1952-1968)

Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Irmgard Seefried, János Starker, Wilhelm Kempff and others, Berliner Philharmoniker, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and others. 34 CDs, Deutsche Grammophon 00289 486 3789 (Universal)

Only a few listeners know Wolfgang Schneiderhan today through his own concert recordings. Now DGG has launched a comprehensive Schneiderhan CD box set, which draws on old LP editions. It eclipses an edition published in Japan almost 30 years ago in terms of presentation, completeness and, especially, in terms of sound quality. It centres on the classical and romantic repertoire, sonatas and concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Bruch. Partners include pianists such as Carl Seemann and Wilhelm Kempf, and conductors like Wilhelm Furtwängler, Eugen Jochum, Paul van Kempen and Ferenc Fricsay. Bach’s Solo Partita No. 2 is particularly noteworthy. The »Little Shepherd« from Debussy’s »Children’s Corner« is released here for the first time. For the jury: Stephan Bultmann

Jazz

Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: The Gennett Suite

CD/LP/Digital, Patois Records PRCD0029 (direct distribution)

100 years ago, jazz giants such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke first played into a recording cone for the Gennett record label. The arranger Brent Wallarab has now written an extended four-movement suite for orchestra, along with trumpeter Mark Buselli and inspired sidemen. Pioneering themes and improvised motifs, spun with contemporary wit, remind us of the origins of jazz, but also prove their timeless validity and inspiring power for the fresh, imaginative big band of today. For the jury: Marcus A. Woelfle

Jazz

Joachim Kühn New Trio: Komeda

Joachim Kühn New Trio & Atom String Quartet: Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic XIV: Komeda. ACT 9972-2 (Edel)

Released under the simple title »Komeda«, the album documents a deeply emotional, large-scale homage to Krzysztof Komeda, the pioneer of new European jazz. Pianist Joachim Kühn, a friend in his younger years, and later an admirer of the visionary who died tragically young, looks back on Komeda’s compositions and at the same time takes them as an opportunity to explore new musical territory – in fascinating solo improvisations, with his New Trio and in a successful symbiosis with the Atom String Quartet, who play with virtuosity and soul. For the jury: Bert Noglik

World Music

MirAnda: Uma Mulher Na Cidade

(A Lisbon Woman). Jaro Medien JARO 4369-2 (direct distribution)

MirAnda comes from the Algarve and is now at home in Almada and Lisbon, on the other bank of the Tagus. She builds bridges not only between the two cities, but also between fado and other forms of expression from the Portuguese-speaking world, Argentina and France. She began in 2002 as the frontwoman of the group »Oquestrada«, with predominantly danceable mixtures of style. With this, her first modern arrangements and multi-faceted solo album, featuring both calm and up-tempo songs, she honours the urban music of the streets and bars of Lisbon in a way that surpasses all fashions. This is groundbreaking new music from Portugal. For the jury: Rainer Skibb

Traditional Ethnic Music

Ali Doğan Gönültaş: Kiğı

Mapamundi Música MM001 (direct distribution)

The Kurdish singer Ali Doğan Gönültaş spent ten years collecting the folk songs of his home region of Kiğı in Anatolia. He has carefully and tastefully reworked some of them. The result is a sonorous cosmos of musical traditions, sung in various Kurdish languages, but also in Armenian and Turkish. Gönültaş’ expressive voice is accompanied by colourful instrumental sounds and polyphonic singing – a wonderful homage to the diverse culture of Anatolia. For the jury: Tom Daun

German language Singer/Songwriters

Dota: in der fernsten der Fernen

Mascha Kaléko 2nd. Double CD, Kleingeldprinzessin Records 30661 (Broken Silence)

Is this the dawn of a revival? A theatre performance in Frankfurt tells of the life of poet Mascha Kaléko; and Dota Kehr, who was a »city pirate« with a young, new chanson band twenty years ago, once again presents a double CD with Kaléko texts. Poems in the tone of »New Objectivity« are collected, including epigrams such as those by Erich Kästner – and with »Dota«, concise and cleverly measured miniatures are created – about life and love. Doha has invited Funny von Dannen, Dirk von Lowtzow, Anna Mateur, Clueso and many more to sing with her. And all of it fits perfectly with the image of this very special song-poet. For the jury: Michael Laages

Folk and Singer/Songwriters

Calum Stewart: True North

Digital, Earlywood Music EMCD03 (direct distribution)

Although the uilleann pipes are a typically Irish bagpipe, the Scotsman Calum Stewart and his two Breton colleagues with double bass and cittern impressively demonstrate on this CD that true masters of their instruments know no geographical boundaries. All ten tracks on the instrumental CD have Scottish roots. The breadth of the material is evident right from the start. Stewart explores the emotional and harmonic limits of his instrument on the title track, which he wrote himself, and the following set of three traditional reels demonstrates tremendous dexterity. Wonderfully accomplished! For the jury: Mike Kamp

Rock

Hannah Aldridge: Dream Of America

CD/LP, Icons Creating Evil Art ICEACD446 (Rough Trade)

Yes, she is one of those »theatre brats« – in this case, the child of a musician. Hannah Aldrige’s father Walt became known as a songwriter in the Nashville sound – but her daughter’s work breaks away from many of the conventions associated with Nashville. On her album »Dream of America«, the musician from the Bible Belt plays Americana for the big screen; dark music with melodies that could have come from the less-pop-savvy Lana del Rey. There are creepy synthesizers and a dragged-out, almost spooky cover of »Psycho Killer« by the »Talking Heads«. For the jury: Julia Lorenz

Hard and Heavy

The Night Eternal: Fatale

CD/LP/Digital, Ván Records VAN 376 (Soulfood)

It would not be fair to reduce the Essen-based quintet to its place of origin, but one thing is certain: just like the Ruhr region, »Fatale« offers beauty in the ugly. The band’s rugged, scratchy heavy metal is flanked by both captivating melancholy and unobtrusive tenderness, lending the whole thing a morbid danceability familiar from other underground favourites like Tribulaton or In Solitude. However, »The Night Eternal« is not composed with a sledgehammer. The nine songs on this second album demand attention; they are designed for the long haul, not for a quick sprint. For the jury: Boris Kaiser

Club and Dance

DJ Mell G: Issues

Digital, Juicy Gang Records JGR006 (direct distribution)

Constrictive, oppressive, trapped in constant repetition – something that could be described as a crisis scenario is the aesthetic starting-point for a mini-album inspired by retro-electro, on which DJ Mell G uses the necessary urgency and the resulting energy of resistance to confront her own mental health demons. The impressive long-playing debut of the internationally sought-after Hamburg DJ on her own label revitalises the old electro world on an idiosyncratic, dark and brittle terrain of beats and bass – with techno, acid and footstep influences. For the jury: Christian Tjaben

Electronic and Experimental

»Micro Ambient Music« – Tribute To Ryuichi Sakamoto

David Toop, Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Alva Noto, Taylor Deupree, Christopher Willits and others. Digital, Micro Ambient Music (direct distribution)

Micro Ambient Music delivers four hours of sound art by musicians from the New York label 12k, which is run by Taylor Dupree. In honour of sound researcher Ryuichi Sakamoto, who passed away in March, the compilation includes works by Otomo Yoshihide, Alva Noto, David Toop, Christopher Willits, Ken Ikeda, Marihiko Hara, Aoki Takamasa and other musicians, some of whom worked with Sakamoto. The compilation is a testament to the world of sound art, ambient and other forms of experimental music and its achievements after the noughties. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Trees For Sakamoto. For the jury: Olaf Maikopf

Blues and Blues-related

Selwyn Birchwood: Exorcist

CD/LP, Alligator Records CDAL 5012 (Bertus)

He calls his own music »Electric Funk Swampin’ Blues«. But you could also just call it »great«. With »Exorcist«, Selwyn Birchwood has succeeded in creating an album that grabs you from the very first note and doesn’t let go for the next 58 minutes. This production is brimming with self-confidence. It shows an artist who came to the blues via Albert King and Buddy Guy, and who is in the process of going far beyond them, with ever-new stylistic ideas. What a fresh, new footprint in this venerable trade; and he is not even 40 years old! For the jury: Karl Leitner

R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop

Kool & The Gang: People Just Wanna Have Fun

CD/2 LPs, Astana Music Inc. 0819376047928 (Membran)

Kool & The Gang is actually a jazz band with disco hits. Live, they show us in their rampant improvisation game where the journey could have gone after the time of The Jazziacs. But things turned out differently; the hits tumbled onto the dancefloors for decades, because »people just wanna have fun«. In 2024, the band’s employees will be recognised for their lifetime achievement of 60 years of service – and so the remaining gang members around Robert »Kool« Bell and George »Funky« Brown simply continue to celebrate the eternal party on what is now their 34th LP: with the means of today, but without selling out to the zeitgeist. For the jury: Torsten Fuchs

Spoken Word

Emmanuel Carrère: V 13 – Chronique judiciaire

Radio play. Ulrich Matthes, Maren Eggert, Constanze Becker, Alexander Simon, music: zeitblom, translation: Claudia Hamm, director: Leonhard Koppelmann. Stream, SWR

The title refers to a date filled with horror: on 13 November 2015 – vendredi 13 novembre – there was an Islamist terrorist attack in Paris. 130 people died and almost 700 were injured. Six years later, the trial of fourteen defendants begins; for nine months, the French writer Emmanuel Carrère participates. He listens, reports, asks questions, but finds no answers. Director Leonard Koppelmann, musician zeitblom and a magnificent ensemble have impressively translated his unusual court reportage into a radio play and eight-part podcast. One follows spellbound – and with baffled horror. For the jury: Manuela Reichart

Photo: Actor Ulrich Matthes (right) and director Leonhard Koppelmann during the recording sessions. © SWR/Leonhard Koppelmann

Recordings for Children and Youth

Nils Mohl: Wilde Radtour mit Velociraptorin (Wild bike ride with Velociraptor)

Christoph Jöde. Hörcompany ISBN 978-3-96632-071-9

What do a velocipede and a velociraptor have in common? One half of the word, which is derived from the common Latin root velox, meaning »fast«. A bicycle and a predatory female dinosaur are the central mot(ivat)ors in this brisk bicycle tour. From A-Z, the winding story is also entertaining on a linguistic level: in each of the short chapters, a letter takes centre stage. Bicycle-specific terms are also easily incorporated – in an entertaining and virtuoso miniature for young and old, read with an acoustic wink by Hamburg actor Christoph Jöde. For the jury: Regina Himmelbauer

Open