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

Bacewicz: Symphonies No. 3 & 4

Grażyna Bacewicz: Symphonies No. 3 & 4, Ouverture. BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo. SACD, Chandos CHSA 5316 (Note 1)

Grażyna Bacewicz’s music is gradually attracting more attention in the West: both the German radio station WDR and the UK’s BBC have embarked on rewarding treasure hunts. Bacewicz is probably the most important Polish composer of the last century: a witness to political upheaval, a form-conscious dramatist, and a colourful creator. Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra illuminate the third and fourth symphonies in an appropriately »furioso« manner, suitably »drammatico«, but never overly theatrical. The playful overture for orchestra is the joy of survival transformed into sound. For the jury: Rainer Wagner

Orchestral Music & Concertos

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 C minor op. 18, Corelli Variations op. 42 and other works. Kirill Gerstein, Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko. SACD, Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings BPHR230469 (direct sales)

Difficult though it is to imagine with a work as frequently performed as the second Rachmaninov concerto, there is truly something new to discover in this recording. It is audibly different from the many that have been released for the »Rachmaninov Year« of 2023. It is elegant and almost light, powerful without being ostentatious or showy, astonishingly bright in its tonal colours, and highly intelligent in its interplay between soloist and orchestra. The two Kirills – Gerstein and Petrenko – confidently refute all prejudices against the composer and his work, which unfortunately still exist. For the jury: Michael Stegemann

Chamber Music


Works for Violin by Nicola Matteis, Johann Georg Pisendel, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, Johann Joseph Vilsmayr. Isabelle Faust. harmonia mundi HMM 902678

There is nothing that the solo violin cannot do – at least when Isabelle Faust plays it. On this CD, she performs baroque works from Biber to Pisendel with the utmost rigour, while at the same time unleashing a wild expressivity. At times you might think you are listening to festive music for wind instruments, or a cheerful madrigal for a whole choir of animated voices. At other times it sounds like a courtly dance or a jam session. Isabelle Faust reveals the full richness of music with just four strings: refined, opulent and outstandingly virtuosic. A full-bodied listening pleasure. For the jury: Susanne Stähr

Chamber Music

Schumann: Piano Quartet & Quintet

Robert Schumann: Piano Quartet in E flat major op. 47, Piano Quintet in E flat major op. 44. Isabelle Faust, Anne Katharina Schreiber, Antoine Tamestit, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexander Melnikov. harmonia mundi HMM 902695

Schumann’s masterpieces are brought to life in a refreshing new way by this experienced, all-star ensemble. Excellently harmonised, perfectly judged and never over-done, these recordings surprise with their illuminated subtlety; this is a conversation at eye level, supported by the delicate nuances of the historic Pleyel grand piano from 1851 (chosen by Alexander Melnikov). It is an exploration of romantic moods and a deep look beneath the surface of this popular music, performed at a level of quality that has seldom been heard before. For the jury: Andreas Göbel

Keyboard Music


Jean-Philippe Rameau: Gavotte et six Doubles, Les Sauvages, Rondeau »Les Tendres plaintes«, Rondeau »Les Cyclopes«, Menuets I & II from »Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin«, La Poule and works by Charles Alkan and Maurice Ravel. Bruce Liu. Deutsche Grammophon 486 4400 (Universal)

Bruce Liu, winner of the 2021 Chopin Competition, has released a debut CD that truly makes waves. French keyboard music from three centuries of music history is brought to life with varying degrees of intensity, a precise touch and an excellent feel for form and phrasing. His Rameau appears to play with surface tension; then Liu stirs up the water with Ravel’s »Miroirs«, clouding it, before creating a veritable tsunami in Alkan’s virtuosic etude. To end the voyage, he smooths out the waves once more with Rameau. For the jury: Marie-Theres Himmler

Keyboard Music

Byrd: Harpsichord and organ music

William Byrd: Complete harpsichord and organ music. Pieter-Jan Belder. 9 CDs, Brilliant Classics 97074 (Edel)

English Renaissance composer William Byrd was so highly regarded that he was dubbed »the father of music«. His keyboard music represents his artistic zenith. Dutch musician Pieter-Jan Belder presents all of Byrd’s harpsichord and organ works and his spectacular collection »My Ladye Nevells Booke« on 9 CDs, including a detailed booklet. The recordings are elevated by a comprehensive critical study of the sources, as well as by Belder’s sensitivity to the sound of the specific instruments he selects, and by organic articulation and intelligent phrasing – excellent all round! For the jury: Sabine Fallenstein


Porpora: Polifemo

Nicola Antonio Porpora: Polifemo. Yuriy Mynenko, Max Emanuel Cenčić, Pavel Kudinow, Julia Lezhneva, Sonja Runje, Narea Son, Armonia Atenea, George Petrou. 3 CDs, Parnassus Arts Productions PARARTS 003 (Note 1)

Although he was famous throughout Europe during his lifetime as a composer and singing teacher, Porpora fell into oblivion soon after his death in 1768. Generations of singers and opera lovers have missed out! But in recent years, Parnassus Arts Productions, with musicians led by countertenor Max Emanuel Cenčić, has heralded a brilliant renaissance. After »Germanico in Germania« and »Carlo il Calvo«, »Polifemo« is the opera with which Farinelli, the most famous castrato of all, made his debut in London in 1735. This is a fireworks display of brilliant colouratura! For the jury: Martin Elste


Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana

Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana (original version). Carolina López Moreno, Giorgio Berrugi, Elisabetta Fiorillo, Domen Križaj, Eva Zaïcik, Balthasar Neumann Chorus & Orchestra, Thomas Hengelbrock. Prospero PROSP0088 (Note 1)

Here is an oppoprtunity for the listener to rediscover Mascagni’s »Cavalleria rusticana« – purified and yet full of Italianità – thanks to Thomas Hengelbrock and his historically-informed Balthasar Neumann Orchestra and Choir, performing with instruments from the turn of the last century. Above all, they play in the keys and at the duration that the composer intended in the score of his one-act opera from 1890. Hengelbrock came across the original score while studying the sources – and revised it. This reference recording, which also features an excellent solo cast, marks a turning-point in the history of the opera’s interpretation. For the jury: Alexander Dick

Choral Music

Schumann: Missa sacra

Robert Schumann: Missa sacra op. 147, Four double-choir songs op. 141. Swedish Radio Choir, Kaspars Putniņš. SACD, BIS Records BIS-2697 (Klassik Center)

The famous Swedish Radio Choir turns its sights to Düsseldorf to present Robert Schumann’s late »Missa sacra« (in the version for mixed choir, soloists and organ). Under the direction of chief conductor Kaspars Putniņš, the choir transforms acclaimed craftsmanship into highly expressive intensity. Anyone who thinks that Schumann was merely a hidebound Biedermeier composer will be proven wrong. The »Kyrie« is shrouded in ineffable mystery, the »Gloria« opts for solemnity above artificial exuberance. The tenderness of the »Sanctus« defies description. For the jury: Wolfram Goertz

Lieder and Vocal Recital


»The world asks the old question« – music by Andreas Tsiartas, Sergej Rachmaninow, Franz Schubert, Olivier Messiaen, Jörg Widmann and others. Sarah Aristidou, Daniel Arkadij Gerzenberg, Jörg Widmann. Alpha Classics ALPHA 740 (Naxos)

The voice floats, breathes, whispers, screams. Shadowed, starry. Unprotected, a cappella, Sarah Aristidou gives herself over to Andreas Tsiartas’ »Lamento turco« – with flawless technique, natural expression, and creative intelligence. Whether she is tracing Schubert’s echoes of the end of time (»Der Hirt auf dem Felsen«) or Messiaen’s cosmically-clashing concision (»Répétition planétaire«), or improvising on the »enigma« of creation with her piano partner Gerzenburg – the music here remains an existential experience throughout. Not least the sparse yet vibrant »Sphinxensprüche und Rätselkanons«, which Jörg Widmann wrote for Aristidou. Breathtakingly beautiful. For the jury: Albrecht Thiemann

Early Music

Werner: Masses and Motets

Gregor Joseph Werner: Masses and Motets (Vol. 3). Magdalene Harer, Anne Bierwirth, Tobias Hunger, Markus Flaig, Voktett Hannover, la festa musicale, Lajos Rovatkay. Audite 97.819 (Note 1)

As fascinating though early Haydn might be, it is an equal pleasure to discover the mature work of his predecessor at the Esterházy court. In this recording of masses and motets by Gregor Joseph Werner under the direction of Lajos Rovatkay – himself an important »old master« in his field – universality and diversity are combined in the most beautiful way. Profound knowledge of the Renaissance »Stile Antico«, precisely-applied expressivity and contrapuntal mastery of the Baroque are effortlessly united with instrumental virtuosity and with the striving for clarity and sensitive grace that came along with the dawning Classical period. For the jury: Carsten Niemann

Contemporary Classical Music

Lucia Dlugoszewski: Abyss and Caress

Klangforum Wien, Johannes Kalitzke, Tim Anderson, Peter Evans, Ilan Volkov. 2 CDs, col legno WWE 2 CD 20460 (Naxos)

»Patriarchal drumming« was not her thing; Lucia Dlugoszewski sought sensual approaches to percussion. Rather than focusing only on the percussive aspects to be won by means of preparation, she traced the special features of the »resonating body of the piano«. The result is powerful music in which rhythmic elements dovetail snugly with compositional thoughts on tone colour, interaction and development. Lucia Dlugoszewski is going her own way – despite resistance from the »scene«. It’s time to rewrite music history again. For the jury: Nina Polaschegg

Historical Recordings

475 years of the Staatskapelle Dresden

»100 years of recordings« – works by R. Strauss, Wagner, Brahms, Borodin, Tschaikowsky and others. Fritz Busch, Rudolf Kempe, Karl Böhm, Kurt Sanderling, Joseph Keilberth, Herbert Blomstedt, Bernard Haitink, Christian Thielemann and others. 10 CDs, Profil PH23007 (Profil Medien)

The considerable success of the »Edition Staatskapelle Dresden« is thanks not least to project manager Steffen Lieberwirth and sound engineer Holger Siedler. With their meticulous attention to detail, both have demonstrated, in exemplary fashion, just how attractive and creative the preparation of historical material can be for today’s listeners. This journey through 100 years of recording history is not only a pleasure because of the Staatskapelle and its great conductors (from Fritz Busch to Rudolf Kempe and Franz Konwitschny to Christian Thielemann), but also because of the lovingly-designed booklet. For the jury: Thomas Voigt

Film Music

Robbie Robertson: Killers of the Flower Moon

Soundtrack from the Apple Original Film. Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, Adam Nielsen, Andy Stein, Osage Tribal Singers and others. CD/LP, Masterworks 19658855272 (Sony)

Robbie Robertson, whom folk rock fans know primarily as a guitarist and songwriter from the Dylan universe, has provided the soundtrack for about a dozen films for Martin Scorsese. Robertson died in August 2023, shortly before the premiere of »Killers of the Flower Moon«, and this work became his legacy. As the son of a Mohawk, he was perfectly placed to help tell the story of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma, contrasting and commenting on it. This mix, including indigenous music, rock, blues and jazz, not only accompanies Scorsese’s epic; it carries, drives and inspires. For the jury: Joachim Mischke


Stacey Kent: Summer Me, Winter Me

CD/2 LPs, naïve BLV 8224 (Soulfood)

If you listen to her songs with an open mind, you could be forgiven for thinking that Stacey Kent was a singer/songwriter. Her albums sound so imaginative and diverse. And yet all of them are dedicated to classical standards. Her series of releases now continues with a tribute to »The Voice«, Frank Sinatra. Kent, the American in England, presents pieces that were previously only performed in live concerts; the material ranges from the »Great American Songbook« to chanson. These are stories and emotions for every season, arranged as always by husband Jim Tomlinson and interpreted »with love«. For the jury: Lothar Jänichen


Koma Saxo & Petter Eldh: Post Koma

CD/LP, We Jazz WJCD 50 (Indigo)

Koma Saxo is constantly developing the sound it has been creating since its debut album in 2019, pushing it in different directions and transcending the boundaries of both live performance and post-production. The project is led by Swedish-born double bassist Petter Eldh, who is stirring up the Berlin scene. It deconstructs and juxtaposes a wide variety of stylistic approaches: from jazz improvisation to hip-hop, and from drum’n’bass to innovative sound-processing. The result is an astonishing amount of music worth listening to – often more in these consistently short pieces than on some double albums. For the jury: Bert Noglik

World Music

Les Mamans du Congo & Rrobin: Ya Mizolé

CD/LP/Digital, Jarring Effects CD26081 (Broken Silence)

Tradition can be combined modern listening habits if you have a story to tell. The Mamans du Congo from Brazzaville bring together traditional wisdom, often packaged in children’s songs and stories from the lives of emancipated African women. In order to reach the ears of the younger generation, the women use trap and folktronica arrangements, bringing together rap and call-and-response techniques. The collaboration with French producer Rrobin has deepened with this second joint album, bringing the two parties to an equal footing. Ya Mizolé combines several worlds at once. For the jury: Jodok W. Kobelt

German language Singer/Songwriters

Johannes Kirchberg: »Wie einst Lili Marleen«

A meeting with the poet Hans Leip. dermenschistgut Musik CD 250692 (Indigo)

Johannes Kirchberg wants his new album to be viewed as »a kind of audio museum«, and as a homage to the Hamburg poet Hans Leip; and it is undoubtedly both. »Lili Marleen«, which he wrote in 1915 at the age of 22, is probably Leip’s best-known text; however, almost nobody knows the melody which the poet wrote for it. The music we remember, and which almost everyone can hum, was written by composer Norbert Schultze. Kirchberg has now added his own musical version; and this is just the start of a captivating CD, recorded live. Leip’s texts are set to music and interpreted with great sensitivity by the singer himself. For the jury: Petra Schwarz

Folk and Singer/Songwriters

Gudrun Walther & Andy Cutting: Conversations

Artes Records ARCD 6040 (Galileo)

German and English folk music meet here on an equal footing, represented by Gudrun Walther and Andy Cutting. Both are renowned representatives of their countries, and both have a wealth of experience under their belts. The musical lines of fiddle and accordion are interwoven with skill and delicacy, creating a differentiated structure that offers listeners the opportunity for endless new discoveries. Clear vocals complement groovy dance melodies that will have you on your feet in no time. The outstanding quality of the recording and mix in Jürgen Treyz’s Artes Studio allows for complete immersion in the music. What a masterpiece! For the jury: Sabrina Palm


Róisín Murphy: Hit Parade

CD/LP/Digital, Ninja Tune ZEN290 (Rough Trade)

This in album full of profound deceptions; no song is just itself. In collaboration with DJ Koze, Irish singer Róisín Murphy defies every straightforward song idea, revealing a hidden picture full of alternative concepts and disruptive noises just beneath the surface of the catchy melodies. What at first glance look like individual songs are actually made up of a multitude of song fragments. Murphy and Koze achieve the greatest possible effect with impressive efficiency and the judicious use of creative means. You can listen to the album as often as you like – it’s a completely different experience every time. For the jury: Wolf Kampmann


Teenage Fanclub: Nothing Lasts Forever

CD/LP, PeMa PEMA20 (Rough Trade)

Nothing lasts forever – or does it? This (twelfth) album by a Glasgow band, founded in 1989, contradicts its title with subtle irony and sophisticated dialectics. Calm and serene, it continues a concept that has always drawn its inspiration from the vocal harmonies and folk rock guitars of the sixties, from bands like The Byrds or Big Star, without ever morphing into nostalgic rock. The ten tracks on this album maintain a fine balance between melancholy and hope, between light and shadow (three songs have the word »light« in the title). In its best moments, it seem like a wellness cure for troubled times. For the jury: Manfred Gillig-Degrave

Hard and Heavy

Sulphur Aeon: Seven Crowns And Seven Seals

CD/LP/Digital, Ván Records VAN 370 (Soulfood)

It is extremely rare for a band from Germany to attract international attention with an unconventional, innovative sound language, even if, admittedly, it is still largely within the cosmos of the genre. In their fourth album, Sulphur Aeon seem to have achieved this effortlessly. The quintet from North Rhine-Westphalia, who once started out as a classic death metal outfit, has presented a congenial setting of H.P. Lovecraft’s pulp universe, rich in nuances as well as music-historical references, from Morbid Angel to Pink Floyd, performed with almost frightening, phantasmagorical force. The only question that remains is: What will they do next? For the jury: Thorsten Dörting

Club and Dance

Sofia Kourtesis: Madres

CD/2 LPs/Digital, Ninja Tune ZEN292 (Rough Trade)

Subtle and powerful, unique, climbing and plunging, blurred and playful – the debut album by Peruvian producer Sofia Kourtesis is about mothers, about rescue, about devotion, about pain. The track »Vajkoczy« also tells a story of great fear for a loved one, an almost fairytale-like Instagram appeal, and a Berlin neurosurgeon. The album ranges from the desire to let go (»Madres«) and an almost frozen, melancholic retreat (»Moving Houses«), but is always warm, close and deep. For the jury: Nastassja von der Weiden

Electronic and Experimental

Tonn3rr3 x Bikay3: It’s A Bomb

Digital, Born Bad Records BB169 (Cargo)

»Noir et Blanc«, Bony Bikaye’s collaboration with composer and multi-instrumentalist Hector Zazou and sound-tinkerer CY 1, was released forty years ago. Could it be considered a forerunner of »Congotronics«? In any case, Bikaye is one of the artists who co-founded the genre of »global electronica«. »It’s a Bomb«, the current cross-cultural collaboration between the singer and the French trio Tonn3rr3, mixes Congolese rumba with mythological tales, allowing mutating Afro sounds to meet electronic experiments. Their communication is boundless, creating – according to the artists – an electronic jungle. For the jury: Jean Trouillet

Blues and Blues-related

The Bluesanovas: Big Love

CD/LP, Timezone Records TZ 2456 (Timezone Distribution)

They are young, they are conscious of tradition, they come (at least in part) from the lively Osnabrück/Münster blues scene , and they play blues, boogie and rock‘n’roll. The Bluesanovas are no longer a new phenomenon, at least not since their international appearances as Eric Clapton’s support act. And their album »Big Love« conveys exactly that: their love for this music. So have the five Bluesanovas reinvented the blues? Not from a purely musical point of view, of course. But their authenticity and their joyous playing always make you curious – about the blues and about The Bluesanovas. For the jury: Tim Schauen

R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop

Joy Denalane: Willpower

CD/LP, Four Music Productions 19658842502 (Sony)

Many of the soul singers who defined the style are no longer with us. So it’s a good feeling when their legacy is reinterpreted at eye level. And the story continues to be written – just as it is lived, felt and transported via the soul, as it is by Joy Delanane. Soul music, whether it tells of real life or of fiction, is always an expression of the heart. It narrates tales of grief, of letting go, freedom, or simply of the strength of an individual’s determination. With »Willpower«, Joy has recorded her most mature and artistically open album to date, with brilliant jazz influences. And her voice gets better and better. For the jury: Michael Rütten

Spoken Word

Voices of the century 1945-2000

(Jahrhundertstimmen 1945-2000) – German history in over 300 original recordings. Edited by Hans Sarkowicz, Ines Geipel, Ulrich Herbert, Michael Krüger, Christiane Collorio. 4 mp3 CDs, der Hörverlag ISBN 978-3-8445-4902-7 (Penguin Random House)

In bringing a century to life, the »Jahrhundertstimmen« edition succeeds brilliantly. Following the first release, which covers the years 1900 to 1945, the second part, documenting the years 1945 to 2000, has now been released. More than 400 original sound recordings from politics, society, sport and culture include speeches, reports and interviews. They are each introduced by Hans Sarkowicz, former head of culture at Hessischer Rundfunk, and expertly categorised by Ines Geipel, Ulrich Herbert and Michael Krüger. A detailed, richly-illustrated accompanying book rounds off this excellent production. For the jury: Dorothee Meyer-Kahrweg

Recordings for Children and Youth

Robert M. Sonntag: The Scanners

(Die Scanner). Omid-Paul Eftekhari. mp3 CD, derDiwan Hörbuchverlag ISBN 978-3-949840-26-5

»The Scanners« is a thriller set in the near future. Robert M. Sonntag (alias Martin Schäuble) describes the highly digital world of 2035, in which reading books is an offence against the system. »The Scanners« illustrates how close we are to a reality in which we reveal our most intimate details to the public. Eleven years from now, we will do so through »mobrills« in the ultra-network – controlled by a megacorporation in which power outweighs politics, which claims that all knowledge is available in paperless form. This gripping story is read by Omid-Paul Eftekhari, who knows how to fade pleasantly into the background, so that the story and its characters can take centre stage. For the jury: Helen Seyd