Critics and artists are by no means natural enemies, although they are often caricatured as such. After all, there have been times when the two have even played four-handed piano together (Hanslick and Brahms). And there is no reason to assume that the good old days are over, even though the old days are in truth never really as great as they are later professed to have been. It is therefore important that all lovers and advocates of art pull together for art’s sake – by all means critically. Of course, in the case of music criticism, the ubiquitous business of public relations (portraits, inside celebrity features, interviews) has already reduced the critical discourse of works and interpretations (reviews) in many magazines and newspapers to the size of a stamp. Advertising replaces criticism. Critical debates rage in classical music forums, but there’s also a lot of hot air to be found there too. And so a critical “institution” like the “Critics’ Choice” (featuring new releases that merit special attention), released quarterly by the German Record Critics’ Award, is more important than ever.
A handful of music critics joined forces around 50 years ago to found this prize with the aim of establishing reliable quality control in a record market awash with PR, to make clear recommendations and promote the art of interpretation. Approximately 140 music critics from Germany, Austria and Switzerland belong to the association today, all volunteering their time to sit on 29 expert panels and select annual and honorary award recipients every autumn in addition to the Quarterly Critics’ Choice. For the format Quartet of Critics, four critics come together at one time to discuss a specific work, which is subsequently performed live on stage.