Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nereffid's Best Albums of 2016

No, I don't blog much anymore, but this is a tradition I must keep going.
I reckon I heard 192 new albums in 2016, and few were disappointing. I have a good idea what I'm going to like, so it's easy to avoid what I probably won't enjoy. As before, everything's slotted into 11 categories, though in a slight change I've altered "Living composer" to "Contemporary", the category covering basically my lifetime.












Although it's been a splendid year all round - hence my desire to provide images for all the albums rather than merely listing the runners-up - it's been different from other years in that there isn't a single album (or handful of albums) that stands as the obvious best. So I've decided on a more symbolic choice this time: Lara Downes's "America Again" is my album of the year because Fuck Donald Trump. Here's a collection of piano music recorded by an African-American woman of Jamaican and Jewish parentage; the composers featured are immigrants, or people of colour, or women; and the concept was inspired by the Charleston church murders and Downes's reading of Langston Hughes, particularly his 1938 "Let America Be America Again" (go read it!), whose final words - "make America again!" - now unfortunately carry pre-echoes of Orange Benito's campaign slogan. It's a superb mix of pieces and a worthy winner - but given the new regime's contempt for the arts (and so much else), I suppose any classical album is a fuck-you. But let's move on.

The Labels
The 55 nominees encompass 38 labels, or 36 if we count Warner/Erato and DG/Decca as one each. Naxos got 4 nominations, the most of any label. The 11 winners were all from different labels, and some small labels did well, with wins for Blue Griffin and Capella de Ministrers's own label.

The Repertoire
Perhaps the rise of the smaller labels simply reflects the continued drift of these awards into obscure territories as I continue exploring. The win for Petrenko's Tchaikovsky kind of stands out as a success for mainstream classical. Occasionally I'm tempted by a recording of material I already have, but at this stage my attitude is why repeat? - unless the new release offers what looks to be a much more appealing performance than the one I have. And those obscurities are well deserving of greater attention.

The End
So that was 2016. Will we reconvene a year from now? I hope so, though work now means I have much less time for listening. Perhaps I'll have to be more selective. Perhaps this will be the year eMusic finally collapses and my source of cheap legal downloads disappears. Whatever happens, classical music still seems to be going strong.


SpiderJon said...

Many thanks for keeping this going.

The solo vocal winner seems an appropriately titled album for 2016 (if you read it as English).

Thomas Wayne said...

Thanks for continuing the list. I first found an earlier site years ago, the Guide to eMusic Classical. I haven't kept up with it, but just found it again after a while. (Life is busy these days, but I still make time to find new music.)

I'm glad eMusic is still going. It's somehow not well-known, yet is one of the best values in acquiring music online.