Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Thanksgiving Mix: A history

I can't actually remember when the tradition started, but in (for the sake of argument) 2001 I put together a CD of odd, kitsch, and terrible cover versions for entertainment at that year's Thanksgiving party, and then I did a couple more discs one other year, and then I didn't get round to another until 2008. I've done one every year since, so I suppose we could say the tradition per se must have begun some time after that, whatever year it was where doing a Thanksgiving mix had become essential. It was unstoppable! (see picture)
The basic idea of the first mix (conceived as a supposed soundtrack for my Nereffid the Taxidermist stories of long ago... Hero with a Thousand Excuses, it was called) was to have the listener say "what??!" in amusement and/or horror. So some of it was rubbish and not worth listening to again. Or once, really, though that was kind of the point of listening to it. Same with the second and third ones. There were also some likeable things, of course, such as a country version of "Purple Rain", or Richard Cheese's genius take on "Creep", or the cute lounge version of "Teenage Kicks". But then something odd happened in the fourth one, which was informally known to me as Nereffid IV By Crikey. After such dubious delights as the Swingle Singers' version of the Starsky and Hutch theme, Tony Christie's rendition of "Life on Mars", and a trumpet version of "Ebony and Ivory" that I don't actually remember at all, there came something I'd discovered not by simply poking around on eMusic like with everything else but by reading about it in (possibly) the Observer, Alpha Bondy's reggae cover of "Wish You Were Here". Which is really good. Well, it went into the mix because it met the criteria of not like the original, and that was as far as my thought process went for the moment. Still the focus was on kitsch/bizarre, so while we had the joy of John Otway's "House of the Rising Sun" ("Tell us about your mother!"), the less said about the Fish Brothers' cover of "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (with new lyrics, it was "Gerald Durrell's Spectacled Wanking Bear") the better...
The next couple of albums (Nereffid's Fifth and Nereffid 6 FFS) represent a transition as I gradually came round to the idea that saying "what??!" in horror is less entertaining than saying it in amusement. There aren't many genuinely dreadful things on those albums, and plenty of highlights, such as Victoria Vox's "Psycho Killer", Alice's old-timey "Black Hole Sun", Petra Haden's "Don't Stop Believin'", and David Lang's recomposition of "Born to be Wild", delivered with camp aplomb by Andrew Russo. 
I finally understood what was going on with Nereffid 7 As If. There were some nods to the old days—an uninteresting flamenco "Poker Face", a not-good-enough metal "Ghostbusters"—but as the running order fell into place I realised I had a really strong final sequence. This was the first time I'd considered the possibility that I could even have a proper final sequence, let alone one that was strong. "What??!" was giving way to "gosh!". So track 13 is Bjorn Berge's acoustic "Give It Away" (storming), followed by Cake's take on "Mahna Mahna" (amusing), and then suddenly we're off, as The Bad Shepherds turn "God Save the Queen" into a folk song and Cardova realises that "Enola Gay" is, astonishingly, a soul classic. Brief pause for breath with a more straightforward cover of "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" by Greg Allen (but wait! now we're doing straightforward covers?), and then holy Jesus: Gennaro Cosmo Parlato's version of "Don't You Forget About Me" is basically "Goldfinger" as a Spaghetti Western, and holy Jesus again: Mariachi El-Rocko finds a new kind of beauty in "Every Day Is Like Sunday", and before you've fully recovered we end with William Shatner snarling through "Common People". The evolution was complete: from bad music to good music.
So, for volume 8 we got serious. No more cringing, no more mere chuckling, this whole album would be one I wanted to listen to repeatedly. And actually it turned out even more than that, because it became a family favourite for car journeys. Who couldn't love The Town Pants' "Rasputin", an expert blend of disco and The Chieftains? Or The Four Of Us's slightly sinister "Sound of the Underground"? Or Lucky Uke's utterly charming "Sweet Child O' Mine"? Or—the middle track and emotional heart of the album—The Coal Porters' gorgeous folk "Heroes"? Yes, I said "emotional heart" and of course I'm exaggerating but the musical success of volume 8—now with a proper cover picture and called, inevitably, Nereffid Ate My Hamster—was going to my head. What would volume 9 be like?
It would be even better, is what. Have you never read a pompous recounting of a trivial subject before? The compilation of Nein, Nereffid, Nein! (it's not rocket science) was a new experience, because this would be the first time I used Spotify: no more 30-second eMusic samples and scurrying off to Youtube to see if the full version was there. This certainly made a more thorough search possible, although by now I was starting to realise that the available pool of music was not as large as I'd hoped. Anything on the mix had to be not only a song the small but dedicated audience might be familiar with (and some are better than others in that field), but also a musically different version of the original and a good version. There then followed a period of panic in which I was convinced I wouldn't be able to fill a CD.
But I did, and that one proved a family hit too. Running order became a big issue here when I found Triggerfinger's gorgeous "I Follow Rivers", which the kids already loved in Lykke Li's original: it would be a crowd-pleaser but not an up-tempo one and I was left with the feeling that it might be "too good" for this album. At which point I came across Diane Birch's extraordinary version of "Atmosphere", surely "too good". Well, I'd put The Coal Porters dead-centre of the last album, and although it's most enjoyable, it also stands out for what you might call its seriousness of purpose. It is "proper good music", so to speak. Same with these two new ones, but (I asked) are they "too much" for what is after all supposed to be a party album? So I gambled, and put them at the end, deciding to consider them as the cathartic reward for when the "fun" songs came to an end, and leading in to them with some more songs that aren't exactly singalongs. We had come some distance from "and now here's a funny cover version". And now we must have a portentous pause in the narrative before we talk about the 2014 mix and the philosophical conundrums faced by producers of compilation albums.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Madge made in...

Hmmm... Geoffrey Douglas Madge plays Busoni's piano music on 6 CDs. I wonder is it any good? Time for the latest "Did you even listen to the same CD?", which comes to you from 1988!

Here's Adrian Corleonis in the May/June '88 Fanfare:
Madge's credentials for this project derive from his performance and recording of Sorabji's stupendous four-hour-long Opus Clavicembalisticum ... The surprise, however, is not that Madge plays Busoni as he does Sorabji, but that this more familiar fare cruelly exposes a remarkable clumsiness. His weaknesses begin with the difficulty of maintaining a steady pulse, hesitations posing as rubato, and huge ritards stifling many of the codas ... The near-stammer and feeble tone of “Turandots Frauengemach“ are incredible—and unacceptable—from a pianist of Madge's pretensions. ...  the overall impression remains labored, literal, and disappointing.
And Kyle Gann in the Nov/Dec '88 issue's Want List section:
Madge's stunningly intelligent performances made the Sonatinas' logic perfectly clear for the first time. I hate to think that, had it not been for this incredible pianist, I might have died not knowing such charming works as the Macchiette Medioevali. Heaven on a disc. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Agents of Zappa

...because someone on TalkClassical used the phrase "agents of Zappa"...

Monday, October 13, 2014

What the kids are listening to these days

Astonishingly, I might have a new chapter in A History of Classical Music through Recordings pretty soon, so I thought I'd have a look on 8tracks and see who's been listening to the various mixes I've posted there. if you don't know already. Obviously the first ones have been there longer so have had more exposure, but it's interesting to see the stats:

Part 1. Gregorian chant - 2,971 listens - 211 likes
Part 2. From chant to polyphony - 1,227 listens - 126 likes
Part 3. Troubadours and trouvères - 464 listens - 56 likes
Part 4. Troubadour influences - 243 listens - 27 likes
Part 5. The 13th-century motet - 432 listens - 38 likes
Part 6. Ars nova - 1,478 listens - 74 likes
Part 7. Trecento Italy - 1,745 listens - 108 likes
Part 8. Medieval England - 447 listens - 44 likes
Part 9. The Burgundian school - 205 listens - 10 likes

It's not surprising that Gregorian chant should prove the most popular - chillout music, study music, etc - though the fact that the following chapter is so much less popular suggests that many listeners don't bother exploring further after they've found this one mix they like. Similarly with the troubadours and their influences. But why do the Ars nova and Trecento Italy get so many plays? Perhaps it's the fact that "France" and "Italy" are tags?
The next chapter is titled "Into the Renaissance", so there may well be a whole new audience!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Oh my God they killed Mozart! (or something)

Good evening and welcome to a special Heavyweight Death Match edition of Did You Even Listen To The Same CD?! Our lucky/unlucky album this time round is John Butt and the Dunedin Consort's new recording of Mozart's Requiem, released by Linn earlier this year. And folks do we have a battle royale tonight! In the blue corner we have Fanfare's Jerry Dubins, and in the red corner it's Fanfare's Lynn René Bayley. Oh yes indeed. They've been here before: you know what they can do. No holds barred. Hide under your seats for this one.

Dubins: "Happily, I can report that this new Mozart Requiem is both terrifying and terrific. The performance is distinguished by exceptionally well-defined, crisp, and transparent articulation in both the orchestral playing and the choral singing, with the result being clarity of textures and diction seldom heard even in other slimmed-down period instrument performances. The effect is further enhanced by a recording of atmospheric openness and luminous lucidity."

Bayley: "I will give conductor Butt this much credit: In the dramatic passages, he does kick some energy into his orchestra, but as soon as you reach any sustained passage the strings and winds sound like a MIDI, likewise the chorus. In the Recordare, the singers approach their task as if they were warbling madrigals."

Dubins: "Butt achieves his results with four excellent vocal soloists..."

Bayley: "I defy anyone to put this recording on and tell me that any of the four singers heard here “move” you. Perhaps contralto Rowan Hellier, who is the only singer here with an inadvertently tremulous flutter in the voice? Well, perhaps, if you are “moved” by tremulous flutters. From the standpoint of expression, her singing is as neuter sounding as that of soprano Lunn (who sounds like a young girl), tenor Hobbs (who sounds like a pre-pubescent teen), and bass Brook (who has a “nice” voice, but no more than that)."

Dubins: "I will now state unconditionally that this is the Mozart Requiem to have, and I won’t even qualify it by saying “among period instrument versions.” It simply goes to the very top of the list of any performance of the work I’ve heard. Urgently recommended."

Bayley: "If you need a drink coaster, this one will do the job."    

Friday, April 25, 2014

Now he's got a graph

What on earth is this? I quickly ran through the list of all the pieces of music that have appeared on the Classic FM Hall of Fame since 1996, and tagged any that I considered "Classic FM music", the stuff that's not "classical" in the strict sense. So this is a graph of the number of such pieces in each chart, beginning with 0 in 1996 and rising all the way to 47 in 2014.
The 3 pieces that appeared in 1997 were Jenkins's "Adiemus", Zipoli's "Elevazione", and Nyman's "The Piano" soundtrack. The following year, Nyman dropped out, and Paul McCartney's "Standing Stones" stormed in at no.76 (it's only been seen once since 2002). 1999 saw the first of the movie Johns, Williams's "Star Wars" music, then 2000 gave us Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell", Einaudi's "Le Onde", and the other John (Barry)'s "The Beyondness of Things", as well as Williams's "Schindler's List". I could go on like this all day, but anyway, the point is: from about 1% in the early days, "non-classical" now constitutes about 15% of the Hall of Fame.
What's important to note is that a lot of the "non-classical" music is actually new music, which gets into the HoF not long after being written or recorded. (I find it interesting that the once-ubiquitous Myers "Cavatina" has only been in the HoF once, at no.299 in 2003!).
I should also point out that "non-classical" seems to account for much less than 15% (I'd say, at a rough guess, below 10%) of the station's output.

Now go draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fun with the Classic FM Hall of Fame

OTOM, as Cicero might have texted. Yes, it's just gone Easter, and time for another Classic FM Hall of Fame for the serious classical music lover to bemoan!
(Previous Les Introuvables cover available here: 2010, 2011, 2012. Hmm, the absence of a 2013 comment shows the parlous state of this blog, doesn't it?)

So the news is that VW's Lark is back on top of the chart, thanks in large part (if one is to believe the bumf, and why wouldn't one?) to its use in the much-watched death scene of Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street (I didn't know this; I read it).
Yeah, that's not the news is it? Because the most important news is that Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien is at no.140. No, wait, that's not it either. Oh yes: video games. Lots of game music - music from 8 games to be exact, according to Digital Spy. The trend began two years ago with a couple of suspiciously high new entries, but Classic FM seems to have embraced the concept now, informing us:
This year's chart also revealed a huge rise in popularity in orchestral music used in video games, with eight entries in the top 300 including two in the top 20.  Since Classic FM started playing video game soundtracks regularly last year, the station has attracted a significant number of new, younger listeners.  In the last year alone, the number of 15 to 24 year olds listening to Classic FM each week has grown by 27 per cent. 
Ah, it was all part of a cunning plan, or something. Well sure lookit, if it gets the young folk off their mopeds and their heroin and starts them listening to Beethoven instead then it must be a good thing. Though the scientist in me wants to know, "27 per cent of what?" of course.

The games thing is part of a broader trend in the Hall of Fame, though, Back in 2010 I speculated on whether one could draw any grand conclusions from the many years of data. I wasn't so sure at the time, but looking at it now - there have been 19 charts - I notice one clear change over the years. Let's put on our nerd goggles!

Comparing the first Hall from 1996 with the latest version reveals that they have 196 works in common. Not all of these works were in every single chart; about 40 of them disappeared at some point and then returned. We can look at a few changes in fortune here. Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia started off at no.221 and has showed a general upward trend, peaking this year at 47. Schubert's Trout quintet has gradually sunk from no.27 to no.154, while his String quintet has had an even greater fall, from 56 to 215. Why, I wonder? I suppose the Borodin fits better into the overall "sound world" of today's Classic FM, and anyway chamber music has never been a significant feature of the Hall of Fame.
But Nereffid, I hear you grunt, what is this "sound world" of which you speak? Well. Let's look at the pieces that were in the Hall of Fame in 1996 and aren't in the 2014 one, and vice versa.

Here's what's been lost:
Beethoven Fidelio
Beethoven Triple Concerto (Violin, Cello and Piano)
Beethoven Violin sonata no.5, Spring
Bellini Norma
Berlioz L'Enfance du Christ
Boccherini String Quintet (Minuet)
Brahms Symphony no.2
Chopin Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor
Delius Walk to the Paradise Garden
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor
Dvorak Serenade for Strings in E
Elgar Coronation Ode, op.44 no.6, Land of Hope & Glory
Elgar String Serenade in E minor
Elgar Violin Concerto
Franck Panis Angelicus
Gluck Orfeo and Euridice
Gounod St Cecilia Mass (Sanctus)
Hummel Trumpet Concerto in Eb
Mahler Symphony no. 3
Mahler Symphony no. 4 in G
Mendelssohn Elijah
Mendelssohn Symphony no.3, Scottish
Monteverdi Vespers
Mozart Horn Concerto no. 4 in Eb
Mozart Mass no.18 in C minor, Great
Mozart Piano concerto no.27
Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in Eb
Mozart Symphony no.39 in Eb
Offenbach The Tales of Hoffman
Paganini Violin Concerto no. 1 in Eb
Pergolesi Stabat Mater
Prokofiev Symphony no.1 in D (Classical)
Puccini Turandot
Purcell Dido and Aeneas
Ravel Daphnis et Chloe
Rossini Barber of Seville
Saint-Saëns Intro and Rondo Capriccioso
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto no. 2
Schubert Symphony no. 8 in B minor (Unfinished)
Strauss R Der Rosenkavalier
Vaughan Williams Symphony no. 1 (A Sea Symphony)
Verdi La Forza del Destino
Verdi Rigoletto
Vivaldi Mandolin Concerto RV425
Wagner Siegfried

That's a pretty solid list of standard classical repertoire, isn't it?
OK, brace yourself.
Here come the works that appear in 2014 but not in 1996:

Addinsell Warsaw Concerto
Armstrong Romeo and Juliet
Bach Cantata BWV208 'Sheep may Safely Graze'
Bach Cello Suites
Bach The Well-Tempered Clavier
Badelt Pirates of the Caribbean
Barber Violin Concerto
Barry Dances with Wolves 'John Dunbar Theme'
Barry Out of Africa
Beethoven Coriolan Overture
Bernstein Candide overture
Binge Elizabethan Serenade
Binge Sailing By
Brower World of Warcraft
Bruch Adagio appassionato for violin & orchestra, op.57
Coates Dambusters March
Debussy Arabesque no. 1
Debussy The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (Preludes)
Delius Florida Suite
Dvorak American Suite, op.98b
Einaudi Divenire
Einaudi I Giorni
Einaudi Le Onde
Elgar Pomp and Circumstance 4 in G major
Elgar Salut d'amour
Finzi Clarinet Concerto in C minor
Finzi Eclogue
Finzi Five Bagatelles
Gershwin Walking the Dog
Glass Violin Concerto
Godfrey The Mirror of Love
Gold Doctor Who
Grieg Lyric Pieces (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen)
Handel Sarabande
Hawes Fair Albion
Hawes Highgrove Suite
Hawes Quanta Qualia (Blue in Blue)
Haydn Cello Concerto no.1 in C
Hess Ladies in Lavender
Hess Piano Concerto
Jenkins Adiemus (Songs of Sanctuary)
Jenkins Palladio
Jenkins The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace
Khachaturian Masquerade
Kirkhope Banjo Kazooie
Kirkhope Kingdoms of Amalur
Kirkhope Viva Pinata
Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium
Litolff Concerto Symphonique no. 4 in D minor
Long Embers
Long Porcelain
Long The Aviators
Long To Dust
MacCunn The Land of the Mountain and the Flood
Marquez Danzon no.2
Maxwell Davies Farewell to Stromness
Mitchell Seven Wonders Suite
Morricone The Mission (Gabriel's Oboe)
Mozart A Musical Joke
Mozart Adagio for Violin in E, K261
Mozart Bassoon Concerto in B flat
Mozart Piano Concerto no.11 in F
Parry I Was Glad
Parry Jerusalem
Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel
Piazzolla Libertango
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no. 1 in F# minor
Ravel Piano concerto in G
Satie Gnossiennes (No.1)
Schubert Impromptu no.3 in G flat (Impromptus, op.90)
Shimomura Kingdom Hearts
Shore The Hobbit
Shore The Lord of the Rings
Shostakovich Assault on Beautiful Gorky (The Unforgettable Year 1919)
Shostakovich Jazz Suite no.1
Shostakovich Jazz Suite no.2
Sibelius Andante Festivo
Soule The Elder Scrolls (Skyrim)
Stopford Do Not Be Afraid
Stopford Irish Blessing
Stopford Lully, Lulla, Lullay
Strauss, J II Die Fledermaus
Sullivan The Yeomen of the Guard
Tavener Song for Athene
Uematsu Final Fantasy (Aerith's Theme)
Ungar The Ashokan Farewell
Vaughan Williams Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus
Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Mandolins RV532
Wagner Gotterdammerung
Walton Crown Imperial
Whitacre Lux Aurumque
Whitacre Sleep
Whitacre The Seal Lullaby
Williams & Doyle Harry Potter
Williams E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Williams Jurassic Park
Williams Saving Private Ryan
Williams Schindler's List
Williams Star Wars
Wintory Journey
Wiseman Wilde
Zimmer Gladiator
Zimmer Inception
Zipoli Elevazione

Yes, we've lost Vivaldi's Mandolin concerto and gained his 2-Mandolin concerto. We've lost Siegfried and gained Gotterdammerung. We've lost one Strauss's Rosenkavalier and gained another Strauss's Fledermaus. And, yay, Bach cello suites!
But observe the presence not just of the games composers but also of John Barry, Howard Shore, John Williams, and Hans Zimmer; Ludovico Einaudi and Karl Jenkins; Patrick Hawes, Nigel Hess, Helen Jane Long; Philip Stopford and Eric Whitacre.
We can call this a trend, can't we? A gradual evolution from a list full of what you might call regular classical music, towards something rather more like... well, I tend to call it "Classic FM sort of music". And so Classic FM's listeners are, increasingly, not "people who like classical music" but "people who like the music on Classic FM". Perhaps in another 10 years the change will be so great that it won't make sense for a classical music blogger to write about the Classic FM Hall of Fame!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Claudio Abbado

The problem with musical tastes that are, as I keep saying, broad rather than deep is that when someone as significant and much-loved as Claudio Abbado dies, I can't add useful insight. Yes, I really like such-and-such a recording but I'm not qualified to explain to you why it was maestro Abbado's insert conducting quality here that lifted it to the realms of the transcendent. I can tell you that I was once transfixed when I turned on the radio and heard him conducting the slow movement of Mahler's 6th. I can tell you that the first proper Abbado recording I bought was a Decca selection of Hindemith on which he led the LSO in the Symphonic Metamorphoses, and I'm really fond of that album. I can even tell you that the first non-proper Abbado recording I owned was an excerpt from his recording of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande on a Classic CD cover disc (issue 23, the one I keep going on about), though I'll admit that didn't particularly catch my ear. Also, his was the only Beethoven 9 I had for a long time. And the most recent of his recordings that I own seems to be his work with Isabelle Faust on the Berg and Beethoven violin concertos.
He will be missed. I suspect this will be the only obituary/appreciation/inane rambling that gives you Abbado's Spitting Image puppet though.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Top 23 of 2013 (supplemental)

Supplemental, that is, to my list on Music is Good. Yes, go read the thing there. But here is the list without pictures or commentary (it's ordered more-or-less thematically rather than by "quality"):

Petitgirard: The Little Prince. Laurent Petitgirard conducting (Naxos)
“Spheres". Daniel Hope (Deutsche Grammophon)
“Violin Lullabies”. Rachel Barton Pine (Cedille)
“Wagner”. Jonas Kaufmann (Decca)
Mahler: Orchestral Songs. Christian Gerhaher (Sony)
Eisler: Lieder. Matthias Goerne (Harmonia Mundi)
Dvořák: Stabat Mater. Philippe Herreweghe conducting (Phi)
“Songs of Olden Times”. Heinavanker (Harmonia Mundi)
Monteverdi: Heaven and Earth. Robert King (Vivat)
“Io vidi in terra”. José Lemos (Sono Luminus)
Telemann: Hoffnung des Wiedersehens. Dorothee Mields (DHM)
“Bach Re-invented”. Absolute Ensemble/Kristjan Järvi (Sony)
Cassuto: Return to the Future. Álvaro Cassuto conducting (Naxos)
Schafer: String quartets nos.8-12. Quatuor Molinari (Atma)
“Thrum”. Minneapolis Guitar Quartet (Innova)
“Full Power”. Trombone Unit Hannover (Genuin)
“Transitions”. Olga Pashchenko (Fuga Libera)
Mompou: Piano music. Arcadi Volodos (Sony)
Pärt: Piano music. Jeroen van Veen (Brilliant)
“Variations on a Theme by Scarlatti”. Matan Porat (Mirare)
Roth: Sometime I Sing. Mark Padmore, Morgan Szymanski (Signum)
Nørgård: Songs from Evening Land. Helene Gjerris (Dacapo)
Stravinsky, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky. Mythos (Orchid) 

So, in lieu of examining the trends of the now-defunct Nereffid's Guide Awards, let me analyse this list instead!
My purchases during the year were, as usual, mostly via eMusic, which with my cheap old subscriptions is a real godsend. But 6 of the Top 23 came from elsewhere - all major labels. In fact, I bought only 2 other new albums from outside eMusic. Well, I suppose if I'm willing to pay a higher price for something, that means it's going to be less of a risk and it will be something I expect to like a lot. Interestingly, the 6 majors on the list were represented as: 2 from Universal (1 Decca, 1 DG) and 4 from Sony (including the DHM label). I hadn't really considered Sony a significant releaser of Stuff I Like until now.
One thing that pleases me about my Top 23 (yes, aside from the fact that 23 is a prime number) is the variety. I made no deliberate effort to be representative—no thoughts of "well, I have to include this because I don't have anything else from that genre". That said, there's no "difficult modern music" to speak of, and the classical mainstream is underrepresented compared with the world of new releases generally. But the former I tend not to like, and the latter I tend to already own some recording of and so I'm more keen to buy music I haven't heard.
What's most heartening is that almost none of the albums on the list came recommended to me by a review (IIRC, only the Trombone Unit Hannover and Arcadi Volodos releases). For many years I've read lots of reviews and used the judgement of others to point me in the right direction—not that I slavishly follow the tastes of the majority, but I found it a very useful way of drawing my attention to things I reckoned I'd like. Before that, too, there was a lot of filling up the repertoire in my collection (composer X is a "great composer", so I should have his symphonies), which gave me a lot of music that was worthy but not necessarily something I loved; the collector in me is adamant that this wasn't a huge waste of time or money because (a) it helped me establish my actual tastes and (b) I know my tastes do and will change over the years. Also, back before the Download Age and the ability to sample before buying, I was rather more hit-and-miss with things I thought I might like. All of this is to say that I've had multiple excuses for not having the courage to choose albums based solely on my own desires rather than the encouragement of others, but I've finally ditched those excuses and, huzzah!, it turns out I actually know what I'm doing after all.


The 2013 Nereffid's Guide Awards should be coming up around now, shouldn't they? Alas, there will be no more Nereffid's Guide Awards. Well, I say "alas" but that's in the general sense, the sense that it's a pity that after six years an entertaining and, to some small number of people at least, useful thing should come to an end. In the specific sense, the 2013 awards, I'm mostly relieved to be shut of it, which sounds a bit harsh but bear with me. 
There were a few reasons for the awards' demise. One was financial: the review magazines cost a bit of money over the course of a year, and cutbacks needed to be made. Another was one I referred to a while back: I've stopped waiting for reviews to decide what albums to get, instead looking for brand-new releases. That, inevitably, eliminated the immediate (as opposed to archival) value of getting any magazines, which made the decision to stop getting them a lot easier. The third, and not an insignificant one, was that collating all those reviews was bloody hard work. True, hobbies that require little effort aren't much fun, but I was finding that the work being put in wasn't balanced by the pleasure obtained at seeing it done.
Also, let's be honest, site traffic shows that I'm not going to be upsetting thousands of people by giving up. There was some buzz with it back in the eMusic days but that was a while ago, and I never did it for the publicity anyway. I'm sure that someone could carve out a nice successful niche with a web site that collates classical reviews (Classical Digest exists but doesn't have new material) and presents awards at the end of the year. But that person isn't me. (Though if you know someone with technical expertise and money, call me...)