Classical music reviewers have a reputation for exacting standards. And it's been my impression that it's somewhat rare for a classical recording to earn a "10" - or, in the case of Classics Today, what is known as a "10/10" - with separate ratings for artistic quality and sound quality.
When news got out that the Minnesota Orchestra had earned just such a perfect score this week for its recording of Beethoven's 4th and 5th piano concertos, I went to the website to find out more. And indeed, Osmo Vanska and his team are lauded, along with featured performer Yevgeny Subdin:
Here, both conductor and soloist are consistently operating on the same exciting wavelength. Osmo Vänskä's credentials as a Beethoven conductor remain impressive. He understands the importance of accents, of sforzandos that enliven but don't disrupt the melodic line. He never fails to balance Beethoven's all-important bass lines clearly (opening tutti of the Fourth concerto), or to give sufficient prominence to those rapid accompaniments in repeated notes that energize the music's texture (first movement of the "Emperor"). The orchestra plays with real intensity as well as expressiveness, offering the perfect collaboration for Yevgeny Sudbin's contributions.
The review goes on at length to celebrate both Sudbin's master at the keyboard and the "gorgeous sonics" - a fabulous review!
But imagine my surprise when I glanced down the review list and found that Classics Today has given 44 perfect scores in the last month alone! That's a whole lot of perfection. Perhaps the website should be a little more judicious with its rave reviews, so that we might take them more seriously.
The unusual number of perfect reviews you saw on the Classics Today site is no doubt a result of their habit of re-posting notable releases at the end of the year, so only a few were actually recent. Aside from the fact that the website needs a bit of re-coding for its review logic (I think), when it comes to the music the Classics Today reviewers are in fact pretty scathing more often than they are overly nice.
Christopher - thanks for the explanation! It seemed out of character.