I myself have been in Mr van Veen's situation; this summer, I reviewed a CD containing a solo piano transcription of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I thought it dull as dishwater, and my review reflected the sentiment: "not particularly imaginative...This Four Seasons is like a shadow of the one we know and love...uninspiring."
By contrast, my colleague Jonathan Woolf loved the recording. He called it "fabulous" and said, "Vital and exciting...I defy you to find these unattractive." ClassicsToday sided with Mr Woolf, awarding a perfect 10 out of 10.
Does this mean my review contained undue hostility? Did Mr van Veen's? No. We are all different listeners with different sets of ears and brains, and we have to honestly report what we heard. If Johan van Veen listened to a new CD and thought it the worst CD ever made, it would be his obligation to say so. JW loved the piano Four Seasons, and I can appreciate why and respect his review, but that doesn't mean I changed my mind.
There is a cultural aspect to this - I know when I read Gramophone magazine, I must differentiate between positive reviews which are actually positive and positive reviews which are being polite! If a review says "worthy," "good value," or "intriguing option," among other things, I know the critic disliked it and is trying to be nice. On non-British sites like ClassicsToday or Jens Laurson's blog, there is no hesitation to call a spade a spade.
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