I find this incredible since it negates the "value" of a value. How can you value anything except in relation to other things?
The alternative to comparing performances with other performances is to go directly to the score. As we know, not all MusicWeb reviewers are "practical" musicians who can do this (nor are they expected to be provided their bios make it clear what their qualifications for reviewing are). And in this particular case, I'm not sure how easy it is to obtain a score of Atterberg's 5th.
But even where a reviewer could do this, how many readers would thank him for a list of things such "there's an accelerando at bar 341 that's exciting but is not in the score", "the pianissimo at fig. 4 is ignored", "the clarinet cannot be heard properly 5 bars after fig. 9"? Occasionally it may be necessary to list a few such points to save the reviewer from a lawsuit - a bald statement that "the performers blithely disregard many of the composer's markings" could be risky if unsupported.
Granted that a review of this kind would be useful only to other trained musicians, what else is a reviewer to do?
A review that concluded that the new Chandos is excellent, and left it at that, wouldn't be helpful to anyone wondering whether to buy this, the CPO or seek out the semi-historical Westerberg.
Nor would it help anyone who has one of the others, is happy with it but wonders if he would learn anything from the new one.
Still less would it help anyone who has one of the others, is not convinced by the music but wonders if the new one would change his mind.
And supposing the reviewer concludes that the new recording is a poor affair, what's the use of that if the reader is left wondering whether the alternatives are any better?
Unfortunately, "value" is a comparative word in itself. It's meaningless unless set against comparables.
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