Reviews Reviewed: Examining the Validity of Aesthetic Judgements in Criticism of Recorded Music

Led by: , Divisione Ricerca e Sviluppo

Collaborators: (Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts)

Funded by: Swiss National Science Foundation

Project running from October 2010 to February 2013

Most classical music criticism today found in music magazines and newspapers is about concert performances and recordings, and concertgoers and consumers look to reviewers for guidance in their selection.

But to what extent do reviews actually offer reliable critical judgements of performances?

When a critic judges that a particular performance is good, bad, or better or worse than some other performance, what kinds of reasons does he/she use to justify their value judgement?


This project aims to study the practice of music criticism, examining critical evaluations of recordings and their justifications. Its goal is to help in clarifying conceptual models and psychological processes underlying the practice of performance evaluation and the role that expertise plays therein.


The research will be limited to the consideration of reviews of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, published in major music magazines such as The Gramophone. In a first phase, a large corpus of reviews will be collected and scrutinized. In a second phase the results of this examination will be set against the background of the actual recordings and the listener’s experiences of them: selected recorded performances will be analyzed, music students, piano teachers, music critics and typical concertgoers will participate in listening and evaluation tasks.