Author Topic: Perfection in live performances  (Read 3535 times)

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Offline Joe_Campbell

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Perfection in live performances
« on: February 27, 2008, 01:04:21 PM »
I don't think I've seen this discussed here since I joined the site, so I thought I might be the first!

What is your opinion on mistakes made in live performances? Does it somehow invalidate the performer for being the virtuoso that they are professed to be? I've heard many famous pianists make mistakes live, and sometimes they're really distracting from the performance, and others not so much. Is this just an indication of performers past their peak?

EG I just got MA Hamelin's new DVD (legato-world of piano series), and his concert performance is awesome, particularly the Haydn and Chopin, but he makes some goofs, and not at particularly difficult points in the music. I've seen this also a lot with Horowitz; Is this just lack of concentration? I realize what wonders the recording studio can do to a pitiful performance, but I have a hard time believing that ALL mistakes are zeroed in the editing room.

I hope maybe some people here who have had experience performing and/or recording could shed some light on this.

Joe

Offline Brewski

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2008, 01:18:05 PM »
From a listener's standpoint, occasional mistakes in live performance don't bother me much, and at most concerts there are usually some slight gaffes--nothing really serious, though.  Focusing on pianists just for the moment, I think even "virtuosos" (e.g., Hamelin--although I haven't seen that DVD--Horowitz, Argerich, etc.) make more errors than people realize; it's just that they are less audible, i.e., tinier mistakes.  And usually, I don't find it distracting at all.  Now that said, if a performer makes a huge number of obvious errors, it does make me think, "I wonder if person X has had enough time to practice, and really assimilate the music?" 

Around 2003, I was lucky to hear György Sándor to a recital when he was around 90, just a few years before he died.  Even though the concert had quite a few little glitches, it didn't matter, since he rose to the occasion with Bartók's Dance Suite right before intermission--the best thing on the program--and again, I felt privileged just to be in the room.

--Bruce
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 01:25:57 PM by bhodges »
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Don

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2008, 01:28:07 PM »
I don't think I've seen this discussed here since I joined the site, so I thought I might be the first!

What is your opinion on mistakes made in live performances?
Joe

I don't have any problem with a few mistakes.  Humans are imperfect.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2008, 01:36:53 PM »
I don't have any problem with a few mistakes.  Humans are imperfect.

Exactly. 

In the realm of orchestral concerts, while the greatest groups seem to make fewer overall errors, I don't think there is such a thing as a "perfect concert," in the sense of one with absolutely no mistakes.  The best groups are go good that you are often distracted by something else, and may not even notice anything wrong.

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

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Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Ephemerid

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 01:37:20 PM »
I remember hearing Glenn Gould's recording of Lizst's transcription of Beethoven's 6th symphony the first time (lovely recordin BTW) -- I seem to recall this recording was actually from a Toronto radio broadcast -- I forget where, and it was such a tiny mistake (I had to hear it on headphones I think) and I was actually a bit relieved, thinking, oh, good, he is human!  LOL  

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 02:00:06 PM »
Exactly. 

In the realm of orchestral concerts, while the greatest groups seem to make fewer overall errors, I don't think there is such a thing as a "perfect concert," in the sense of one with absolutely no mistakes.  The best groups are go good that you are often distracted by something else, and may not even notice anything wrong.

--Bruce

There were 3-4 brass glitches in the Webern Six Pieces as performed by the Met group under Levine last Sunday. But the musicians covered so well you'd either have to (a) know the piece backwards or (b) have followed with a score.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Offline Brewski

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2008, 02:10:54 PM »
There were 3-4 brass glitches in the Webern Six Pieces as performed by the Met group under Levine last Sunday. But the musicians covered so well you'd either have to (a) know the piece backwards or (b) have followed with a score.

Interesting!  Now that you mention it, I am pretty sure I heard one (although can't even recall where it was now).  Obviously so much else was happening that was good, it didn't much matter.

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

lukeottevanger

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2008, 03:48:11 PM »
As an all-too-fallible human, I feel most at ease with music which is being played by same - hence, within reason, mistakes don't bother me, and often, at a deeper level, only go to reinforce the sense of struggle which is often very appropriate. I also feel the same about composers, as it happens, and the composers who affect me in the most personal ways often tend to be those whose music is, in one way or another, 'fallible' too.

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2008, 10:50:34 AM »
I don´t realy know what a mistake means, because as with composition you can never claim a performance to be imperfect. Sometimes you can even play ´wrong keys´ by your own will. I did in Ives last week, because I once made a ´mistake´ and I tried to intergrate it by another ´mistake´ ( in adagio from Three-page-sonata).

I think being a performing musician makes it hard to believe in perfection, since everything is about progressing and systematical training. It´s a cliche, that the teacher tells the student: You are not allowed to enjoy your own result, no matter how good it is!


Offline c#minor

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2008, 12:36:14 PM »
The great performer will make his or her mistakes seem like its written in the music. My pet peeve is when an orchestra doesn't keep time, that soooooo much takes away from the listening experience.

Ephemerid

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2008, 12:46:20 PM »
The great performer will make his or her mistakes seem like its written in the music. My pet peeve is when an orchestra doesn't keep time, that soooooo much takes away from the listening experience.

Years ago I heard an orchestra slog through Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine-- the time was so off (I felt so sorry for the guy on the woodblock) I'm amazed they even got through it. 

Aside from a few bad student performances, that was probably my worst concert experience.   :-\

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2008, 01:36:41 PM »
When I was a student at Oberlin many years ago (about 1967), the student orchestra played Petrouchka; and at the start of the 3rd section there is a very familiar cornet solo virtually unaccompanied. I think it's only a snare drum with him. The poor fellow playing the cornet completely lost his embouchure for some reason, and all one heard was 16 bars of near silence. Finally he got it back to squeak out one high G at the end . . . .  :'(
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Offline orbital

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2008, 01:53:32 PM »
For me It has a lot to do with where the mistake is done  :-\ And I must say that I do not expect to hear a mistake (a wrong note, namely) in the climax of a piece. That is disappointing for me, no matter how much I agree humans will make mistakes. (Just do it at another bar  ;D )

lukeottevanger

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Re: Perfection in live performances
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2008, 04:18:24 PM »
When I was a student at Oberlin many years ago (about 1967), the student orchestra played Petrouchka; and at the start of the 3rd section there is a very familiar cornet solo virtually unaccompanied. I think it's only a snare drum with him. The poor fellow playing the cornet completely lost his embouchure for some reason, and all one heard was 16 bars of near silence. Finally he got it back to squeak out one high G at the end . . . .  :'(

Ah, if it's mistake horror stories you want.....

a performance with my youth orchestra in Cheltenham: we are playing Britten's Young Person's Guide. All is going swimmingly.... the upper strings flicker quietly, expectantly, as we are told 'the harp has 47 strings, and seven foot pedals to alter the pitch of its strings'....enter harpist, with a boldy splashy series of chords.... and all seven of said pedals set to the most horrendous series of notes. Of course, she was too shell-shocked to be able to do anything about it, so she continued to the end of the variation, playing with all the flair and poised sweep it requires - but with every note sickeningly wrong. It was painful to sit through it, for her sake. And she had never put a foot wrong at any other time, poor thing.