I just have a few brief thoughts on this debate. First, I can tell the difference between an e-piano and an acoustic piano. Being old school, I far prefer the acoustic instruments. (I play a Baldwin Model L Artist Grand.)
The second point I would make is that, in my own case, I have never "spliced" my older analog recordings, nor do I ever electronically edit my current recordings, although AVS Editor and Audacity both reside in my PC programs, but are slowly rusting away there. My sense is that performance is all about reality and authenticity in the moment. I'm dismayed by the state of commercial CDs that have been available for decades that feature the handiwork of the studio engineers rather than the artists. I'm reminded of the artist who had a terrible recording session. At the end of the day, the recording engineer told the artist to return in a few days to hear the recording. He did, and was beaming and extolling the virtues of the recording. At which point the engineer said, "Don't you wish YOU could play like that?" It's so true. This has also had a negative impact on young pianists. Believing that these CDs are actual studio performances, they now focus all their energy on accuracy to achieve note-perfect renditions--which all sound alike and could not possibly be more boring to the listener. (Of course, I cannot discount the prevalent worship of urtext editions as well.) Individuality and risk-taking in performance seem to be rapidly disappearing, and then we all wonder why recital audiences are shrinking. The unshakable and irreducible fact of the human condition is that there is no perfection. If there were, we would be gods, which clearly is not the case. As Horowitz once said, if a pianist just once in a lifetime ever approaches perfection in a performance, then that is a very lucky person indeed. He considered the very concept of achieving perfection to be an imperfection.
Just referencing myself for a moment, I doubt that any video would ever be required to check on the authenticity of my recordings. Everyone knows I don't edit, and they can tell just by listening. When I record, I do several takes. A hint of my individuality is always present in any take, as that is so important in my opinion in putting the music across to the listener. Like many other pianists who dislike their own recordings, I'm no different in that regard. So when I "audition" my outtakes, I eliminate them one by one to discover the least of the evils. Wouldn't it be so much easier just to edit? Of course! But that would be contrary to my goal--giving the listener an authentic performance. Might there be a few slip-ups in there? Yes, but that only adds to the excitement of the real performance with risk taking. At university in the 1960s, I recall a group of us classical music fanatics huddled in a dorm room listening to the then newly released live recording of Richter's "Pictures at an Exhibition" of Moussorgsky. There were some klinkers and notes falling under the piano at times, but we were dumbstruck by Richter's artistry. In no time at all the recording became a sensation here in the U.S. and around the world. Another time I recall sitting in Symphony Hall in Boston during a recital of Artur Rubinstein. He was not exactly known for accuracy, so yes, there was that missed leap in the left hand or whatever. Nobody in the packed hall (including stage seats for the conservatory students) cared a whit about that. Instead we were riveted to the scope of his interpretation, his playing in the grand manner, and his magisterial and inspiring performance. It wasn't perfection, but it was greatness nonetheless. It saddens me nowadays that we settle for the plain vanilla, sterile, cautious, dull and "perfect" performances and recordings that all sound alike. Whatever became of differentiation of interpretation and execution?
As I say, I'm old school. I respect that people want to experiment or work with midi sampling and sequencing, e-pianos, and clever editing. I don't begrudge them that. Rather, I say more power to them! But if I live to be 100, I'll always think of performance and recording in the most noble sense as art for the sake of art. Within my abilities and limitations, I'll always strive for excellence, will allow a bit of personality and risk to enter into my renditions, and will put forward only authentic recordings errors or none. And if an occasion comes when in one glorious moment I near perfection, then I'll savor and celebrate it, but also knowing fully well that the very next day I'll have to prove myself all over again. We pianists are all only as good as our last performance or recording, and if it's a truly authentic recording, then we're all the more keenly (or even painfully) aware of that fact.
"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April
Last edited by Rachfan on Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:20 pm, edited 9 times in total.