steven c wrote:

> 2) It would seem that a "qualified recording" could only be made
> during a composer's active lifetime, when questions could be
> asked about details or the composer's own performance heard. In
> fact, even if the composer was recorded performing the piece,
> that only represents how he/she/it wanted it performed at that
> moment...which could easily have changed over later years or
> decades.


Let me add two other factors, both related to the what I know, classical 
vocal music. First, it was normal for a composer to alter the score, let 
alone the performance, to fit the situation. When the soprano could not 
handle the big lines of Messiah, Handel assigned some to the alto, some 
to the tenor. The tenor did not have the breath control for his aria, so 
Mozart wrote a replacement in Don Giovanni - and today both are almost 
always performed, though that was never Mozart's intent. A tenor wanted 
to interpolate a high C in Il trovatore and asked Verdi about it. His 
response: fine, if it's a good one.

Second, the composer does not always know what he has written. Arguably, 
Benjamin Britten's greatest work is Peter Grimes. He wrote it for his 
partner, Peter Pears, and the recording of their telecast for the BBC 
has been preserved. But other singers were to take on the role and one 
of the greatest, Jon Vickers, had a voice very far removed from Pears's. 
When Britten and Pears heard the dress rehearsal for Vickers's first 
performance, they left in high dudgeon. It was not what Britten wanted - 
but Pears was no longer performing. For most listeners today, Vickers is 
the 'definitive' Grimes. Of course, that's nonsense, but it is also 
nonsense to say that Pears is the only one who should be allowed to do 
the role; or that any other tenor attempting it must imitate Pears.

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