On 03/06/2012, Tom Fine wrote:

> Jazz is inherently improvised music, and there's a very valid argument
> that some of the best improvising goes on in a live-performance
> setting. So I agree with you very much about jazz. 

I think it was Alfred Brendel who remarked on how much improvisation
there was in a Fischer-Dieskau lieder performance.

Certainly in small-group and chamber classical music, there is the same
instantaneous response between the players as in jazz. The notes are of
course the same each time, but the phrasing is not.

> There was a time
> when rock was the same, except usually the musical skill wasn't all
> that good. Nowadays, a typical popular pop or rock artists's live show
> is a scripted/automated/computerized light and sound and multimedia
> thing, with little room to go off on an interesting improv. Not
> universal, but typical. Like these stage-show extravaganzas, classical
> music is "scripted" (scored), so a good conductor and orchestra should
> be able to deliver a note-perfect and exciting performance to the
> recording mics, using retakes to patch up less than perfect sections.
> In a live setting, sometimes the script goes awry due to human
> imperfections and/or poor conducting. A live audience rarely notices
> the mistakes unless they are terrible.
Better a live performance that has a few mistakes and is exciting than a
note-perfect studio performance that is dutiful.

Check out (for example) the Marlboro Festival series on Sony, the Kagan
performances with Richter and others on the German "Live Classics"
label, Britten's performances at the Aldeburgh Festival (best "Fingal's
Cave overture I have ever heard), the 1943 Horowitz-Toscanini
Tchaikovsky concerto, any recording by Sokolov (who will not record in
the studio).

Many of the Mercury recordings succeed in getting the same intensity in
a studio recording, perhaps by making the session a special occasion.
But a great many studio recordings are just tidy.

Don Cox
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