Minnesota Chicken

by Sedgwick Clark

Will the Minnesota Orchestra board of directors and musicians union commit corporate hari-kari? The deadline imposed on the players by the board is this Sunday, September 15. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is quoted in the local StarTribune, “Lock yourself in a room and shut up about it until you come back with a solution. The community is disgusted and desperate.” Among my vivid memories of these artists is a program of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and Sibelius’s Kullervo at Carnegie Hall on February 28, 2010. One does not need to live in Minneapolis to be “disgusted and desperate.” See my blog of August 31 for details.

Are Recordings “Honest”?

For over three decades now, digital editing has rendered studio recordings unreliable as documents of a performance, just as photoshop has destroyed the verity of photographs. It’s only in a live concert that we can truly judge a performer’s technical acumen or artistic ability—and still one may legitimately wonder if the hall might be assisted by discreet miking.

So my interest was piqued a few days ago by this paragraph in a Decca press release of a Liszt recital by a young pianist who has reportedly achieved renown via U Tube:

“A fiery performer who likes to take risks, Valentina Lisitsa recorded one version of the recital direct to analogue tape, transferred without edits for a special edition LP product. Due to size limits, the LP edition contains slightly less repertoire than the full album.  Lisitsa simultaneously recorded in high-resolution 24-bit digital audio to make the most of modern music formats.”

I don’t know how the two separate performances could be recorded “simultaneously”—“in the same sessions” would be more accurate—but I’m being picky. Actually, truth in recordings became a thing of the past about 30 years before digital editing. Prior to the advent of tape, in 1948, records were made in approximately four-minute “takes,” and the artist(s) would make as many takes as necessary (or affordable) to achieve a releasable result. Some were barely that: Listen to the shocking hash that Artur Schnabel makes of the mighty solo-piano fusillade that opens the development section of the Brahms D-minor Piano Concerto’s first movement. I played that passage for David Dubal and Ruth Laredo one afternoon at WNCN, and they nearly fell out of their chairs.

No pianist today would dare play like that in public. Note-perfect performances are simply expected. We’ll see how Lisitsa’s honest LP measures up to the digital “product” when the recordings are released on October 8.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

9/17. Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Constantine Kitsopoulos; Alec Baldwin, narrator. Hitchcock! Excerpts from Vertigo, North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, and Strangers on a Train with soundtracks performed live.

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