About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“Since the ability of Francisco Guerrero is now abundantly known to all […] he shall henceforth act as master of the boys so long as: ( 1) he must teach them to read, write, and to sing the responsories, versicles, antiphons, lessons, and kalends, and other parts of divine service; (2) he shall teach them plainchant, harmony, and counterpoint, his instruction in counterpoint to include both the art of adding a melody to a plainsong and to an already existing piece of polyphonic music; (3) he shall always clothe them decently and properly, see that they wear good shoes, and ensure that their beds are kept perfectly clean; (4) he shall feed them the same food that he himself eats and never take money from them for anything having to do with their services in church or their musical instruction…” [cont’d]
— Málaga Cathedral Document (11 September 1551)

Does Your Choir Sing Perfectly?
published 2 December 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

HAVE SOMETHING to say about perfection—as it relates to directing a church choir—but it will have to wait for another day when I have sufficient time. For now, I would simply point out how rarely we encounter true perfection. Even the greatest musicians made mistakes. Alfred Cortot made mistakes. Edwin Fischer made mistakes. Sviatoslav Richter made mistakes.

Today I stumbled across a recording I listened to often in high school. It’s a transcription by Liszt (with additions by Horowitz) of an orchestral piece 1 by Camille Saint-Saëns, who was himself a remarkable pianist. This 1942 performance by Horowitz is absolutely perfect as far as I’m concerned—and I don’t say that lightly:

I have more to say about great pianists like Josef Hofmann, Ignace Tiegerman, Vladimir Horowitz, Edwin Fischer, Sviatoslav Richter, Leopold Godowski, Sergei Rachmaninov, Alfred Cortot, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Josef Lhevinne, Glenn Gould, Dinu Lipatti, and so many others. I usually hesitate to mention them on our blog because their ocean of greatness is so vast I don’t know where to begin. It reminds me of how we often fail to tell our loved ones how we feel about them—I suspect because words cannot do our feelings justice.

For the record, Horowitz hits a wrong note at 5:48. But there’s so much more to musical “perfection” than the avoidance of wrong notes…


1   It’s amazing how much the piece is improved when transferred to piano, but that’s another story.