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…
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 It’s amazing how much the piece is improved when transferred to piano, but that’s another story.