Fr. Valentine Young, OFM, used to say: “The organist can play 1,000 correct notes and one wrong note—and the only thing people will care about is the wrong note.” Last Sunday I hit some wrong notes, and felt bad. Then I remembered a story about Rudolf Serkin and started to chuckle. Charles Rosen (or was it Leon Fleisher?) told the story of Serkin playing a Beethoven Sonata in front of a large audience. The theme is all in octaves; but Serkin hit some wrong notes, and played parallel 7ths instead. This so unnerved him that every time the theme returned, he played the entire thing in parallel 7ths! We must remember that even the greatest hit wrong notes. Alfred Cortot, Vladimir Horowitz, Wilhelm Backhaus, Edwin Fischer, Sviatoslav Richter, Egon Petri—they all hit wrong notes, which we can hear on recordings. (Josef Hofmann was an exception, but he was super-human so he doesn’t count!)
About Jeff Ostrowski
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.