Do Performers Make Mistakes?

Do Performers Make Mistakes?



hi this is Robert Esther at living pianos dot-com and today the question is do performers make mistakes that is classical performers you see them on stage they play it seems effortless and perfect but do they make mistakes now there's a lot to this question because first of all of course performers make mistakes and brilliant performers sometimes will have train wrecks but it's quite rare usually what happens is there'll be something that might happen but unless you're intimately familiar with asked or seasoned performers know how to hide the mistakes well enough to not disrupt the performance it's not that they're trying to make themselves look so great it's that they don't want the audience to be encumbered with anything that's uncomfortable so this is one skill set but there's more to it than that because performers today actually do play scarily accurately it's compared to what it was a generation or two ago in fact if you listen to some of the great pianists of all time from Alfred quarto to Arthur Rubinstein to do snob oh I mean they're they're countless recordings that were made years and years ago and many of the great performers from pre-world War two ERA been recording was first you know becoming prevalent you'll hear lots of missed notes so what's happened how is everybody paying so accurately today and what does this mean well I've talked about this quite a bit of course today it's obvious everybody hears everyone because of the internet as a result everyone is expected to achieve this high level and there's a certain homogeneous ation of interpretations and tempos and voicing and all kinds of things because everybody knows what the standard is there's a standard level that's accepted today where as years ago those much greater variety it's true that the accuracy of performers and the sheer technical mastery that so many pianists and other instrumentalists have achieved is awe-inspiring but on the flip side there isn't as much experimentation sometimes of these old performers if you listen to these these classic recordings they'll take chances and liberties that nobody would dare today now occasionally they'd fall flat of their faces but when they didn't they can achieve highs rarely heard anymore so accuracy is important and it is important not to make an audience feel uncomfortable but yes performers do make mistakes even though they hide it extremely well but it's not all about accuracy is it I'm interested in your comments which you can send to living pianos calm or right here on YouTube it's a great subject and would like to know what some of you think about the great old performers and if the miss notes are too bothersome and you'd rather have more perfect performances even if sacrifices a little bit of the wild expression alright once again Robert at living pianos calm here at your online piano store see you next time you

25 Comments

  • JDMusic says:

    Some technical monsters like Lang Lang for Valentina will play note for note.

  • 984francis says:

    As somebody who is reaching the end of being a beginner (ABRSM Grade 7 working on 8), I recently played some quite difficult pieces at a wedding, gulp! There were two "moments" but nobody noticed so I guess I managed to fake it. As somebody else here said DON'T STOP!

  • Edward Grabczewski says:

    If you know a piece well then you'll probably spot the differences when you hear a new performance. In my case I end up wondering which version was correct, since I don't read music well enough. I do notice differences and too many wrong notes would affect my enjoyment. Having said that, I like performances to experiment with tempo and expression, which has an overriding influence on my enjoyment of a piece. I remember being startled at the speed with which Gustav Host conducted his own performance of The Planets in 1923 with the London Symphony Orchestra. It's probably the fastest version ever recorded; the nearest modern performance is Steinberg's 1971 recording with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

  • MarleneT says:

    I would like to see some of the methods used to cover common mistakes made. And how not to pause when a mistake is made.

  • Peter Rabitt says:

    Robert, my opinion on the matter is: as long as the piece is being performed musically, and it flows well, there's almost no such thing as a "mistake." 99.5% accuracy is enough. Aiming for 100% is a great way to murder one's spontaneity.

  • Ric CampBell says:

    There are really two types of performances: One for the recording studio and one for the live audience. The studio is really about achieving that perfect sound, performance, timing and with the recording devices and software perfection is close to achievable. The live performance is all about the experience and I think audiences (even critical audiences) are more forgiving to a performer during a live concert than they are a studio recording.

  • Ace's Antics says:

    Sometimes when I'm playing something soft and slow, if I feel my fingers hit a wrong note, it's like they automatically go limp and I can't press the key! Because I know that it's wrong before I even press it

  • Mandolin Brown says:

    I agree with your thoughts on this video. My piano teacher always tells me that no matter what happens, just move forward and keep making music. If you mess up, do your best to conceal it and just move forward in the piece.

  • Tony Sutherland says:

    Have you ever heard Nyiregyhazi play? Very different from everyone else.

  • Dylan Kelly says:

    I think mistakes have not only to do with note accuracy, as you were hinting at near the end. There are also personal-interpretational mistakes. A performer can practice a piece to be just how they like it and then not play, for example, the dynamics as extremely as they would have liked to. No one listening, even a lot of musicians listening, would know that this was not intended, but the performer always regards any missed opportunity (not just missed notes) as a personal mistake. Great video! I know Evgeny Kissin has a blatant missed note in his Liszt B Minor Sonata, but it's still a very good recording because he has a very nice interpretation!

  • Sam McBride says:

    I would rather hear a great interpretation with some mistakes than a mediocre interpretation with no mistakes.

  • Frank Kovach says:

    All I know is my piano teacher told me before my first recital: "if you make a mistake, just keep playing, and pretend it didn't happen. ESPECIALLY don't make a nasty face, throw down the piano lid and run off stage!" Almost as if it had happened before or something, LOL. The commentary on the availability of performance recordings through the internet "homogenizing" things was very interesting and was something I had never considered. Now I'll have to go and find old recordings and listen to some old masters again.

  • Tito B. Yotoko Jr. says:

    I think it's expressiveness coupled with accuracy that makes for a great listening experience. A mistake here or there does not matter. A perfectly accurate playing that is souless is boring. A highly expressive playing with lots of mistake is very distracting. Expressiveness and accuracy therefore go together.

  • Luigi Pati says:

    this sort of meaningless questions are always made by non-musicians, or by complete beginners who wish to remain beginners and will never take music seriously, since the rest doesn't waste their time with questions like these: there's a zillion better questions to ask. The piano is the hardest instrument of all, and the repertory for the piano is the most insanely difficult of all, on any instrument. There's just too much stuff to do at the same time, it would test anyone. Even great musicians like Beethoven or Anton Rubinstein (the composer) were known for making some mistakes…..so what. It's almost impossible not to make any at the piano, the music is just so difficult. Liszt, Beethoven, Chopin….their pieces will make mincemeat out of anyone. Liszt was known for turning a mistake into an improvisation, but he was probably the only one who could do that. Bach's music? Insane. His music requires two brains at once, not one. I hear every little mistake, because I am a musician, but the little mistake is insignificant to me when I hear a concert pianist. If I hear faults in technique, tempo or clarity, that's another matter, but the little mistake is irrelevant, the art of the piano is an art, it's not like being an accountant or a lawyer. And classical musicians are the most prepared of all. When I make a video, and I made a little mistake, I leave it there. I don't care, and it's not a reflection on my ability and experience. Classical musicians are more paranoid about these, but in my opinion they should not be. The performer is doing a favour to others, never the other way around. The musician is the host of their own show, not the guest. Especially 'critics', should lighten up a lot more when they attend a classical piano performance. As one pianist said: 'Critics don't make the wheel go round. Musicians do.'

  • Yavuz İbrahim Yüksel says:

    I don't find missed or wrong notes very disturbing tbh Robert. I was listening to Benjamin Zander the other day and he was talking about how even if you make a lot of mistakes; if you play with emotion, then that's enough to please whoever is listening to you. I feel like a lot of pianists and performers are too perfect today. They can play a Chopin etude perfectly but most of them feel like they are not trying to make music but instead trying to show off their skills and that kind of music just doesn't get to me. I think having a more individual style is better than playing everything perfectly. I am a composer and I would personally like my pieces to be played by performers who take liberties with their performance and have an individual style that is unique to them. What do you think?

  • Paddy the Finest says:

    50k is so near

  • M Filak says:

    One of my former teachers (Harris Goldsmith – former music critic of High Fidelity Magazine) told me the story of his recording of the Waldstein Sonata. He did 3 takes in the studio. One was near perfect and one had a number of mistakes. Yet, he chose the one with the mistakes to put on the album (a Musical Heritage Society recording sadly out of print today) because it was the most exciting. I will still say it's one of my favorite recordings of Opus 53. I wonder how many pianists would make that same choice today.

  • Trip Wall says:

    Great video, yet again, Robert! Believe it or not I do once in a while hear some very subtle playing mishap blips by some of the contemporary greats, the Marc Andre Hamelins and so forth. One thing that's troubling me about today's classical piano scene is the extent to which the young blood is using the internet to sort of standardize interpretations of pieces. For instance, it seems most people want to play Chopin the way Horowitz interpreted it (boy, sounding "too much like Horowitz" is a 'problem' I'd be happy to have!). What room will that give for modern day Glenn Gould's, Glenn having been a pianist who interpreted music in such an unorthodox, but riveting manner? Then there's a flip side to that…narcissistic players who stray from the standard in an uninteresting way; there's a guy on YouTube who calls himself "BachScholar" who does that, and he plays everything slower, and with virtually no dynamics. The internet is busting the opportunities to play repertoire wide open, which is awesome, but we're also losing some sense of magic and mystery to it, and I don't know how we'll find that middle ground.

  • Christopher Forsman says:

    I think rock n roll legend Little Richard makes one small mistake in every of his songs xD

  • Pipe Duster says:

    Oh hell yes. I’m a church organist and pianist. I have been at it a long time and I have learned to fake it. Sometimes ur attention wanders. Sometimes your hymnal page blows shut. But the rule is always “never stop””.

  • violinhunter2 says:

    Yes, one will very, very rarely catch mistakes on recordings nowadays but in live performances, mistakes are quite common, though well-disguised. These sometimes are mistakes of omission rather than wrong notes. Also, memory lapses play a part. One can catch a few of these on YouTube in fact – without mentioning any names. Musicians practice the same things over and over – things which they have played dozens of times – precisely simply to keep notes fresh in their memory.

  • Nathaniel Tang says:

    Beethoven once said “to play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable”

  • RICHARD GORDON says:

    I do. quite often.

  • Jim Baker says:

    No it's not all about accuracy I don't listen to music and especially classical piano with the intent on finding a mistake. I have a wonderful collection of Chopin played by Arthur Rubinstein and in it he plays some of my favorite Chopin which is his ballads. Absolutely beautiful tasteful and emotional performances. In Chopin's fourth Ballade there is a place somewhat the middle of the piece where he's playing these huge monstrous chords in fortissimo and one finger slips on to the wrong key. Now does that in any way diminish this absolutely brilliant and beautiful performance of his fourth Ballade? Absolutely not. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to all four of the ballads and I pay absolutely no attention to that minor mistake. People make mistakes and pianist are no exception. Pianist can certainly try to cover them up but Rubinstein made no attempt to cover this one up given the speed and power that he was playing. One of my loves is classical piano and we are so lucky in this digital age to have access to the brilliant performances of the past and the present.

  • Jardvegur VI says:

    It is obvious that classical performers make mistakes, especially while playing extremely difficult piano pieces from composers such as Liszt, Alkan, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and so on. But it also depends on the mentality of the performer. Perhaps if they have stage fright or not. It is only human to make mistakes. Isn't it?

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