Recording is a wonderous thing, but has evolved into an art form that is truly separate from performing. The manipulation made possible by technology allows recordings to achieve an ideal of perfection beyond what happens on the stage. Or, at least a certain quantifiable kind of perfection.
I once produced a recording for a colleague. Upon hearing the finished product, his thrilled reaction was, “Wow, nobody plays like that.” I reminded him that he didn’t either.
For many young performers these professional recordings are REALITY, and they aspire to sound like these mostly artificial products.
It is true that we strive for perfection in our practice – but this is not the goal. Mastery of the instrument is simply a vehicle – one that allows a free flow of expression that we delight in sharing with others.
This reminds me of a passage from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which the heroine attributes her own imperfect performance on the piano to the fact that she “would not take the trouble of practicing.” Her admirer, responds with “No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting.” I always felt that he “gets it”, and is listening beyond the notes.
Of all the commercial recordings I have done, the two releases that please me most are live performances.