Robert Estrin - piano expert

Do Performers Make Mistakes?

Learn how even great musicians make mistakes

In this video, Robert answers the question "Do Performers Make Mistakes?" with interesting insights from the history of music performance.

Released on November 20, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin at Today, the question is, "Do performers make mistakes?" That is classical performers. You see them on stage, and 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 the score, 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. This is one skillset, 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 Cortot to Arthur Rubinstein to Schnabel, there are countless recordings that were made years and years ago, and many of the great performers from pre-War World II era when recording was first, you know, becoming prevalent, you'll hear lots of missed notes. What's happened? How is everybody playing so accurately today? 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 homogenization of interpretations and tempos and voicing and all kinds of things because everybody knows what the standard is. There's the standard level that's accepted today, whereas, years ago, there was 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 with these old performers, if you listened to these classic recordings, they'll take chances and liberties that nobody would dare today. Now, occasionally they'd fall flat on their faces, but when they didn't, they could achieve highs rarely heard anymore. 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 or right here on YouTube. It's a great subject, and I'd like 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 it sacrifices a little bit of the wild expression. All right. Once again, Robert at here at your online piano store. See you next time.
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