In my last post on this subject, I talked about how important it was to listen to a composer's recordings of his own works. I've always been endlessly fascinated by this - it provides a unique look into the mind and musical thought patterns of composers. And, of course, it's tremendously inspiring when they are wonderful performers (like Rachmaninoff or Medtner.)

But what to do when a composer's performance veers from the printed score? Do we follow what's written on the page, or what's been captured in the performance?

One thing that must be realized, is that recordings are a snapshot in time. The way a composer plays his work on any given day can vary greatly from the next. Vladimir Horowitz was always intensely annoyed when his students copied the way he performed a piece in a given recording, saying "I wouldn't play it that way NOW!"

A composer's manuscript is the result of sometimes hundreds of hours of toil, all in search of the best way to convey their thoughts to performers. It's always smart to keep in mind these great words of advice:

"Do as I say, not as I do."


AuthorChad R. Bowles