If you're wondering how Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman managed to deliver a flawless performance in the below freezing temperatures of Tuesday's Presidental Inauguration, you can stop now. Turns out the classical quartet who played prior to Obama's swearing into office, managed to pull a fast one on viewers as a prerecorded track was played for all to hear instead of the real deal.
As television screens and jumbo-trons projected the illusion of a moving, live performance of John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts," viewers were actually listening to a track recorded at the Marine Barracks in Washington D.C., two days prior to the Inauguration. The quartet, consisting of Ma on cello, Perlman on violin, Anthony McGill on clarinet, and Gabriela Montero on piano, used earpieces for playback, to simulate a flawless performance.
According to Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the joint congressional committee on Inagural Ceremonies, the quartet reluctantly decided to make a recorded version of "Air and Simple Gifts," after having great difficulty with the frigid temperatures effecting the instruments. There was a risk of broken piano strings and cracked instruments, so the recording was made as a last resort to ensure perfection for the special event.
Now the quartet is being compared to the likes of Milli Vinilli and Britney Spears; although no lip-syncing occurred and the quartet did play their instruments live, just not for the world to hear (and not to mention with a grace and professionalism you couldn't find from a Spears performance 'live' from the VMA's).
It is not unheard of for classical musicians to perform via prerecorded track. During the 2000 Summer Olympics, the Sydney Symphony "faked" their performance as well, using a track recorded prior to the event to make sure the performance sounded impeccable. Luciano Pavarotti was also caught lip-syncing in the 2006 Winter Olympics, because the singer wanted to make sure his voice sounded perfect.
According to the New York Times, NBC producers were aware of the recording a day before the performance, and there were other alternatives discussed, including Yo-Yo Ma using a carbon-fiber cello for better pitch in the cold air. All talk of faking aside, the quartet was said not have wanted to "draw attention away from what they believed to be a peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next."