World

Taped music of classical quartet played at Obama's inauguration

Most of the millions of people watching U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday heard a prerecorded version of a classical piece by a celebrated quartet, not a live performance.

Most of the millions of people watching U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday heard a prerecorded version of a classical piece by a celebrated quartet, not a live performance.

Officials said Thursday night the weather was too cold for the instruments to stay in tune and the decision was made to play an audiotaped performance for the roughly 1.5 million people on the National Mall and a global television audience of roughly 2.5 billion.

Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the musicians — cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill — were insistent on playing live until a day before the inauguration.

Only the people sitting close to the performers would have heard a live performance of Air and Simple Gifts because their instruments were not amplified.

"It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way," Perlman told the New York Times. "This occasion's got to be perfect. You can't have any slip-ups."

Florman said the musicians taped their performance two days before the inauguration, something that's routinely done before such an event.

"This isn't Milli Vanilli," Florman insisted, referring to the late 1980s group stripped of a Grammy for lip-synching. "They had to perform in such cold weather, the instruments couldn't possibly be in tune. They were able to play in sync with the tape. It's not unusual."

It's not the first time a public performance has made headlines for not being what it seemed.

Last summer, Chinese officials drew criticism for admitting a child lip-synched a song during the Olympic opening ceremony that had been recorded by another child, who officials said wasn't cute enough.

Luciano Pavarotti also lip-synched an aria at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Organizers said the world-renowned tenor had been feeling ill at the time and was unsure of his voice.

With files from the Associated Press