It was hard to believe Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were actually playing live for the Obama Inauguration outside in the bitter cold, and now, today, the New York Times reveals — like the Obama invitations before it — the entire performance was faked!

The somber, elegiac tones before President Obama’s oath of office at the inauguration on Tuesday came from the instruments of Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and two colleagues. But what the millions on the Mall and watching on television heard was in fact a recording, made two days earlier by the quartet and matched tone for tone by the musicians playing along…

Performing along to recordings of oneself is a venerable practice, and it is usually accompanied by a whiff of critical disapproval. Famous practitioners since the Milli Vanilli affair include Ashlee Simpson, caught doing it on “Saturday Night Live,” and Luciano Pavarotti, discovered lip-synching during a concert in Modena, Italy. More recently, Chinese organizers superimposed the voice of a sweeter-singing little girl on that of a 9-year-old performer featured at the opening ceremony of last summer’s Olympic Games.

In the case of the inauguration, the musicians argued that the magnitude of the occasion and the harsh weather made the dubbing necessary and that there was no shame in it.

The problem with the performance was in the deception of the sound, not in the fact that the weather was too cold:  Either play it live, or don’t play it at all.  Don’t sit there and pretend to play live what you know you are faking. 

If the performers really had no problem pretending to “play along” with the recorded music, it should’ve been made clear to everyone in the audience that the song was not live and that the four were merely pretending to play what they had already performed two days ago.

For Mr. Ma and Mr. Perlman to now claim “outrage” that they’ve been caught faking — we can only laugh a bit in the recognition of the second rising of the newest “Milli Violini” scandal.


  1. That’s just downright pathetic. Quartets from yestercentury would have a good laugh at the notion of this faux playing.

  2. They should’ve moved inside, Gordon, if they really wanted to play live or they should have all just sat there outside in the cold NOT PLAYING while the recording was running. They made it look live on purpose and that is deceitful because their expression and exaggerated “playing” in the cold was a mockery of what that real moment should have been.

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