The current issue of The Threepenny Review has a lively "Symposium on Live Music," with contributions from Mark Morris, Geoff Dyer, Sarah Rothenberg (a lovely recollection of playing on a defective piano in Marfa, Texas), Ethan Iverson (proposing that Glenn Gould would have lived longer if he had continued playing live), and others. Here's an excerpt from Morris's entry:
There's no shortage of music composed on a computer and brought to market in electronic form. We like it and need it. The sophistication of the sound studio and its ability to apply layer upon layer of sound/music is exciting and important. Musical perfection is within reach! ("Earth to Glenn Gould!") Musical perfection is also a living Hell. In the movie version, Computer Generated Images that rival reality have become so perfectly symmetrical that they give people the creeps. Toy Story scared the shit out of me and I found Avatar dead and cold. Synthetic music and musical reproduction affect me the same way. "Autotune" is terrifying. I want to hear the bow and the rosin and the breathing and the constant, infinitesimal adjustments in tuning that are required in "live" performance: living musicians performing for living listeners
Dyer takes a different point of view. He reports that going to see Pollini play Bach and Beethoven live in London is inferior to listening at home to the records. Indeed, he ventures the eyebrow-raising opinion that solo piano performances are "never worth going to," because they are somehow all the same. Fortunately, not everyone agrees, or there would be no pianists and therefore no records.