The quartet -- violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriela Montero -- performed "Air and Simple Gifts," composed by John Williams for the occasion. However, they recorded the piece two days before the Tuesday inauguration Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee, said.
The musicians and the inaugural committee said cold and windy weather made it necessary to use the prerecorded music as a hedge against the possibility that piano strings might break, instruments might crack or the music just wouldn't sound right played live, The New York Times reported Friday.
"No one's trying to fool anybody," said Florman.
"It's not something we would announce, but it's not something we would try to hide," she said.
She said NBC producers in charge of the television pool were notified Monday it was likely the prerecorded performance would be used and NBC said it notified pool members of the possibility.
Perlman said the recording was used because "it would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way."
"This occasion's got to be perfect," he said. "You can't have any slip-ups."
"A broken string was not an option," Ma said. "It was wicked cold."
Florman said it was routine for musical performances to be prerecorded for inaugurals. She said the Marine Band and choruses that performed Tuesday did not use audio recordings.