Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Author Archive for David Weuste

Dr. Bob Prescribes: The Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach

It was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Like Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 and Hiram Bingham’s discovery of the “lost” Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru in 1911, Peter Schickele’s discovery of P.D.Q. Bach is the stuff of legend. Here’s what happened. It was 1953. Peter Schickele, born 1935, a “Very Full Professor” (a very young “very full” professor!) of “Music Pathology” at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, was touring the “Lechendochschloss” in the German state of Bavaria. (For our information, we are told that the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople “is a little-known institution which does not normally welcome out-of-state visitors.”) Anyway, it was at the “Lechendochschloss” in Bavaria that the good professor discovered – “quite by chance, in all fairness” we are told – a music manuscript being used as a filter in the caretaker’s coffee maker. The music turned out to be the theretofore presumed lost “Sanka” Cantata, “the first autograph manuscript by P.D.Q. (‘Pretty Damned Quick’) Bach ever found.” (Just as Johann Sebastian Bach’s contemporaries knew him as “Sebastian” Bach, and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s contemporaries knew him as “Emanuel” Bach, so P.D.Q.’s contemporaries would have known him […]

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Music History Monday: Mozart in Prague

We mark the premiere on September 6, 1791 – 230 years ago today – of Wolfgang Mozart’s final opera La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency [or Mercy] of Titus), K. 621. Commissioned by the Prague-based opera producer and impresario Domenico Guardasoni (circa 1731-1806), the opera received its premiere at Prague’s Estates Theater, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni had been premiered as well in October 1787. (Put a visit to Prague’s Estates Theater on your bucket list; it’s the last surviving theater in which Mozart himself performed.)  We will get into the particulars of La Clemenza di Tito in tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post. For the remainder of today’s Music History Monday, we’re going to explore the special relationship Mozart had with the audience in Prague, and why he might have lived a long and fruitful life had he chosen to leave Vienna and relocate to Prague. The city of Prague is the historic capital of the region of Bohemia and today the capitol of the Czech Republic. It’s beauty, history, and sheer magic (I know of no better word) are stunning. It is my experience that like Paris and Venice, Prague never fails to exceed expectations. Relatively untouched by World War Two (physically, at […]

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The Composer is Always Right

This weekend, we begin what I consider to be a great adventure: the serialization of my book The Composer is Always Right. (I will be forgiven for calling this a “great adventure”; given the current state of my life, I must take what adventure I can where I find it.) I am making the first two installments – the Introduction (on Patreon today) and Prologue (to be posted tomorrow) – available to all Patreon subscribers, regardless of tier. Starting next Sunday, September 5, the remaining installments (over two years’ worth!) will appear on Sundays and will be available to Principals, Family, and Deity tier patrons. The book was initially written in 2007-2008, and I am revising it substantially here in 2021 for this serialization. Commissioned by Oxford University Press, the book was never published. (I told the sorry story of the book’s commission and my subsequent withdrawal of the finished manuscript from Oxford University Press in a post on Patreon on June 17, 2021.) The dual premises of the book are as follows. One. The Composer is Always Right explores the ongoing growth of the vocabulary of Western literate (notated) music from around the year 800 C.E. to the present […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Moritz Moszkowski, Piano Concerto in E Major, Op. 59 (1898)

Near the conclusion of yesterday’s Music History Monday post, we heard from the former chief music critic of The New York Times Harold Schonberg, who wrote apropos of Moritz Moszkowski’s piano music that: “no better salon music has ever been composed, or any so gratefully conceived for the piano.” “Salon Music.” It’s a phrase often used as a pejorative, to distinguish between “serious” and “substantial” concert works and music intended merely to amuse and titillate the denizens of Europe’s elite “salons” during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Let’s get a handle on what constitutes “salon music”, lest Schonberg’s complimentary phrase – that “no better salon music has ever been composed”– be considered more damnation than praise. Salon Music Aside from being “an establishment where a hairdresser, beautician, or couturier conducts business”, a “salon” is a reception room in a large house. A “salon” is also a particular type of social gathering in such rooms, typically hosted by prominent women, which brought together “guests of distinction” for a conversational exchange of ideas and amusement. Such gatherings were invented in Italy in the sixteenth century, where they were called “salones”, a word derived from “sala”, which is the large reception room […]

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Music History Monday: “V” for Victory!

On July 19, 1941 – 80 years ago today – the BBC World Service began using the first four notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 of 1808 as a “linking” device on its broadcasts into Nazi-occupied Europe.  Why the BBC chose to use music by a German-born composer, and what those four notes meant makes for quite a story. Background The European phase of World War Two began on September 1, 1939, when Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded its neighbor to the east, Poland.  The invasion had been made possible just 8 days before, when the Soviet Union entered into a so-called “non-aggression” pact with Nazi Germany.  It was an act that stunned the world: these two greatest enemies, these two most diametrically opposed political ideologies – fascism and communism – had made nice: Hitler and Stalin had cozied up, climbed into the sack, and done the thang with each other.  Here are two of the many contemporary political cartoons that satirized the pact: The treaty was called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named for the foreign ministers, respectively, of the Soviet Union and Germany who negotiated the thing: Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop. The “planned” expiration date of the pact […]

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