Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Author Archive for David Weuste

Dr. Bob Prescribes Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post marked the 77th anniversary of Bartók’s death in New York City, and the circumstances leading to what he himself called his “comfortable exile” in the United States between January 1940 and his death in September 1945. Among the works he composed while living in New York was his Concerto for Orchestra of 1943 which is, by any and every measure, among the very greatest orchestral works composed during the twentieth century. A monumental achievement in and of itself, the fact that the Concerto for Orchestra was written by a composer suffering from leukemia makes it something of a miracle as well. The story of its composition will be told soon enough. But first, indulge me some first-person reflection. Harlotry in Music Among my most frequently-asked-questions is: “who is your (my) favorite composer?” Who indeed! My typical response – flippant but true – is that I am a musical harlot, a strumpet, a slut: I love whomever/whatever I’m listening to at the moment. I mean, really: when listening to Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion or the Goldberg Variations, how in heaven’s name would it be possible not to convinced that the sun, moon, and stars revolve […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 10

A Nice Hike In early September of 1940, Gustav Mahler’s widow Alma (1879-1964) – now married to the Jewish author Franz Werfel (1890-1945) – walked from France to Spain in order to escape the Nazi occupation of Europe. (Time out. We read constantly about those intrepid individuals who, in order to escape the Nazis, “walked across the Pyrenees from occupied France to neutral Spain.” The image so conjured is one of daring and desperate people braving an alpine climb and descent – after all, the Pyrenees rise to a height of 11,168 feet – all the while avoiding border patrols, searchlights, and barking dogs. In fact, the crossing from the French town of Cerbère to the Spanish town of Portbou involves walking a roughly two-mile-long path up and over a hill along the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a stroll, for heaven’s sake, one that hardly constitutes a hike!) Alma had been told to bring only what she could carry, but she showed up in Marseilles (the point of departure for escapees) with twelve trunks worth of luggage. The man who arranged her escape from France was the American journalist and first order hero Varian Fry (1907-1967). (For our information: working for […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Weimar On July 14, 1708, the newly appointed court organist Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and his wife Maria Barbara Bach (1684-1720) arrived in the Thuringian (central German) city of Weimar from Bach’s previous post in the Thuringian city of Mühlhausen.  The young couple moved into an apartment in a house owned by another employee of the court, Adam Immanuel Weldig, who was master of the pages and a falsettist (a non-surgical male soprano) in the chorus of the court chapel.  (Coincidentally, this same Adam Weldig was an alum of the St. Thomas School in Leipzig, where Bach would be the master of music for the last 27 years of his life, from 1723 to 1750). Whatever else its amenities, Weldig’s house had location in spades.  It was located at number 5 Markt, on Weimar’s Markplatz (market square), which had been the city’s most important public space since around 1300.  From there, it was just a five-minute walk to the Ducal palace (the Wilhelmsburg), where both Bach and Weldig worked.  It was at the Weldig house that Bach’s first child, Catharina Dorothea, was born on December 29, 1708, and where his second child – Wilhelm Friedemann – was born on November […]

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Doctor Bob Prescribes – Vocal Sampling

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post on the death of George Gershwin was, to my mind, painfully dark. Having examined and processed the dreadful events leading up to Gershwin’s tragic death at the age of 38, we turn here in today’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post not just to the land of the living but to a musical world filled with dance and with joy. We deserve no less. Disclosure In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that in the very early weeks of my Patreon presence in 2018, I wrote about this album. However, that post was tossed off quickly, and at a measly 890 words, it was roughly one-third the length of what today is a typical Dr. Bob Prescribes post. So today we do the phenomenal Vocal Sampling and their fourth (of five) albums, Cambio de Tiempo, released in April of 2002, proper justice.… See it, only on Patreon! Robert Greenberg Courses On Sale Now

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Dr. Bob Prescribes Sal Mosca

Let’s say it upfront: Salvatore (“Sal”) Joseph Mosca (1927–2007) is the greatest jazz musician you’ve likely never heard perform. Readers of my posts have heard of Maestro Mosca, as I’ve mentioned him repeatedly as being among my favorite, best-of-the-best jazz pianists ever. But I would hazard to guess that the vast majority of you have never actually heard him play. That will all change during the course of this post. I would tell you that Sal Mosca has inspired me to do something I never, ever, have otherwise done, and that is to write reviews of his albums on Amazon. I have written and posted only two reviews on Amazon, both of them dealing with Mosca albums. One of those review is spectacularly positive; the other equally negative. The positive one deals with one of the prescribed recordings” Too Marvelous for Words. The negative one deals with an album that should never have been released. Writing under the nom-de-plume of “RMonteverdi”, here are those two reviews:  One Of The Very Best At His Very Best “Sal Mosca was without any doubt one of the greatest improvising musicians who ever lived, and this fantastic five-cd set shows him at the very […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes John Alden Carpenter, Skyscrapers (1926)

John Alden Carpenter was a lifelong Midwesterner: he was born in Chicago in 1876 and died there in 1951. He reached his compositional maturity in the twentieth century. He was a businessman and thus, a compositional amateur. (“Amateur” in the best sense: as a practitioner of something not for money but for love, which is what “ama-teur” means.) He adored American popular culture and music and he filled his compositions with aspects of both. As opposed to Paine, Buck, Foote, and MacDowell, all of whom came to their compositional maturity in the nineteenth century. (For our information, Paine and Buck were born almost 40 years before Carpenter.) Paine, Buck, and Foote were all born in New England; MacDowell in New York. They all had academic musical careers; they all worshipped at the altar of German music; and they were all embarrassed by what they perceived of as the provincial cretinism of American musical culture. As such, this stylistically schizoid album inadvertently tells us something of the “story” of late nineteenth and early twentieth century American concert music: the reliance on German musical models by academic composers working primarily in the nineteenth century, and the celebration of things “American” by some […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes The Blues Brothers

Last week’s Music History Monday post – which appeared on February 14, St. Valentine’s Day – offered up some of the very worst love songs ever written and recorded. That “worst love songs” topic grew out of an anniversary: the 30th anniversary of the U.S. opening of the movie Wayne’s World on February 14, 1992. My brief discussion of Wayne’s World noted that to this day, it remains the highest-grossing film based on a sketch from Saturday Night Live (SNL). The second highest-grossing SNL-inspired flick was The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, which was released on June 20, 1980. The “Blues Brothers” – Jake (Belushi) and Elwood (Aykroyd) – made their debut on April 22, 1978, when their fellow SNL cast member Garrett Morris introduced them as that evening’s musical guests. Accompanied by Paul Schaffer (born 1949) and his incredibly tight SNL house (horn) band, the “brothers” performed Soul Man (1967) by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. For our information, Elwood (Aykroyd) carries his harmonica in a briefcase, handcuffed to his wrist. The performance is linked below. Surprisingly, as musical performers, Belushi and Aykroyd weren’t bad at all. In particular, John Belushi had a musical background: the […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Lennie Tristano

Let’s get this out of the way up front, because the pretext for today’s post on Lennie Tristano was yesterday’s Music History Monday which, for the large part, was about sightless musicians. Writes Tristano biographer Eunmi Shim (Lennie Tristano: His Life in Music; The University of Michigan Press, 2007): “Born with weak sight, Tristano’s vision grew worse and by the time he was nine or ten years old he became completely blind. According to Bob Blackburn [writing in the Toronto Telegram, July 22, 1964], it was ‘the result of glaucoma probably stemming from his mother being stricken in pregnancy by the post-World War I flu epidemic.’ Judy Tristano, Lennie Tristano’s first wife, recalled that Tristano’s parents tried unsuccessfully to cure his blindness: ‘they had tried everything to cure his glaucoma. Legitimate doctors, quacks, going to church and everybody praying en masse, praying for his sight. But of course, nothing worked. They couldn’t cure glaucoma or treat it.’” As an adult, when the subject of his eyesight came up, Tristano’s standard response was, “I’m blind as a motherf***er.” Brief Biography Leonard Joseph Tristano was born in Chicago on March 19, 1919, and died in New York City on November 18, 1978. […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes The Trombone

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post featured the trumpet, trombone, and flugelhorn virtuoso Mic Gillette (1951-2016). In fact, Gillette could play virtually all modern brass instruments, and though he was primarily known as a trumpet player, he was an outstanding trombonist as well. (Gillette was known to switch instantly and effortlessly, back-and-forth, between the trumpet and trombone.  This might not sound like a big deal to most of us, but for brass players it was – literally! – breath taking.  In terms of the nature of the embouchure required, the size and shape of the mouth pieces, and playing technique, the trumpet and trombone are two very different instruments.)  (BTW: for those intrepid trombone aficionados out there, I’d refer you to my Instrumental Outliers post for March 25, 2021, which focused on the magnificent, kidney-rattling contrabass and subcontrabass trombones.)  Back, please, to Mick Gillette and his “bipolar/bi-instrumental” personality. The people who play the trumpet and the trombone are usually as different from each other as the instruments they play.  In an orchestra, the flutes, first violins, and trumpets are considered the “glamor” instruments because they are on top and as such, we can always hear them.  Likewise, the fine people who […]

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