Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

The Robert Greenberg Blog

William Schuman circa 1965

Dr. Bob Prescribes William Schumann

April 16th, 2019
William Schuman (1910-1992) circa 1965 In last week’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post, I asserted that the composers Roy Harris (1898-1979) and his student William Schuman (1910-1992): “are generally considered to be the two greatest American composers of symphonies to have yet graced our planet.” I have received no evidence in the intervening week that that…

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Bessie Smith, circa 1923

Music History Monday: The Empress

April 15th, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqeNtqywBEA Bessie Smith performing W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues in a 16-minute movie of that name, filmed in 1929. It is the only known movie of Empress Smith” Today we celebrate the birth – on April 15, 1894, 125 years ago today, in Chattanooga, Tennessee – of the American contralto Bessie Smith. Bessie Smith We…

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Roy Harris (1898-1979)

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Roy Harris

April 9th, 2019
Roy Harris (1898-1979) I continue on my self-avowed mini-mission to bring to you some of the most glorious music (and recorded performances) I know, music by mid-century, so-called American “populist” composers. This week and next will feature symphonies by two composers who are generally considered to be the two greatest American composers of symphonies to…

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Trio Foss

Music History Monday: The Daughters of Atlas

April 8th, 2019
I am aware – nay, more than aware – that this present post is an example of unconscionable conceit and vanity. Of this I stand justly accused; my head droops in shame and my present auto-flagellation will continue for minutes – perhaps for even the half-an-hour – to come. What, you rightly ask, could have…

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Joshua Rifkin

Dr. Bob Prescribes Scott Joplin

April 2nd, 2019
Scott Joplin Scott Joplin died penniless and all but forgotten on April 1, 1917 in an asylum in New York City’s gigantic Manhattan State Hospital, his brain reduced to black-currant jelly by syphilis. He left behind him a “terminally unproduced opera” entitled Treemonisha and a body of piano rags that virtually defined the genre and…

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Scott Joplin

Music History Monday: An American Original and an American Tragedy

April 1st, 2019
Scott Joplin On April 1, 1917 – 102 years ago today - the American composer and pianist Scott Joplin died at the Manhattan State Hospital on New York City’s Ward’s Island, which straddles the Harlem River and the East River between Manhattan and Queens. He was 48 years old. During the course of his compositional…

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Walter Piston

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Walter Piston

March 26th, 2019
Walter Piston, Harmony, third edition, published in 1969 There was a time not long ago when you could not turn over a musical rock without finding a copy of Walter Piston’s book Harmony underneath. First published in 1941, Piston’s Harmony was ubiquitous; my first copy was a yellow-jacketed third edition, published in 1969. (It is…

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Claude Debussy ca. 1908

Music History Monday: Four Birthdays and a Painful Death

March 25th, 2019
Some birthday greetings to four wonderful musicians before diving into the rather more grim principal subject of today’s post. Four Birthdays Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) ca. 1900 A buon compleanno (“happy birthday” in Italian) to the legendary Italian conductor (and cellist) Arturo Toscanini, who was born on March 25, 1867 – 152 years ago today –…

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Howard Hanson

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Howard Hanson, Symphony No. 2

March 19th, 2019
Warrant Officer Ripley aboard the Nostromo I invoke Ridley Scott’s 1979 Sci-fi masterwork, the movie Alien. It was the first movie in that storied franchise, with the killer tag line, “in space no one can hear you scream” (40 years later, I still love that line!). I set final scene. Warrant Officer Ellen Louise Ripley…

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Arnold Schoenberg in 1903

Music History Monday: Transfigured Night

March 18th, 2019
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) in 1903 On March 18, 1902 – 117 years ago today – Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht (meaning Transfigured Night) for string sextet received its premiere in his native city of Vienna. Considered today to be Schoenberg’s first “major” work, the music prompted what are euphemistically called “disruptions” (meaning catcalls and hisses) and…

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