Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

The Robert Greenberg Blog

Charles-Valentin Alkan

Dr. Bob Prescribes Charles-Valentin Alkan

December 1st, 2020
Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888), one of the two known photos of Alkan Yesterday’s Music History Monday post acknowledged the anniversary of the birth of Charles-Valentin Alkan on November 30, 1813. A contemporary (and friend) of both Chopin and Liszt, Alkan was – in his lifetime – considered their equal as a pianist and by those (few)…

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Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1912

Music History Monday: Furtwängler

November 30th, 2020
Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) in 1912 We mark the death on November 30, 1954 – 66 years ago today – of the German conductor and composer Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin Wilhelm Furtwängler, who was one of the most important and controversial musicians of the twentieth century. We will talk all about Maestro Furtwängler in just a…

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Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Manuel de Falla, El Amor Brujo

November 24th, 2020
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) Yesterday’s Music History Monday post offered up a heart-felt happy birthday to the Spanish composer and conductor Manuel María de los Dolores Falla y Matheu (“y Matheu”, because Spaniards customarily add their mother’s maiden surname to their own), who was born on November 23, 1876 in the Andalucían port city of…

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Manuel de Falla

Music History Monday: Musicians Behaving Badly

November 23rd, 2020
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) Before getting on to our central topic for today’s post – naughty, naughty musicians – we need to give a shoutout to the great Spanish composer and conductor Manuel de Falla who was born on November 23, 1876 – 144 years ago today – in the Andalucían port city of Cadiz.…

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Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) in 1907

Dr. Bob Prescribes Mahler Symphony No. 6

November 17th, 2020
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) in 1907 Mahler’s first four symphonies, composed between 1888 and 1901, are “program symphonies”: multi-movement works that tell an extra-musical, literary story. In order to help his audience follow those “stories”, Mahler (1860-1911) prepared written “programs” for each of his first four symphonies. For example, in reference to the titles he gave…

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Frédéric Chopin in 1847

Music History Monday: Chopin’s Last Concert

November 16th, 2020
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), daguerreotype taken by Louis-Auguste Bisson (1814–1876) in 1847 (not 1849, as is often incorrectly indicated) It was on November 16, 1848 – 172 years ago today – that Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) performed his final concert. It was given at a benefit ball held in London’s Guildhall, staged to raise money for Polish exiles.…

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Dr. Bob Prescribes Rachmaninoff Piano Concerti

November 10th, 2020
As close to a smile as he will get: Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) with his granddaughter Sophie in 1927 Yesterday’s Music History Monday began with the story of the tenor Michele Molese’s call out of the critic Harold Schonberg from the stage of the New York City Opera in 1974 after Schonberg had made a snarky critical…

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Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff in 1902

Music History Monday: “You will write your concerto. . .”

November 9th, 2020
Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) in 1902 We mark the first complete performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on November 9, 1901 – 119 years ago today – in Moscow. Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was the piano soloist. The performance was conducted by his cousin: the pianist, conductor and composer Alexander Siloti (1863-1945). Before moving on…

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Shostakovich with the Beethoven Quartet, circa 1960

Dr. Bob Prescribes Dmitri Shostakovich, Complete String Quartets

November 3rd, 2020
Question: is it true that only by working directly with a composer can an ensemble deliver a “definitive” performance? Answer: no. Composer supervision guarantees nothing. Beethoven, for one, oversaw the premieres of every one of his nine symphonies (though the deaf Beethoven’s “oversight” of his Ninth Symphony in 1824 was much more a hindrance than…

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A laughing Dmitri Shostakovich in London, September 21, 1960

Music History Monday: Shostakovich and His String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

November 2nd, 2020
A laughing Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (1906-1975) in London, September 21, 1960 I’m doing something today that I have never done before in Music History Monday and which, I hope, I will never have to do again. November 2 is not a day bereft of musical events. For example, November 2, 1739 saw the birth, in…

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