Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Mondays – Page 2

Music History Monday: Elvis and the Tube

On September 9, 1956 – 63 years ago today – Elvis Presley made his first appearance, live, on The Ed Sullivan Show. (The show was indeed broadcast live in the Eastern and Central time zones, though delayed for the Mountain and Pacific time zones.) It has been suggested that this appearance on that evening 63 years ago marked the ascendance of rock ‘n’ roll as the dominant musical genre in the Western world.

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Music History Monday: Light My Fire

Robert Greenberg reminds us of how basic fire is to our existence, and appreciates how often fire has been memorialized in music in this Music History Monday.

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Music History Monday: Lotte Lehmann

On August 26, 1976 – 43 years ago today – the German-born soprano, opera star, lieder singer, movie actress, internationally renowned teacher, music historian and author, published poet, painter and illustrator Lotte Lehmann died in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 88.

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Music History Monday: The Gig of a Lifetime!

On August 19, 1613 – 406 years ago today – Claudio Monteverdi was appointed Maestro di Capella di San Marco: the director of music at Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica. It was the gig of a lifetime!

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Music History Monday: John Cage, we miss you

On August 12, 1992 – 27 years ago today – the American composer, inventor, philosopher, facilitator, agent provocateur, shaman, clown, and guru, John Cage died in New York City at the age of 79.

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Music History Monday: One of the Great Ones!

We celebrate the birth on August 5, 1397 – 622 years ago today – of the composer Guillaume Du Fay. He was, by every standard, one of the greatest composers to have ever lived and was admired as such in his own lifetime.

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Music History Monday: A Very Bad Ending

We mark the death on July 29, 1856 – 163 years ago today – of the German composer, pianist, and music critic Robert Schumann at the age of 46. The actress Valerie Harper was back in the news this week. Now nearly 80 years old (her birthday is on August 22nd), she is best remembered for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then its spin-off, Rhoda, in the 1970s. Ms. Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2009, and she has fought like the proverbial tiger since. Her time is almost up; this week’s news was about her husband’s refusal to ship her off to a hospice. During the course of her illness, she has pointed out – correctly, if painfully for us all – that we are all “terminal.” I know, I know, I know: it’s not something anyone wants to think about, especially not on a Monday, which by itself is depressing enough. Yes, our time will come when it comes, but I, for one, want to spend as little energy as possible thinking about it. But having buried three beloved family members long before their time should have been up, […]

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Music History Monday: Can We Blame the Weather?

On July 22, 1969 – 50 years ago today – Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) was arrested for disorderly conduct in Highland Park, Michigan, a community within the metropolitan area of her native Detroit. She had been involved in a minor traffic accident in a parking lot. Two Detroit policemen had responded; Ms. Franklin took offense at something or other, swore at the officers and then tried to slap them. Never, ever a good idea. She was placed under arrest and hauled off to the local police station, where she posted $50.00 bail and was released. On driving away from the station, she ran down a road sign; not a good idea, either. Franklin was, admittedly, going through a rough patch in her life at the time. Her meteoric rise to stardom in 1967 had changed her life almost entirely, and not necessarily for the better. In 1968 she separated from her physically abusive husband (and manager) Ted White; they were divorced in 1969. Following the separation, she was reportedly drinking heavily (although alcohol was not cited in her parking lot fracas with the police).  That Aretha Franklin was a passionate and potentially temperamental woman is obvious to anyone who has ever […]

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Music History Monday: What Would We Do Without Him?

We mark the death on July 15, 1857 – 162 years ago today – of the Austrian composer, pianist and teacher Carl Czerny.  What would we do without him? Indeed. Excepting Ferdinand Ries (who was, like Czerny, a student of Beethoven’s), no one has left us more numerous and more accurate first-hand accounts of Beethoven than Czerny. He was a great pianist and perhaps the greatest pianist who never played in public. (I would qualify that statement, because as a young man Czerny did indeed play in public a handful of times; for example, Beethoven entrusted the 21-year-old Czerny with the first public performance in Vienna of his Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, the “Emperor”, on February 12, 1812. But in fact, Czerny hated the pressure of performing in public, hated travelling, and felt that “my playing lacked the type of brilliant, calculated charlantry that is usually part of a travelling virtuoso’s essential equipment.” So he stayed home in Vienna, where he performed in private, composed, and taught.) He was, very likely, the single most important piano teacher of the nineteenth century. According to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians he was “a central figure in […]

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Music History Monday: The Futurist Terrible

We mark the birth on July 8, 1900 – 119 years ago today – of the composer, pianist, author, inventor and self-described “bad boy of music”, George Antheil (pronounced Ann-tile).  Antheil lived a fascinating life. He composed a lot of music, including six operas, twenty works for orchestra (including six numbered symphonies); 15 major works of chamber music (including three string quartets and four violin sonatas); scores for over 30 movies and lots of music for TV. He wrote magazine and newspaper articles, and wrote three books, including a crime novel edited and published in 1930 by his friend T. S. Eliot entitled Death in the Dark. And he invented stuff.  For all of this, he is remembered – when he is remembered at all – for his firstmajor composition, a work entitled Ballet Mécanique and for having invented and patented, along with a woman known best by her stage name as Hedy Lamarr, a system for the radio control of airborne torpedoes that made them impervious to jamming. (Yes, I will tell that story!) Antheil was born and grew up in Trenton New Jersey and died in New York City (a heart attack) on February 12, 1959.  He started […]

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