Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

News – Page 2

We are all Parisians

It has been said that “Italy gave us the Renaissance and France just about everything else”. It’s a statement that the opera composer Giuseppe Verdi – arch Italian nationalist that he was – would have agreed with entirely. Over the course of his career Verdi lived in Paris for a number of years and profited mightily from the Parisian operatic establishment. And while this straight-shooting, matter-of-fact Italian from the Po Valley was often at odds with his French hosts (“I have lived long enough in France to understand how the French make themselves insufferable by their insolence”), he also understood that Italy and France needed to stand side-by-side in the face of German aggression (“But whoever considers himself to be truly Italian must be above such [Gallic] pinpricks”). Verdi watched the progress of the war between France and Prussia – the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 – with undisguised horror. In a letter written to his friend, the Countess Clarina Maffei on September 30, 1870, immediately after the French defeat at Sedan, Verdi said that it was hard to adequately describe: “The desolation in my heart over France. France has given liberty and civilization to the modern world. Let us not […]

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Unique Contest for Piano Composers and Arrangers

Sheet Music Plus, home to the world’s largest online sheet music selection, and San Francisco non-profit, Composers Inc., today announced a piano composition contest. Professional Steinway pianists at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Walnut Creek and San Francisco will showcase winning pieces and winners will each receive a $300 award, along with a $200 travel stipend should they choose to attend the concerts. Starting today, composers and arrangers can submit original piano compositions among four different categories to the SMP Press platform. SMP Press allows users to upload and sell their original sheet music and MP3s on the Sheet Music Plus website, earning 45% in royalties. Contest submissions are welcome through November 6, 2015. “We are very excited to be partnering with Steinway, the world’s piano leader and nonprofit, Composers Inc. to encourage original and creative piano composition,” said Jenny Silva, CEO of Sheet Music Plus. “Sheet Music Plus has always taken pride in the original work of its member musicians. This contest allows us to celebrate and promote our independent community of composers and arrangers.” “As an advocate for living American composers, Composers Inc. is proud to be partnering with Steinway Piano Galleries of the San Francisco Bay Area […]

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An Evening of Art and Music

The Alexander String Quartet and I are doing a benefit fundraiser for the Montclair Elementary School in Oakland on October 10. The Montclair Elementary School is a public K-5 school in the Oakland Hills. Founded in 1925, it numbers among its present students my daughter Lillian (a third grader) and my son Daniel (a first grader). Public education. Pardon me for getting a bit vehement and more than a bit teary-eyed here, but there is nothing more important and yet financially undervalued than our public schools and the magnificent people who teach in and administer them. Yes, yes; it’s cliché to ask, but still: when was the last time the prison system, the military, and our state and national bureaucracies had to hold bake sales, car washes, and silent auctions in order to raise operating funds? When did our national priorities become so profoundly skewed? So raise funds we will, with a program to be held between 6 PM and 9 PM on October 10, 2015 at the David Brower Arts Center at 2150 Allston Way in Berkeley, California. Here’s a description of the program the Alexander String Quartet and I will perform: “Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791), […]

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Robert Greenberg on The Diane Rehm Show

I joined NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” guest-hosted by Tamara Keith for a discussion on “Presidential Campaign Music.” I was the music-historian-in-residence for NPR’s “Weekend All Things Considered” and then “Weekend Edition Sunday with Liane Hansen” from 1997 until 2008, so I know the drill. In order to sound as if I was sitting in the studio with the host and the other guests, I drove into San Francisco during the early morning commute (ugh) to KQED, our local NPR affiliate. There I was given coffee (yes . . . yes . . .), and plunked into a studio by a wonderful engineer named Howard Gelman (we go back over 20 years), outfitted with headphones and put in front of a microphone. HEAR THE RESULT on The Diane Rehm Show archive.

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Compositions Now Available on Sheet Music Plus!

My music is now being digitally published by Sheet Music Plus. By September 1, 18 pieces will be “live” with scores and parts available for digital download. In addition, a recording of each piece can be heard free-of-charge on the website. For those pieces that have also been recorded in video, links are provided to those videos. Works currently “live” (and on sale!): Suite Revelation for cello and piano (2014) 180 Shift for piano trio (2013) Invasive Species for piano quintet (2012) Lemurs are Afraid of Fossas for cello and piano (2011) South Bay Angle for violin and piano (2011) So Let Us Live – Really Live! For baritone and piano (2009) Tempus Fugit for piano (2008) Anything you Can Do . . . for violin and vibraphone (2006) String Quartet No. 4: Snappy Rejoinder (2005) Funny Like a Monkey for piano quartet (2001) Rarefied Air for B-flat clarinet, violin and piano (1999) Behavioral Science for trombone solo (1998) Pluck for guitar solo (1996) String Quartet No. 3: Among Friends (1995) Iron Balconies and Lilies for soprano, piano and chamber ensemble (1992) String Quartet No. 2: Child’s Play (1988) Quasi un Madrigale for soprano and piano (1985) Prayer for the […]

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New Webcast Courses Coming 2016!

Thanks in very large part to the incredible feedback and suggestions I received from you wonderful people, I have gone a long way towards formulating the nature and content of the on-line courses I will self publish and begin to release during the first quarter of 2016. I will be making webcasts, and not webinars. Webinars take place in real time, and while they can be recorded for subsequent viewing, downloading, etc., they are fraught with peril. As in any live broadcast, glitches, technical difficulties, misspeaks and such are not “correctible”. The technology is, likewise, problematic: none of the software that powers webinars seems to be even remotely idiot-proof. As a self-avowed techno-idiot, that constituted “STEE-RIKE THREE!” for webinars. So webcasts it will be. Each individual webcast “lecture” will run about 30-minutes in length. Each 30-minute lecture will be broken down into three roughly 10-minute “modules” that can be listened to individually or straight on through. The first two courses I will create will consist of 12 30-minute lectures. The first will be entitled “Schubert: Chamber Music for Strings” and the second “The Late String Quartets and Quintets of Mozart.” (Yes, I am aware of the fact that these titles […]

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It’s Time To Start Teaching Again and I Want Your Advice

Thank you all for the wonderful submissions made at my request last week to name my next The Great Courses survey. I will select my 5-10 favorites and present them to you later this week for your vote. I will deliver the results to The Great Courses with the hope that they will indeed let the majority rule. A New Direction? As a self-employed musician-writer, who spends his working days at home, alone at the computer, I can forget how very intelligent and creative the collective can be. You have reminded me of that creative intelligence with your many suggestions and comments regarding my upcoming course. So: using you as a resource and as a sounding board, I’d like to tell you about my plans for the future and in doing so again solicit your suggestions and advice. (If anyone wants to respond privately, or at greater length than Facebook provides, feel free to contact me on this site.) Background For many years, I taught something I called “Living Room Classes” here in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were just that: classes taught in the evening to interested adults in various living rooms across the Bay Area. It was […]

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New Course Coming Soon

It has been a long time since I last blogged. I have an excuse (sort of) which I’d share, and in doing so request your help. I have been writing a new, 24-lecture course for The Teaching Company/The Great Courses, and have only today – this morning, in fact – finished the first draft. I began work in December, so the draft (which runs about 140,000 words, about the length of a 450 page book) took seven months to write. I’ll need another three months to rewrite, by which time the course will run about 120,000 words. It has been, by far, the toughest survey I’ve ever written. The working title is “Big History and Great Music.” The premise is as follows. Each lecture features a different piece of music. Each piece of music was written as a direct response to a historical event. The bulk of each lecture, then, will explore that event and the manner in which the music under study reflects that event. For example. Lecture 17 focuses on a piano sonata by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček (pictured below as a young dude with his wife Zdenka), a piece entitled Piano Sonata I. X. 1905 (meaning […]

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How To Listen And Understand Great Music at 37,000 Feet!

I’ve done a good bit of travel by air over the course of the last 35 years, long enough to observe (and experience) an incredible degradation in air travel. To my mind, airports themselves have always been bad. I long ago decided that once I entered an airport – any airport – it was best to assume I had entered a maximum-security “rehabilitation facility”. With this in mind I could accept that the airport, as a manifestation of fate, controlled my destiny. My time no longer belonged to me; nor did my body, and if the “airport” chose to delay (or cancel) a flight, or hold me at passport control, or pull me out of a security line and subject me to a cavity search, my best recourse was – and remains – to keep my mouth shut and do my best to go with the flow. In sum: I don’t particularly like airports. (Especially now that the prices in duty-free are, like, twice what you’d pay in Costco. What’s that all about?) Once boarded and underway, the actual flights were, for me, infinitely less onerous. There was food to eat, empty seats to stretch out on, unlimited bags to […]

Continue Reading Sponsor Since 2015

I’ve often wondered what our clothing would look like if, like racecar drivers, we all wore emblems of sponsorship. Some of us would have more such patches than others, although I would hope that we’d all have a patch acknowledging our parents (“Mom. Dad. Since 1954.”); a favorite teacher or coach (“Teached me wat I know!”); perhaps our places of business (“Self-Employed & Lovin’ It”). To these patches I – personally – will now add a big one: “ Sponsor Since 2015”. Yes indeed, Audible has taken on the sponsorship of “Scandalous Overtures” and I couldn’t be more pleased. Since the great majority of the 26 courses I’ve made for The Great Courses are available on Audible, this sponsorship is perfect, as in one fell swoop (swell foop?) it promotes my two favorite media organizations, Ora TV and The Great Courses. I wrote and recorded some 16 Audible ads last week. Check out the one below, which features a FREE (such a lovely and, when it comes to worthwhile stuff, underused word) audiobook promotion.  

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