Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Speaking Engagments

Music History Monday: Why Art Matters

March 20 was a quiet – a very quiet! – day in music history. Thus, as I have done on other “quiet” Mondays, I’m using today’s post to tell a story and to editorialize a bit. In 2016, I got involved with an operation called “One Day University”, founded by a visionary named Steven Schragis in 2006. A “one day university” typically (but not always) consists of four high-end professors each presenting a 75-minute program across the span of a single day. These one-day sessions are held in theaters and hotels in over 45 different locations across the United States. Thus far, I have participated in One Day Universities in Portland (Oregon), Sacramento, Austin, Phoenix, Fresno, and San Francisco; I will appear in New York City on March 25 (I’ll provide info about that session at the conclusion of this post). I would share with you a One Day University experience I had back on November 12. I was speaking at a One Day University program in Sacramento, California. I was last on the program. I had been immediately preceded by an Ivy League historian whose work – which is superb – I know well. He was very good at […]

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Explorations in Music, KALW, The Alexander String Quartet & Relationships

The old line goes that being a member of a professional string quartet is like being married to three people, except there’s no sex and nobody cooks. The lack of food and sex notwithstanding, professional quartet membership IS a marriage. The members of a quartet live for and with each other; they depend on each other; they spend countless hours with each other through sickness and in health and along the way survive the ups and downs inherent in any long-term relationship. They rehearse together and, in doing so, they constantly compromise in order to create a musical whole greater than the sum of their individual parts; they travel together (when a string quartet travels, it must book FIVE airline seats: one for each of the players and one for the ‘cello); nightly, they experience together the stress and trial and potential disaster (and occasional glory) of public concertizing. If the musical and personal chemistry between its four members are not right, a string quartet – no matter how good the players are, individually – cannot succeed or survive. The magnificent Alexander String Quartet was founded in New York in 1981. After 33 years, the ASQ is still going strong, […]

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Let The Party Begin – 200th Birthday Celebrations for Verdi and Wagner

Let the party begin! We are about to embark on the greatest one-two birthday punch in the history of opera. Tomorrow – May 22 – marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wilhelm Richard Wagner. 151 days later – on October 10 – we will celebrate the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi, aka “Joe Green, the Italian opera Machine”. Of course, the musical festivities have been going on for many months already; we can hardly turn over an operatic rock anywhere on the planet and not find a Wagner or Verdi festival or a Ring Cycle underneath. The opera season notwithstanding, the popular media is poised to jump on the Wagner-Verdi bandwagon, and we should thus gird our loins in anticipation of the onslaught of information and misinformation, facts and opinions-parading-as-facts, articles and books, radio shows, recordings and documentaries, all timed to coincide with the birthdays. Among those documentaries is an hour-long radio show created by the venerable WQXR in New York entitled “Clash of the Titans: An Exploration of Verdi & Wagner.” Created by Jeff Spurgeon and Aaron Cohen, the show seeks to compare and contrast the lives and music of Wagner and Verdi. It is […]

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Gershwin and Copland: American Concert Music Comes of Age

A heads-up, hope-I-see-you-there: I will be doing a program on February 13 at Sinai Temple, at 10400 Wilshire Boulevard in what we, here in Northern California, call the “South Land” – the City of Angels, Los Angeles – at 7:30 P.M. My working title for the talk is “Gershwin and Copland: American Concert Music Comes of Age”; Sinai Temple is marketing it under the title “Jewish Roots in American Music”. Whatever. It’s going to be a fun evening: lots of fascinating info, lots of great music (I’ll be performing a number of Gershwin’s songs with Sinai’s Cantor Marcus Feldman). Here’s a description of the program: Eclecticism is as American as apple pie. In a culture defined by its multiplicity, any concert music that purports to be “American” must, somehow, reflect that multiplicity. Such an “American concert music” did not emerge until the first decades of the twentieth century, when American-born composers began to synthesize ragtime, jazz, Anglo-American and Hispanic folk music, popular song, and elements of American musical theater into their concert works. The music of George Gershwin and Aaron Copland exemplify this emergence. Gershwin brought elements of ragtime and jazz to his Broadway scores and subsequent “concert” works and […]

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