Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Robert Schumann

Robert and Clara Schumann in 1847
Robert and Clara in 1847

I have been asked to write a brief program note for the Library of Congress, and it just so happens that they have asked me to write about one of my favorite performing ensembles performing some of my absolutely favorite music. Talk about two birds with one stone! I will adapt this Dr. Bob Prescribes post for the LOC. But to our post first.

By way of explanation. The National Recording Registry is a list of 25 recordings issued annually by the Library Congress. The Registry now totals some 525 recordings. According to the LOC:

“Each of these recordings has been chosen by the Librarian of Congress, with input from the National Recording Preservation Board. Each of these recordings have been deemed so vital to the history of America — aesthetically, culturally or historically — that they demand permanent archiving in the nation’s library.”

There are certain actors whose fan-bases are so deep that their mere presence in a film will, by itself, guarantee its success. Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Samuel Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise: put ’em on the screen and watch the moolah roll in.

There are certain living authors whose new books we will buy and read immediately, just because. I imagine we all have our own list of such authors; here’s mine. I will buy and read any new novel by Richard Russo (whose Straight Man was the subject of a Dr. Bob Prescribes post in 2018), Neal Stephenson, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood (finally, The Testaments — her long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale — has just appeared!), David Lindsey, Stephen King, Robert McCammon (a guilty pleasure) and Stephen Hunter (a guiltier pleasure).(I must mention here the recently departed Philip Kerr, whose Bernie Gunther detective novels rival those of the great one, Raymond Chandler. Kerr wrote 14 of them before dying of bladder cancer in March of 2018, at the age of 62. A double tragedy, because not only did the world lose a good man, husband and father but we lost Bernie Gunther as well.)

Again, among living authors, I will read any new history book by Max Hastings, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ron Chernow, David McCullough, and Ian Kershaw.

When it comes to buying recordings, I will admit to being very picky. As readers of this post know, I am a great fan of, among many others, the pianists Maurizio Pollini, Martha Agerich, and Roger Woodward; the conductors Gerard Schwarz, Christopher Hogwood, and John Eliot Gardiner; the Alexander String Quartet, and so forth. But speaking for myself, I will not automatically buy any recording made by any of these wonderful performers, particularly if I already have a recording with which I am happy.

There is a single exception to this, and they are the subject of both the Library of Congress program note and this week’s Dr. Bob Prescribes, which can be found only on Patreon!

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