Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for accordion

Dr. Bob Prescribes The Tango Project

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post focused on the accordion, an important patent for which was granted to the Philadelphia-based inventor Anthony Foss on January 13, 1854: 166 years ago yesterday. As detailed in yesterday’s Music History Monday, for reasons having to do with class politics and pure snobbery, the accordion is often looked down upon – even derided – as a third-class instrument in the United States, something the high snark-content of my post did little to obviate. Part of the problem, as I explained, is that the accordion never inspired a critical mass of composers to create for it a repertoire of its own. And while this is true in the world of concert music, it doesn’t tell the whole story.  That whole story is this: there are certain genres of music that are entirely dependent upon the sound of the accordion (or one of its close relatives, like the concertina and bandoneón), to create their characteristic sonic ambience. For example, the polka: a moderately up-tempo dance in 2/4 time that originated in Czech lands in the early nineteenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century, what was called “polkamania” had spread across Europe, though it was most powerfully felt in […]

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Music History Monday: How to Identify a Gentleman

We would recognize a number of date-worthy events before moving on to the admittedly painful principal topic of today’s Music History Monday. Johann Christoph Graupner We recognize the birth on January 13, 1683 – 337 years ago today – of the German harpsichordist and composer Johann Christoph Graupner in the Saxon town Kirchberg. (He died 77 years later, in Darmstadt, in 1760.) Herr Graupner was known as a good and conscientious man, highly respected by his employers and students alike. He was also a competent and prolific composer, with more than 2000 surviving works in his catalog. Nevertheless, he would be totally forgotten today but for a single event in 1723. In 1722, Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) – the chief musician for the churches and municipality of Leipzig – went on to that great clavichord in the sky. The famous Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), unhappy with his salary in Hamburg, applied for and was offered the job in Leipzig. But it was all a ploy to leverage a higher salary in Hamburg, which he received and where he remained. In early 1723, the paternal units of Leipzig then offered the job to Graupner, who accepted but whose boss – the Landgrave Ernst […]

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