Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Arturo Toscanini

Music History Monday: Four Birthdays and a Painful Death

Some birthday greetings to four wonderful musicians before diving into the rather more grim principal subject of today’s post. Four Birthdays A buon compleanno (“happy birthday” in Italian) to the legendary Italian conductor (and cellist) Arturo Toscanini, who was born on March 25, 1867 – 152 years ago today – in the north-central Italian city of Parma (the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano, or “parmesan” cheese and the simply exquisite cured ham known as Prosciutto di Parma). Toscanini was as famous for his incendiary temper as he was for his streamlined, rhythmically propulsive, honor-the-composer’s-score-at-all-costs performances. Decorum and good taste precludes me from sharing many of the nicknames he was awarded by his performers; one such nickname I can share is “The Towering Inferno.” A boldog születésnapot (“happy birthday” in Hungarian) to the killer-great Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók, who was born on March 25, 1881 – 138 years ago today – in what was then the town of Nagyszentmiklós, in the Kingdom of Hungary in Austria-Hungary. (It was a source of ever-lasting pain for the adult Bartók that the town and district in which he grew up was ceded to Romania in 1920 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up by the […]

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Music History Monday: Leo Smit

Today we remember and honor the Dutch composer Leo Smit, who was born on May 14, 1900 – 118 years ago today – in Amsterdam. As regular readers of this blog are aware, while I opine (and even bloviate) with fair regularity, I rarely get personal in my posts: Music History Monday is about events and people in music history, and is not intended as a platform for my own life and issues. But today is a bit of an exception, for which I will be forgiven. The degree to which musicians identify with their primary instruments is primal; it’s something that non-musicians have probably never really thought about. A professional musician has, in all likelihood, been playing her instrument since her age was in single digits. Over time that instrument becomes a best friend (and sometimes a worst enemy). A musician shares her life with her instrument; grows up and meets puberty and adulthood with her instrument; and in the end perceives her world through her instrument. If you’re a pianist, for example, you perceive the world through the sound, physiognomy, and repertoire of the piano; it’s inevitable, given the ten-of-thousands of hours a professional has spent camped out […]

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