Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Carl Ruggles

Dr. Bob Prescribes Carl Ruggles: Sun-Treader

The backstory: in 1970, the 26-year-old Tilson-Thomas conducted Ruggles’ masterwork – Sun-Treader – in concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  (That performance was followed by Tilson-Thomas’ recording of Sun-Treader with the BSO recommended above.)  At the time, Carl Ruggles was 94 years old and living in a nursing home in Bennington, Vermont (he died the following year, in 1971).  We’ll let MTT tell the story from here: “Ruggles, enigmatic and granitic man – how his music and spirit have haunted me.  I first heard his music at age thirteen.  The piece was Men and Mountains and I remember how stunning it was.   Years later I began to perform Mr. Ruggles’ music and to discover more of his remarkable testimony in each new performance. The fascination continued over the years and turned to awe and appreciation as through repeated performances I began to understand the depth of the music and power of its testimony.  It was in this mood that following a performance of Sun-Treader with the Boston Symphony, I set out to meet Mr. Ruggles.  Syrl Silberman of WGBH-TV in Boston had worked on a film about him and had become friendly with the old man, who even then […]

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Music History Monday: Carl Ruggles

Before moving on to Carl Ruggles, the featured composer of today’s post, we would offer the warmest of happy birthdays to one of the most brilliant composers of the twentieth century, who also happened to be one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met, George Crumb.  He was born in Charleston, West Virginia on October 24, 1929 – 93 years ago today – and died at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Media, Pennsylvania, on February 6, 2022, at the age of 92. I offered up an appreciation of Crumb in my Music History Monday post on the occasion of his 87th birthday on October 24, 2016.  We will revisit Crumb in my Music History Monday and Dr. Bob Prescribes posts for March 13 and 14, 2023 (yes, I plan ahead!) when we tackle his Black Angels for electric string quartet. On to the featured event for today’s post. We mark the death on October 24, 1971 – 51 years ago today – of the American composer, teacher, and painter Charles Sprague (“Carl”) Ruggles, in Bennington Vermont.  Born in Marion, Massachusetts on March 11, 1876, Ruggles was 95 years old at the time of his death. C-level People […]

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Music History Monday: Justice Denied

October 23 is one of those dates on which virtually nothing of interest has (yet) happened in the world of music. On such days, I typically turn to the day before or the after for my “Music History Monday” topic; and indeed, both October 22nd and 24th are rich in events about which I could write. I would quickly mention two of those events with the understanding that I’m going to dedicate the bulk of this post to the dastardly demise of a long-forgotten composer. But first Music of the Twentieth Century Mozart In Vienna October 22 marked the 206th anniversary of the birth of the Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, Franciscan tertiary and showman/shaman/charlatan supreme Ferencz (Franz) Liszt. As that as that liszt (sorry) of accomplishments indicates, Liszt lived about 46 (give-or-take) different lives in his not-quite 75 years. His principal life was that of a pianist; he was the greatest pianist of his time and very possibly the greatest who has yet to live. As a composer he must be credited – along with Frédéric Chopin – with creating the defining software for the brand new hardware that was the metal harped piano which […]

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