Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Debussy

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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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Debussy’s Preludes

Last week, Patreon Patron Renato inquired: “So, what is Dr. Bob’s prescription for Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat Major D960 (I listen to Richter’s in Praga 1972) and for Debussy’s Prelude Book I (Michelangeli DG is my choice)? Thanks a lot. Cheers.” As we observed last week, both of these works are featured in my Great Courses survey “The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works.” I dedicated last week’s “Dr. Bob Prescribes” to the Schubert Sonata; let’s now tackle the Debussy Préludes. An even cursory glance at the recordings currently available reveals a lot of highly regarded performances. Thus, a disclaimer: I am not a “collector” of performances (of cocktail shakers, yes, but that’s a conversation for another time). As a non-collector, I tend to stop buying recordings of a given work once I’ve found a satisfactory performance (or two, as in the case of Debussy’s Préludes). So in the end, I can only recommend to you those recordings I’ve been happy with over the years. See the prescription on Patreon

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