Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Johannes Brahms

Dr. Bob Prescribes ‘Die Fledermaus’

Yesterday’s Music History Monday marked the occasion, on January 20, 1982, when Ozzy Osborne bit the head off of a dead and decaying bat during a performance at the Des Moines Veterans Memorial Auditorium. To his credit, Osbourne thought that the bat-like other such rodents and reptiles tossed on stage during his performances – was a toy. However, this fact should not absolve him of being a disgusting, drug-and-alcohol addled, pee-in-your-beer-mug (a favorite game of his) slime bucket; on other occasions Osbourne was known to have purposely consumed living creatures. For example, in 1981, smashed off his gourd during a meeting with record company executives in Los Angeles, he bit the heads off of two live doves to show his displeasure with the progress of the negotiations. In 1984, on tour with the heavy metal and umlaut-abusing band Mötley Crüe, Osbourne participated in gross-out competitions with the bass guitarist Nikki Sixx. It was during such a contest that Osbourne snorted a line of ants from the pavement and then allowed them to crawl out of his mouth. That’s a winner. But back to the bat. I’d suggest that we do not perceive them as the sweet, furry, adorable, pug-nosed creature […]

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Music History Monday: All Too Soon: The Death of Mendelssohn

On November 4, 1847 – 172 years ago today – Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn died in the Saxon/German city of Leipzig. He died all too soon; at the time of his death Mendelssohn was just 38 years old.

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Johannes Brahms, Horn Trio in E-Flat Major, Op. 40 (1865)

When the Hamburg born-and-raised Johannes (“Hannes”) Brahms was around four years old, his father Johann Jakob Brahms decided it was high time the kid learned to play the three instruments that he himself played. Papa Brahms wanted his eldest son to follow him into the family trade and be, bless him, employable. Those three instruments were violin, cello, and the valveless, “natural” horn. The young Brahms gained a degree of competence in all three instruments, in particular the cello. However, to his father’s apparently endless annoyance, what the little fella really wanted – what he demanded! – was to learn how to play the piano. We can well imagine the conversations between father and son, played out over several years: “Daaaaad! I wanna play the piano.” “Hannes, dude, how many pianos are there in the Hamburg Philharmonic?” “Uh . . . zero?” “How many pianos in a dance band?” “Maybe . . . um . . . one?” “You got it. Violinists? There’s always work. Cellists? Ditto. Horn players? There are never enough decent horn players: horn players gig. Piano players? A dime-a-dozen and there’s no work. Besides, we don’t even own a piano and we don’t have the ducats […]

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Music History Monday: Spreading the Love

October 2 was a most interesting day in music history. Rather than choose just one person or event for discussion, we’re going to spread the love today and observe three people and one event for whom/which October 2 was a signal date. Max Bruch and One Hit Wonders On October 2, 1920, 97 years ago today, the 82 year-old composer Max Bruch died in Berlin. A highly respected composer in nineteenth century Germany, the list of Bruch’s compositions is a moderately long one, and includes, among other works, four operas, three symphonies, three suites for orchestra, five concerti, four string quartets, two string quintets, twenty large works for chorus, and nearly 100 songs. Alas. Of Bruch’s fame in his lifetime almost none remains. And of all those many works, the only one that is still performed with any regularity is his Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26, which was completed and premiered in 1866. (The Bruch fans among us – what that they are – might insist on adding to the list of still-performed works Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra and the Kol Nidre, Op. 47. But that’s reaching, and in this case I am […]

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