Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Klemperer

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Tempo and Metronome Marks

My recommendation last week of John Eliot Gardiner’s complete recording of Beethoven’s symphonies elicited a series of really wonderful comments. When, in the course of responding to those comments I rather offhandedly recommended that Otto Klemperer’s recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies (made circa 1961 for EMI) be allowed to fade into obscurity (or a shredding machine), I was soundly and eloquently thrashed.  Underlying the conversations around my recommendation was the issue of tempo: that is, the speed at which Beethoven’s symphonies (or any music, for that matter) should be performed. For performers, tempo is not just one issue among many; it is THE ISSUE: that performance parameter that must be determined before any other. Thus, I’m dedicating this week’s post to this issue of tempo and metronome marks, which, since 1816 (or so) have been a way for composers to indicate – exactly – how fast (or slow) a piece of music should be performed. If this conversation strikes some of you as being totally geeky, you are totally correct. Patron Frederic Patenaude writes: “I have a question about the tempo used by Gardiner in Beethoven’s 5th. Are you aware of the debate stirred up by Wim Winters, pianist, regarding the […]

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Music History Monday: Émigrés

We mark the birth – on July 16, 1901, 117 years ago today – of the Austrian composer and conductor Fritz Mahler. While we might not recognize his first name, we surely recognize his surname, and Fritz’ father was indeed a cousin of the great composer and conductor Gustav Mahler. His present obscurity aside, Fritz Mahler was a well-known musician in his time. He studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. He emigrated to America in 1936, where he taught at Juilliard and conducted the Erie Philharmonic and the Hartford Symphony. For us, for now, the key phrase is “he emigrated to America in 1936”: Fritz Mahler was one of the hundreds – the thousands – of artists, scientists, writers, and intellectuals who managed to escape Europe in the 1930s. And thereby hangs our tale. Catastrophe On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was appointed Chancellor of Germany: head of the German government. Until April 30, 1945, when a palsied and defeated Hitler put his 7.656 mm Walther pistol against his right temple and scrambled his diseased brain, he presided over as malignant and criminal a regime as modern Europe has ever seen. Once in power, Hitler […]

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