Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for London

Music History Monday: Myra Hess

On February 25, 1890 – 129 years ago today – the pianist Julia Myra Hess was born in Hampstead in North West London. In a “Dr. Bob Prescribes” post, I rather energetically took the pianist Keith Jarrett to task for behaving like a brat – for haranguing and cursing at his audiences and often just walking off the stage in mid-set – if, heaven forbid, an audience member should have the unmitigated gall to cough during one of his performances. Expectorate in my presence?! The nerve!  In the course of that “Dr. Bob Prescribes” post, I referenced the pianist Myra Hess, who produced and performed in concerts in London for the duration of World War Two, on occasion performing during bombing raids. Her courage mirrored the indomitable spirit of the British people during the second world war. Coughing? Coughing? Dame Julia Myra Hess, CBE (Commander of the British Empire, 1936), DBE (Dame of the British Empire, 1941) was not just a great artist but a certifiable hero in the truest sense of the word. Coughing? Mr. Jarrett, you couldn’t hold Ms. Hess’ panties.  (For our information, Hess herself had a tangential connection to American jazz: in the 1920s, she numbered […]

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Music History Monday: An Anthem to Remember

On this day 221 years ago – February 12, 1797 – Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3 received its premiere. The quartet’s nickname – “Emperor” – stems from the theme of its second movement, a theme composed a few months before the string quartet. Background In 1761, the 29 year-old Joseph Haydn was hired as a musical functionary by the fabulously wealthy Esterhazy family of Hungary. 29 years later – on September 28, 1790 – Joseph Haydn’s boss and benefactor Prince Nicolas Esterhazy kicked the scepter and passed on to the great unknown. Nicholas was succeeded by his son, Prince Anton, who didn’t give a rat’s rump for music; one of Anton’s first acts as Prince was to dismiss almost all the musicians his father had hired. Haydn was granted a 1400 florin annual salary and sent on his way. Was a grief-stricken Haydn left wondering what to do? No he was not. In fact, we can well imagine the spry, energetic Haydn doing some flying chest-bumps around the castle, jumping into some splits, hitting a moonwalk and then the rug for some one-handed pushups, because he was free at last! Haydn left the Esterhazy […]

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