Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Music as a Mirror of History

Music History Monday: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13

The Premiere That Almost Wasn’t: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 Wednesday, December 19, 1962 was significant for something that didn’t happen. On the day before – Tuesday, December 18, 1962 – Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 received its premiere in Moscow with Kirill Kondrashin conducting the bass soloist Vitali Gromadsky, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, and the basses of the Gnessin Institute and Republican State Choirs. The symphony – which set to music five poems by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko (who was 29 years old at the time of the premiere) – created a sensation. Yevtushenko recalled: “At the symphony’s premiere, the audience experienced something rare: for fifty minutes, they wept and laughed and smiled and grew pensive.” The Russian-American sculptor Ernst Neizvestny remembered: “It was major! There was a sense of something incredible happening. The interesting part was that when the symphony ended, there was no applause at first, just an unusually long pause—so long that I even thought that it might be some sort of conspiracy. But then the audience burst into wild applause with shouts of ‘Bravo!’ At the time of the premiere, the 56 year-old Dmitri Shostakovich was a Soviet icon, an institution, the most famous and […]

Continue Reading

Out Now: Music as a Mirror of History

My thirtieth course for The Great Courses/The Teaching Company, “Music as a Mirror of History”, was released on Friday, July 22. (My friend Ed Leon – the Chief Brand Officer for The Great Courses – and I have a running dispute regarding how many courses I’ve made for TGC. Ed insists the number is twenty-eight, as the first and second editions of “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” are out-of-print, having been supplanted by the third edition. Yes, it is true that “only” twenty-eight of my courses are currently in print and available. But. I have indeed made and recorded thirty courses, and the fact that two of them are out-of-print doesn’t unmake and un-record them. So Eddie, baby, I’m sticking with my number thirty! I trust I will be forgiven this sin of numerical pride.) “Music as a Mirror of History” was a challenging course to write and, with its often emotionally charged subject matter, an even tougher course to record. We’ve put together a ten-minute excerpt from the first lecture that effectively outlines (if I don’t mind saying so myself) the goals and overall content of the course. Check out the video and then, hopefully inspired […]

Continue Reading

Announcing New Courses!

A drum roll (okay; perhaps just an onion roll): announcing the upcoming releases of my latest Great Courses survey and my first webcast courses, what I will now refer to as “webcourses”. It’s been a year since I announced my intention to begin self-publishing such webcourses; I have now completed writing two of them. The first is “Mozart in Vienna”, a 16-part course that deals with the last 10 years of Mozart’s tragically short life, from 1781 to 1791. Featuring Mozart’s chamber music for strings, the webcourse focuses on Mozart’s day-to-day life and his amazing compositional development during his years as a resident of Vienna. While there is some overlap with the repertoire covered in my The Great Courses/Teaching Company course “The Chamber Music of Mozart” (recorded back in 2004), “Mozart in Vienna” is considerably less technical than the aforementioned Great Courses survey and explores many works I’ve never before examined, including Mozart’s last four string quartets: the so-called “Hoffmeister” Quartet and the three “Prussian” Quartets. The second webcourse is one I’ve wanted to create for many, many years: an 18-part survey entitled “The Music of the Twentieth Century”. The “music” to which the title refers is primarily concert music, […]

Continue Reading

Recording Music as a Mirror of History

Photos from the recording session from my upcoming course for The Great Courses — Music as a Mirror of History:

Continue Reading