Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Rossini

Dr. Bob Prescribes Rossini Overtures

It’s All About Branding Yesterday’s Music History Monday post marked the use of the first four notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 as a call sign for a BBC radio show called London Calling Europe, a propaganda/information show broadcast from London into Nazi-occupied Europe. It was an inspired bit of both cultural larceny and branding: using the music of a German-born composer to represent dot-dot-dot-dash: the Morse Code for the letter “V” as in victory over Germany! “Branding.” It’s a newish term, defined as “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.” We are told that there are four essential steps in “branding”: 1. Determine your target audience. 2. Position your product and business. 3. Define your company’s personality. 4. Choose a logo and slogan. In the case of the BBC program London Calling Europe, one, the target audience was the population of occupied Europe. Two, the BBC positioned itself as the singular purveyor of unsullied information available to that population. Three, the show defined itself as the voice of truth. Four, its slogan was “London calling Europe” and its audio “logos” were Jeremiah Clark’s Trumpet Voluntary and the opening four notes of […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes – Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Oft’ have I moaned and groaned about the licensing contracts signed by The Teaching Company/Great Courses and various recording companies, contracts that precluded me from identifying the performers heard on the musical excerpts in my courses. Yes indeed, this is entirely counter-intuitive; one would think that the record companies would want me to name-names, the better to sell those albums being excerpted in the courses. But like quantum mechanics, the actions of these companies remain unfathomable; weird business.  Because I wasn’t allowed to name performers, I would estimate that roughly 50% of the mail I’ve received over the years in response to my courses has been about the recordings I’ve used: folks want to know who played this, who sang that. In many cases I don’t know at all, because in the early years I was often sent recordings for audition on cassettes with no indication as to the identity of the performers. For example, to this day, I haven’t a clue as to any of the performers on the recordings I chose for my Symphonies of Beethoven course, recorded in 1995. Every now and then – by begging, scraping, whining, banging on tables, and giving noogies – I managed […]

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Music History Monday: Rossini and the Soul of Wit

149 years ago today, the opera composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini died in Paris at the age of 76. One of the most famous and respected artists of his time, he remains no less so today. It is my humble opinion that anyone who does not like Rossini’s music is a crank and a humbug, someone averse to melodic brilliance, sparkle, and wit. A momentary divergence. In his book Outliers (Little, Brown and Company, 2008), the English-born journalist Malcolm Gladwell formulated his “10,000 hour rule”, which claims that all that’s required to become a world-class practitioner in any field is 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice”. With all due respect, we can only conclude that Mr. Gladwell has deliberately practiced making absurd statements for well over 10,000 hours, so utterly daft is his “rule.” Listen: when I was twenty, I was (as I remain) 5’7” in height and weighed 165 pounds (I can only wish that that were still the case!). I was strong, fast, and had good hand-eye coordination. I also had a vertical jump of about six inches, so no amount of time and practice was going to make me a high-jump champion or a ballet dancer; no how, no […]

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Music History Monday: The Futile Precaution

On June 5, 1816 – 201 years ago today – the Italian opera composer Giovanni Paisiello died in Naples at the age of 76. Although almost entirely forgotten today, Paisiello was – in his lifetime – among the most famous, successful and popular opera composers of his time. He composed an absolutely amazing amount of music, including 94(!) operas, a tremendous amount of church music (including passions, oratorios, sacred cantatas, canticles, hymns, psalms and 8 masses), over 50 instrumental works (including 9 string quartets and 8 concerti for keyboard), 20 secular cantatas, and a huge number of stand-alone songs. Whoa. His operas, written in the direct, tuneful, so-called “Neapolitan Style”, were instrumental (pardon the pun) in creating the newfangled comic opera (opera buffa) style that was embraced by audiences across Europe during the Enlightenment. Most important, at least to my mind, is that Paisiello’s over 80 comic operas had a decisive influence on one Wolfgang Mozart, who went on to elevate the erstwhile popular genre of opera buffa to the level of highest art. Paisiello’s single most popular opera was The Barber of Seville or The Futile Precaution, composed in 1782 while he was living in St. Petersburg and working […]

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