Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Schumann

Further adventures in Paradise

Last week I wrote about the Apollo Academy, a wonderful four-day retreat at a facility called “Ratna Ling” located in the coastal mountains of Northern California’s Sonoma County. The Academy – the brainchild of a surgeon and cellist named Bill Moores – focuses on “mind/body synchronization that enhances mental and physical health. Optional sessions include immersion in the natural environment, poetry-writing, yoga, and the role of seasonal foods.” Yes, lovely and all very well-and-good, though the heart and soul of the Academy is chamber music. Open to performers and non-musician auditors alike, this year’s program was entitled “String Quartet Masterpieces of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.” These quartet masterworks were performed by the Alexander String Quartet with yours truly acting as host and lecturer.   Here’s how our concert-presentations worked: Each of our three sessions was delivered in two parts: for an hour before dinner (4:30pm-5:30pm) and hour-and-a-half after dinner (6:30pm-8:00pm). On day one (September 6), we presented a program entitled “The Mendelssohn Conundrum”, during which I discussed and the ASQ performed Mendelssohn’s String Quartets in A Minor, Op. 13 (of 1827); F Minor, Op. 80 (of 1847) and excerpts from his String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44 (of 1837).   […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes

Welcome to my new series, “Dr. Bob Prescribes”, in which I will “prescribe” recordings, books, events, videos, websites, etc. on a weekly basis, with the intention of improving our musical health and thus raising our spirits and making happier our souls. In conversation with my Patreon patrons Jane Varkonyi and Frank Schmidt, I recommended Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F Minor as one of those works that, should we find ourselves stranded on that proverbial desert island, we would have to have for company. I would take the conversation a step further and recommend my numero uno favorite recording of not just the Brahms but Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat, which qualifies as another of my desert island works. (FYI, my desert island will require a large library, an air-conditioned listening room, a great hi-fi rig, and a well-stocked fridge and bar, because I have a lot of desert island works!) My absolutely favorite recording of both the Schumann and Brahms Piano Quintets is: 🤐🤐🤐🤐. Dang, but I hate being a tease! But for the remainder of this post – which names and describes my favorite recording and offers up as well both pertinent and anecdotal information about these extraordinary […]

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Schumann’s Kinderscenen, Op. 15, No. 7 — Träumerei

I’ve spent the last week editing the piano excerpts that will illustrate my upcoming The Great Courses survey, “The 23 Greatest Solo Works”. In honor of that poorly entitled and numerically challenged course (which will be available in early October), I offer up a brief piano masterwork, one with a story a mile long: Robert Schumann’s Kinderscenen, Op. 15, No. 7 (1838), a piece better known as Träumerei. In 1945, Schumann’s Träumerei – which means “Dreaming” – was selected by some forgotten apparatchik at Radio Moscow to be played in the background during a moment of silence at 6:55 pm on May 8, 1945, in memory of the victims of the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany. Whoever that Radio Moscow functionary was, he has gained a measure of immortality for what was an inspired choice. Schumann’s work evokes a mood of aching melancholy, loss, and nostalgia, a mood very different from that evoked by the military or funeral music that might well have been chosen. Schumann’s Träumerei was immediately embraced by the Soviet people, who felt in its sweetness and longing not just their own grief but a healing sense of peace as well. Träumerei became the go-to piece […]

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