Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Vienna

Travel to Austria with Robert Greenberg for Great Music Masters of Vienna

Wondrium Journeys by The Great Courses has announced “Great Music Masters of Vienna” with Robert Greenberg — A 7 day, 6 night trip to Austria! During the 200th anniversary of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiere, we’ll explore the legacy of the city’s music masters. Follow the footsteps of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert to the homes where they composed, the palaces where they performed, and the cafés and shops they frequented. Through private tours and concerts and an excursion to Baden bie Wien, delve deep into the circumstances and personalities that shaped their incomparable bodies of work. During the 18th and 19th century, Europe’s promising young musicians flocked to Vienna, producing and performing what would become the masterpieces of the Classical period. From Mozart’s The Magic Flute to Schubert’s Ave Maria, the spirit of the music created during these years permeates the lively streets of Vienna still. Trip Highlights

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Music History Monday: “Ma: I got the Job!”

On October 8, 1897 – 121 years ago today – Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Dual Monarchy of Austria and Hungary officially named Gustav Mahler Director of the Vienna Court Opera.  For the 37 year-old Mahler, it was the culminating moment in what had been (and sadly, what would continue to be) a very difficult life. He was born on July 7, 1860 in the village of Kalischt, in central Bohemia, in what was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is today part of the Czech Republic. Mahler’s was a lower middle class Jewish family; they spoke German and were thus a double-minority among their predominately Catholic, Czech-speaking neighbors.  Mahler grew up abnormally sensitive and morbidly imaginative; a constant witness to his father’s brutality and his mother’s helplessness. According to Henry Raynor:  “All the Mahler children were incapable of facing reality and suffered from a sense of inevitable tragedy.”  Young Gustav’s sense of morbid tragedy was also a function of the disastrous mortality rate of his siblings. Of the fourteen Mahler children, seven died in infancy and only four (including Gustav) lived into full adulthood. Mahler’s musical talent was prodigious. He attended the Vienna Conservatory from 1876 to […]

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Music History Mondays: Mozart – A Diagnosis

December 5 is an important date in music history. On December 5, 1830 (which was a Sunday) Hector Berlioz’ ground-breaking Symphonie Fantastique received its premiere at a concert that began at 2 P.M. at the Paris Conservatoire, then located on the Rue Bergère – what today is called the Rue de Conservatoire – in the 9th arrondissement. Tuesday, December 5, 1865 saw the public premiere of Johannes Brahms’ crazy-awesome Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 40, in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe, with the 32 year-old Brahms at the piano. The Barry Tuckwell, Itzhak Perlman, and Vladimir Ashkenazy recording on London affords more pleasure than any of us have a right to experience. Acquire it. Now. It gets no better. But these and other events pale to insignificance next to what happened on Monday, December 5, 1791 in Vienna. It was then and there – at 55 minutes past midnight – that Wolfgang Mozart died in the music room of his first story (what we in the U.S.A. call the second story) flat, located in a house called “das kleine Kaiserhaus” (“the small imperial house’) at Rauhensteingasse 8 in central Vienna. Mozart was 35 years, […]

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Reporting from Home — Vienna Wrap Up

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost two weeks since we returned from our trip to Vienna, but there you go, time flies when you’re putting things away, doing laundry, and paying bills. I have always advocated – vainly – that we should all have the opportunity to “take a vacation from a vacation” by doing nothing for the first three or four days after returning home, the better to ease ourselves back into real life. I know: I don’t feel sorry for me either. Vienna is one of those wonderful places where the longer you stay, the more there is to do. If we didn’t have kids and jobs to come home to, and if my Visa card had not been whimpering and gagging and begging for mercy, we might have tried to stay a few more days. (Yes: Vienna is expensive; very expensive; extremely expensive. I began referring to our trip as our “moneymoon”; as a “paycation.” The price of paradise, I suppose.) So here’s a rundown on a couple of events that brought our trip to its conclusion. On our last day in Vienna, I stayed in the hotel room finishing up my previous post on Haydn’s […]

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Reporting from Vienna — The Haydn House

For my two Euros, the best monument to a composer in Vienna is – by far – the house in which Joseph Haydn lived during the last twelve years of his life, from 1797 to 1809. Here’s the story: Between 1791 and 1795, Joseph Haydn twice visited England. The first of Haydn’s most excellent English adventures took place between January of 1791 and June of 1792, and the second one between January of 1794 and August of 1795. These trips cemented Haydn’s reputation as the world’s most famous and popular living composer and made him – as composers go – a rich man. It was thanks to the money Haydn earned during his first English adventure that he was able to do something that neither Antonio Vivaldi (who died in Vienna in 1741) nor Wolfgang Mozart (who died in Vienna in 1791), nor Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, nor Mahler (who died in Vienna in, respectively, 1827, 1828, 1897, and 1911) ever managed to do: Haydn bought his very own house in Vienna. It was a one-story house on Kleine Steingasse in the Viennese suburb of Obere Windmūhl. It had been spotted by Haydn’s wife Maria Anna while he was away in […]

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Reporting from Vienna — Mozart Madness!

UPDATE New Mozart In Vienna Webcourse! The extraordinary Joseph Haydn was born in the Austrian town of Rohrau on March 31, 1732. At the age of eight he moved to Vienna, where he became a chorister at St. Stephens Cathedral. He remained in Vienna, on and off, for the remainder of his long life, dying here on May 31, 1809. The amazing Ludwig (“my friends call me Louis”) van Beethoven moved to Vienna in November of 1792 a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday. He remained a resident of the city until his death 34½ years later, dying during an early spring snowstorm on March 26, 1827. The incredible Franz Schubert was born in Vienna on January 31, 1797 and died here on November 19, 1828. The quintessentially Viennese composer, the “waltz-king” Johann Strauss, Jr. was born just outside of Vienna on October 25, 1825 and died here on June 3, 1899. The spectacular Johannes Brahms settled in Vienna at the age of 30 in 1863 and remained here until his death 34 years later on April 3, 1897. The stunning Gustav Mahler studied at the Vienna Conservatory, directed the Vienna Imperial opera for ten years – from 1897 […]

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Reporting from Vienna — Beethoven Sightings

Proud as I am to be a 36-year resident of Northern California, and proud as I am that all four of my children were born there, I myself grew in the ironically named “Garden State” of New Jersey. This bears mentioning (for the second time in two posts, no less) because one cannot urinate in north, central or south Jersey without hitting a historical marker that says “George Washington Slept Here”. A little Revolutionary history: On June 14, 1775, George Washington was appointed General and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army by the Second Continental Congress. It was the wisest of appointments, because only Washington’s extraordinary leadership and generalship managed to preserve the army during the first 30 months of the War. In July of 1776 the English General William Howe landed some 25,000 troops in Staten Island, New York. Outnumbered and outgunned, Washington and the Continentals executed what accounted to a fighting withdrawal from Long Island to Brooklyn to Manhattan and then across the Hudson River to Fort Lee New Jersey (where my father lives today, about a half-a-mile from the Revolution-era fort overlooking the Hudson River). From Fort Lee, Washington and his army traipsed southwest across New Jersey, withdrawing […]

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Greetings from Vienna!

Along with mass consumption of Viennese coffee, strudel, and schnitzel, our pilgrimages have begun. Today we visited he house in which Franz Schubert was born on January 31, 1797 at Nußdorfer Straße 54. To call the house “modest” is a bit of an understatement; at the time of Schubert’s birth its 16 apartments housed some 70 people, making the tract house in which I grew up in South Jersey seem like a palace by comparison. The Schubert apartment – on the upper right-hand side of the second floor (see photo below) – consisted of two rooms: a small kitchen and a single living room, in which the Schubert family managed to live, sleep, make music, reproduce, etc. The family moved to larger digs when Franz was a few years old. Schubert was born in the kitchen, next to the fireplace/stove. For a January birth it was the warmest spot in the apartment and thus the location. One of the photos below shows me crouching at pretty much the exact spot Schubert was born. Also pictured below (and on display in the apartment): a pair of Schubert’s glasses (looking, to my untrained eye, very much like bifocals). He was severely near-sighted […]

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