Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Music History Monday: Mozart in Prague

We mark the premiere on September 6, 1791 – 230 years ago today – of Wolfgang Mozart’s final opera La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency [or Mercy] of Titus), K. 621. Commissioned by the Prague-based opera producer and impresario Domenico Guardasoni (circa 1731-1806), the opera received its premiere at Prague’s Estates Theater, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni had been premiered as well in October 1787. (Put a visit to Prague’s Estates Theater on your bucket list; it’s the last surviving theater in which Mozart himself performed.)  We will get into the particulars of La Clemenza di Tito in tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post. For the remainder of today’s Music History Monday, we’re going to explore the special relationship Mozart had with the audience in Prague, and why he might have lived a long and fruitful life had he chosen to leave Vienna and relocate to Prague. The city of Prague is the historic capital of the region of Bohemia and today the capitol of the Czech Republic. It’s beauty, history, and sheer magic (I know of no better word) are stunning. It is my experience that like Paris and Venice, Prague never fails to exceed expectations. Relatively untouched by World War Two (physically, at […]

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Music History Monday: Franz Xaver Mozart and the Grandmother of All Shadows

Let us wish a happy birthday to three notable musicians, the third of whom will be the topic of today’s post. On July 26, 1785 – 236 years ago today – the composer, pianist, and teacher John Field was born in Dublin. His Nocturnes for piano powerfully influenced those of Frédéric Chopin. Field died far from home, in Moscow, on January 23, 1837, at the age of 51. We mark the birth on July 26, 1874 – 147 years ago today – of the conductor and double-bass player Serge Koussevitzky in the Russian city of Vishny Volotchok. He served as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949 and was a tireless champion of contemporary music. He founded the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts in 1937 and created the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in 1942. He died at the age of 76 in New York City on June 4, 1951. Okay: here we go. We mark the birth on July 26, 1791 – 230 years ago today – of the composer, pianist, conductor and teacher Franz Xaver Mozart, in Vienna. He died in Karlsbad, Austria at the age of 53, on July 29, 1844. He also went […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Mozart, Symphony in C major, “Jupiter”, K. 551

Nicknames. We turn to that paragon of informational accuracy, Wikipedia, for the following definition of the word “nickname”: “A nickname is a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place or thing. Commonly used to express affection, it is a form of endearment and amusement. In rarer cases, it can also be used to express defamation of character, particularly by school bullies [or certain Presidents of the United States]. As a concept, it is distinct from both pseudonym and stage name, and also from a title (for example, ‘City of Fountains’), although there may be overlap in these concepts. A hypocoristic is a nickname of affection between those in love or with a close emotional bond. ‘Moniker’ is a synonym.” Most nicknames assigned to people are harmless (although whoever thought up “Dick” as a nickname for “Richard” clearly did not anticipate today’s colloquial usage). The majority of nicknames would seem to be first-syllable versions of a proper name: Dan, Lil, Steve, Liz, Sam, Dave, Joe, Ben, Di, Mike, Deb, Irv, Pete, Fred, Lou, Walt, and so forth. Some such nicknames are unisexual: Sal, Pat and Chris, for example. Other nicknames are rather more distantly related to the name they nick: […]

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Music History Monday: The One Who Doesn’t Want Me Can Lick My [expletive deleted]

We note the death on June 8, 1839 – 181 years ago today – of the German soprano Aloysia Weber Lange. Don’t know who she is? You will soon enough. Our story begins in March of 1777, in the city of Salzburg, in the spacious 8-room apartment at No. 8 Markartplatz that the Mozart family called home. It was there and then that it was decided that Salzburg was no place for someone as talented as the 21 year-old Wolfgang, and that a job commensurate with his great talents could only be found in that greatest of cities: Paris. On March 14, 1777, Mozart’s father Leopold petitioned the Prince of Salzburg – Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo (1732-1812) – for permission to take Wolfgang “on tour” to Paris. Such leaves-of-absence had never been a problem in the past, as young Mozart’s European tours had brought tremendous prestige to his hometown of Salzburg. But it was a problem now; the archbishop had had enough of his Kapellmeister (Leopold) gallivanting around Europe with his snotty little son. The archbishop turned down the petition and threatened Leopold with dismissal. Wolfgang, likewise threatened, quit his job as concertmaster of the court orchestra before he could be […]

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Music History Monday: A Day That Can Mean Only One Thing!

We mark the birth on January 27, 1756 – 264 years ago today – of Wolfgang Mozart.  There are certain dates that are so universally recognized that once invoked they can mean only one thing for a majority of people living on this planet. For example. Did we all know that January 1 is, among other things, Apple Gifting Day? It is also Bonza Bottler Day, Copyright Law Day, Ellis Island Day, Global Family Day, National Bloody Mary Day, and Public Domain Day. Did we all know that? And really, do any of us care? Because January 1 is New Year’s Day and every other observance shrinks to insignificance by comparison (excepting, perhaps, “National Bloody Mary Day”). Despite the fact that December 25 is Constitution Day in Taiwan and National Pumpkin Pie Day in the United States, the mention of that date can mean only one thing in much of the world: Christmas Day. May 1 is, in the northern hemisphere, May Day: a traditional celebration of spring. Planet wide, it is International Workers’ Day.  Since at least the fourteenth century, April 1 has been “international prank day”: April Fool’s Day. From its beginnings as a Celtic harvest festival, Halloween […]

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Music History Monday: Leopold Mozart

On this day in 1787 – 231 years ago – Leopold Mozart, the father of Wolfgang Mozart, died in Salzburg at the age of 67. For all of his talents as a violinist, violin teacher, conductor and composer, history would have forgotten Johann Georg Leopold Mozart almost entirely had he not fathered and trained one of the greatest members of our species ever to have lived, his son Wolfgang. Leopold Mozart gave his son what was – very possibly – the greatest music education ever given anyone, for which posterity must be grateful. But more than just his son’s teacher, Leopold became his Dr. Frankenstein, his creator: Wolfgang’s ghost-writer, concert producer, travel agent, booking agent, public relations huckster, investment councilor, valet, and, in the end, oppressive tyrant. In the process, Leopold crafted one of the most troubling parent-child relationships since Oedipus and his mother Jocasta. In the long history of excessive parenting, of tiger mamas and tennis fathers, Leopold Mozart must be considered among the very greatest of the type. The History He was born on November 19, 1719 into a family of artisans that had for generations lived in the city of Augsburg, in southern Germany. Young Leopold was […]

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Music History Monday: One Talented Kid

As is sometimes the case, the lack of notable musical events on our “appointed” date (in today’s case, April 10) requires that we shimmy forward (or back) a day for relevant material; thus: On April 11, 1770 – 247 years ago tomorrow – a choral performance took place in Rome that was the source of one of the most famous stories in the entire history of Western music. Here’s the story. On December 13, 1769, the then 13 year-old Wolfgang Mozart and his father left their hometown of Salzburg for what would be the first of three extended tours of Italy. Working their way south, they arrived in Rome on Wednesday, April 11, 1770, four days before Easter. They were just in time to hear the Papal Choir perform Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel. Allegri’s Miserere is a setting of Psalm 51, which consists of 20 lines. Here are its first three: Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences. Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin. Allegri (1582-1652) composed his Miserere sometime in the late 1630s, during the reign […]

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