Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for YouTube

Music History Monday: The Wagner Conundrum

May 22 is a day so rich in music history that choosing a particular event to write about might seem to be a challenge. For example, May 22, 1790 saw the first performance of Mozart’s String Quartets in D, K. 575 and B-flat, K. 589 (the first two of the three so-called “Prussian Quartets”) at his flat in Vienna. May 22, 1874 saw the first performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s in-all-ways extraordinary Requiem, conducted by Verdi himself at the Church of San Marco in Milan. Four years ago today – on May 22, 2013 – the marvelous French composer Henri Dutilleux died in Paris at the age of 97. (All sentient creatures should at very least know and covet Dutilleux’s Cello Concerto, entitled Tout un monde lointain… [A whole distant world…], completed in 1970 for Mstislav Rostropovich.) But frankly, these events pale in comparison with the BIG event of May 22, and that was the birth in Leipzig on May 22, 1813 – 204 years ago today – of Richard Wagner. Wagner died at the age of 69 on February 13, 1883: 134 years ago. And yet he and his work continue to inspire a level of debate, adulation and rancor that […]

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Invasive Species Premiere Performance

For your viewing and listening pleasure I offer up the premiere performance of Invasive Species for piano quintet, performed by the incomparable Roger Woodward and the Alexander String Quartet in Berkeley, CA in March of 2014. (For a studio recording of the piece, score and parts, please visit Sheet Music Plus) Here’s the program note for Invasive Species: Three-Part Intention March of the Yellow Crazy Ants One-Part Incursion Pretty Pretty Poison Two-Part Ignition E. globulus (10-20-1991) The title Invasive Species refers to non-native species of plants and animals that, once introduced to a new environment, have an adverse affect on the habitats and bioregions they invade and colonize. Specifically this piece is about three “invasive species” portrayed in alternating movements: yellow crazy ants (“March of the Yellow Crazy Ants”), water hyacinths (“Pretty Pretty Poison), and gum eucalyptus (“E. globulus”). Generally, the piece is about confrontations between like and unlike elements, as most obviously depicted by the confrontation between the piano and the string quartet. The yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) most likely originated in West Africa. Accidentally introduced to northern Australia, it has devastated the local ecology. The ant is called “crazy” because of its unpredictable movements and its long […]

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Shostakovich — His Life and Music Playlist

Enjoy five excerpts from the “Great Masters: Shostakovich — His Life and Music” course in a new playlist on the Robert Greenberg YouTube Channel. Lecture highlights in the playlist: Shostakovich — His Life and Music: An Introduction Lady Macbeth The Fifth Symphony The Tenth Symphony The Eighth String Quartet Buy the Course More Great Courses Discover the extraordinary life, times, and art of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975), great musical master and flawed but faithful witness to the survival of the human spirit under totalitarianism. He is without a doubt one of the absolutely central composers of the 20th century. His symphonies and string quartets are mainstays of the repertoire. But Shostakovich is also a figure whose story raises challenging and exciting issues that go far beyond music: They touch on questions of conscience, of the moral role of the artist, of the plight of humanity in the face of total war and mass oppression, and of the inner life of history’s bloodiest century.

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