Robert Greenberg (composer)

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Robert Greenberg
Born (1954-04-18) April 18, 1954 (age 63)
Brooklyn, New York
Genres Classical, Contemporary classical
Occupation(s) Composer
Instruments piano
Labels Innova Recordings

Robert M. Greenberg (born April 18, 1954[1]), is an American composer, pianist, and musicologist who was born in Brooklyn, New York. He has composed more than 50 works for a variety of instruments and voices, and has recorded a number of lecture series on music history and music appreciation for The Great Courses.


Greenberg earned a B.A. in music, magna cum laude, from Princeton University and received a Ph.D. in music composition, from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied with Olly Wilson.[2] He has served on the faculties of UC Berkeley, California State University, East Bay, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he was chairman of the Department of Music History and Literature and Director of the Adult Extension Division. Dr. Greenberg is currently Music Historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances.

He has received numerous awards, including three Nicola De Lorenzo Prizes[3] in composition, and three Meet the Composer grants. Additionally, he has received commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation[4] of the Library of Congress, the Alexander String Quartet, XTET, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

A number of his works have been performed across the globe in locations such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and The Netherlands. His music was published by the now defunct[5] Fallen Leaf Press and CPP/Belwin (now part of Alfred Publishing Company[6]) and is recorded on the Innova Recordings label.[7]

Greenberg has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, and is the resident composer and music historian for National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered. He is also the Music Historian in Residence at San Francisco Performances, and hosts their "Saturday Morning Series" (a lecture combined with performances) with the Alexander String Quartet.

Greenberg has recorded a number of lecture series for The Great Courses on music history and the appreciation of music. He often relates the musical topics to other areas such as history, politics as well as to other music from different periods. Referring to Greenberg's lively style and sense of humor, the Bangor Daily News has described him as "the Elvis of music history and appreciation."[8]

He is an artistic adviser at Composers, Inc.[9]

Selected compositions[edit]

A complete list of compositions is given on the composer's official web site.[10] Selected compositions and notes are given below:

  • Breaths, Voices and Cadenze (1981) String quartet #1[11][12]
  • By various means (1983) for clarinet quartet[13]
    • Passacaglia
    • Theme and variations
    • Chaconne
  • Quasi un madrigale (1985) four Italian songs for soprano and piano[14]
    • Il palatino / Aldo Palazzeschi
    • Poesia d'amore / Salvatore Quasímodo
    • La trombettina / Corrado Govoni
    • Quasi un madrigale / Salvatore Quasímodo
  • Child's Play (1988) String quartet #2[7][15][16][17] "...which captures the imaginative and playful energy of his daughter Rachel (then two years old)."[11]
    • I. Games (fast) 8:06
    • II. Intermezzo: Dreams of Gold (Sogni d'oro) (slow) 5:35
    • III. Dances (very fast) 6:51
  • The Passing Years (1989) five songs for baritone and piano[18]
    • God gave me
    • East Broadway
    • The passing years
    • Rabbi Elimelech
    • At my wedding
  • It Don’t Mean a Thing (1990) for percussion sextet "...combines the sounds and style of Japanese Taiko drumming with the rhythmic swing of Duke Ellington."[11][19]
  • In Shape (1990) concerto in three movements for two pianos and marimba[11][20][21]
    • Wedge
    • Labyrinth
    • Spike
  • Dude ‘Tudes (1991) for solo piano "...attempts to transfer into sound some of the many moods and activities of his 22-month-old son Samuel."[11][22]
    • I. Orneriness/Contrary motion
    • II. Building blocks/Chords 'n' stuff
    • III. Dreams of play/Trills and tremolos
    • IV. Dancin' fool/Quarter-minute waltz
    • V. Angel's hair/Legato
    • VI. Cruisin' with the dude/Octaves-R-Us.
  • Iron balconies and lilies (1992) for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, violoncello, soprano, and piano[23][24]
    • Prelude: A city by the sea / Anna Margolin
    • Youth: Hay mowing / Moyshe Kulbak; When Grandma, may she rest in peace, died / Moyshe Kulbak
    • Love songs: Longing / Rachel Korn; Ancient murdress night / Anna Margolin
    • Children: If I had the Emperor's might, Lullaby / Traditional Folk song; Toys / Abraham Sutskever
    • Age: Old age / Jacob Gladstein; Rest / Jacob Isaac segal
  • On Trial (1994) concerto for solo vibraphone, flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, violin, viola, and violoncello[25][26]
  • Among Friends (1995) String quartet #3.[27] Commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation[4]
  • Funny Like a Monkey (2001) for piano quartet (string trio PLUS piano)[28] "...coined by my 15-year-old daughter in order to address ... attempts at humor by both her younger brother and her hopelessly antiquated father."[11]
    • I. Knock Yourself Out[29]
    • II. Flutterby [30]
    • III. Morph (with apologies to J. B.)[31]


  1. ^ "Robert Greenberg". Classical Composer Database. 
  2. ^ Understanding the Fundamentals of Music. 2. Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses. 2007. pp. i. ISBN 1-59803-287-9. 
  3. ^ "Nicola De Lorenzo Prizes in Music Composition". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2010-11-27. . Although the prize was established in 1958, unfortunately this page only list winners 1997 to 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Alexander String Quartet (Chamber Instrumental Ensemble)". Among the most recently permièred are ... Among Friends, a Koussevitzky commission by Robert Greenberg. 
  5. ^ "Fallen Leaf Press". 
  6. ^ "Directory of Music Publishers: CPP/Belwin Music". 
  7. ^ a b "Alexander String Quartet, Sur Pointe, Innova 111, Tracks 1-3 Child's Play".  Now available as a for-pay download.
  8. ^ "Flyer for Alexander String Quartet concert" (PDF). In 2003, the Bangor (Maine) Daily News referred to Greenberg as "the Elvis of music history and appreciation," an appraisal that has given him more pleasure than any other. 
  9. ^ "Artistic Advisors: Robert Greenberg". 
  10. ^ "Robert Greenberg Works List". Robert Greenberg Music. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "San Francisco Contemporary Music Players: Program Notes, World Premiere February 18, 2002" (PDF). 
  12. ^ "WorldCat: Breaths, voices, and cadenze : for string quartet pub 1982". 
  13. ^ "WorldCat: By various means : for clarinet quartet". 
  14. ^ "WorldCat: Quasi un madrigale : four Italian songs : for soprano and piano". 
  15. ^ "WorldCat: Child's play : for string quartet". 
  16. ^ "Robert Greenberg Lecture – Philip Glass". ...his Child's Play for String Quartet was performed at the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. 
  17. ^ "Alexander String Quartet: Sur Pointe, back cover of CD". Innova Recordings. 
  18. ^ "WorldCat: The Passing Years: five songs for baritone and piano (1989?)". 
  19. ^ "WorldCat: It don't mean a thing : an original percussion sextet based on Taiko drumming, 1990". 
  20. ^ "WorldCat: In shape : concerto in three movements for two pianos and marimba pub 1991". 
  21. ^ "WorldCat: In shape : concerto in three movements for two pianos and marimba pub 1991". 
  22. ^ "WorldCat: Dude 'tudes : for piano pub. 1995". 
  23. ^ "WorldCat: Iron balconies and lilies : for soprano, piano, and chamber ensemble : 1992". 
  24. ^ "WorldCat: Iron balconies and lilies : for soprano, piano, and chamber ensemble". 
  25. ^ "WorldCat: On trial : concerto for vibraphone and chamber ensemble". 
  26. ^ "WorldCat: On trial : concerto for vibraphone and chamber ensemble (1994)". 
  27. ^ "WorldCat: Among friends : string quartet no. 3 (1995)". For the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, and dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky 
  28. ^ "San Francisco Contemporary Music Players: Complete Repertoire List" (PDF). 
  29. ^ Funny Like a Monkey, Mvt 1 – Knock Yourself Out, Composers, Inc. at Old First Concerts, 2/1/2011, Joseph Edelberg, violin; Carolin Lee, viola; Thalia Moore, cello; Hadley McCarroll, piano on YouTube
  30. ^ Funny Like a Monkey, Mvt 2 – Flutterby, Composers, Inc. at Old First Concerts, 2/1/2011, Joseph Edelberg, violin; Carolin Lee, viola; Thalia Moore, cello; Hadley McCarroll, piano on YouTube
  31. ^ Funny Like a Monkey, Mvt 3 – Morph (with apologies to J.B.), Composers, Inc. at Old First Concerts, 2/1/2011, Joseph Edelberg, violin; Carolin Lee, viola; Thalia Moore, cello; Hadley McCarroll, piano on YouTube

External links[edit]