Cover image for Pied Piper : the many lives of Noah Greenberg
Pied Piper : the many lives of Noah Greenberg
Gollin, James.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Hillsdale, NY : Pendragon Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 427 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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Corporate Subject:
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Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
ML422.G73 G65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Noah Greenberg's life story reads like a gritty Jack London or Theodore Dreiser romance set against the backdrop of New York's political and cultural scene. Born and raised in the Bronx, the child of immigrant parents, Greenberg had no education beyond high school and absolutely no formal musical training. Yet, in the 1950s, he rose to musical celebrity as co-founder and director of the legendary New York Pro Musica and became the driving force behind the American early-music revival. Growing up in the Depression, Greenberg devoted himself to radical socialism and labor activism. In World War II, he worked in the California shipyards and spent six years in the Merchant Marine. Music always mattered, but the turning point in his life was the 1950 Prades Festival, from which he came away convinced that he must make his career in music. He put together an ensemble of engaging young singers and instrumentalists, featuring the astonishing countertenor voice of Russell Oberlin. By the mid-fifties, lively, expressive interpretations of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque works had won Greenberg and the Pro Musica national acclaim. In 1958, their presentation of the medieval liturgical drama The Play of Daniel made them internationally famous. At the height of his and Pro Musica's success, Noah Greenberg died suddenly in New York at the age of 47. In Pied Piper, James Gollin tells the story of Greenberg's tragically short life, placed in the rich context of America's rise to postwar cultural prominence. James Gollin, author of four books and many articles for New York Magazine, Fortune, The Nation, and The New York Times, has created entertainments featuring a fictional early music group, The Antiqua Players. Winner of the Deems Taylor Award for 2002 given by ASCAP.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This is the first major biography of the founder of the New York Pro Musica and a major figure in the revival of early music. Although other authors have noted Greenberg's contributions to that field (e.g., the brief chapter in Joel Cohen and Herb Snitzer's Reprise, 1985), Gollin provides much greater depth. This work traces Greenberg's life from his childhood, through his activities with the Socialist Workers Party, wartime and postwar service in the Merchant Marine, to the point where he became one of the foremost figures in early music. Greenberg's founding and management of the New York Pro Musica are excellently addressed, but the discussion of musical elements (sources, style, repertoire, etc.) is somewhat less detailed. Gollin also devotes some attention to Greenberg's links with other early music pioneers. He gleaned much of his information through extant correspondence, archival documents, and interviews of family, friends, and associates (including NYPM members Russell Oberlin et al.). A helpful source for those interested in the New York City political and/or cultural scene in the mid-20th century. D. Heuchemer Kenyon College