Examining An Earlier "Pied Piper".

Another populariser of Early Music who died just before Munrow set up his Early Music Consort was Noah Greenberg. However, the former though is still regarded by many as the greatest  populariser of Medieval, and Renaissance Music. But Noah Greenberg is certainly well worth knowing about as he played a vital role in Early Music...................

(Ref liberensemble.com)

Section I

Pied Piper:
The Many Lives of
Noah Greenberg
James Gollin
(Pendragon Press
Hillsdale NY 2001)

Our Reviewer at Work                                              (ref ralphmag.org)

In 1928, Max Schachtman and a number of other comrades were expelled from the US Communist Party for heresy: they had been guilty of reading articles by Leon Trotsky, and of raising questions about the increasingly arbitrary rule of General Secretary Stalin.

The group came to be called "Trotskyists" but some --- Schachtman especially --- went much further than Trotsky in applying Marxist analysis to the USSR itself, and in asserting that socialism was incompatible with police state practices. Schachtman became an influential figure in democratic socialist circles in the USA. He was also famous for demolishing CP spokesmen in debates, an exercise that became easier, through the 30s and 40s, as the Communist line became more and more palpably absurd, as well as self-contradictory.
Schachtman's associates and disciples included such writers as Dwight MacDonald, Irving Howe, James T. Farrell, Harvey Swados, and Michael Harrington. They also included a young New York activist, who was a self-taught musician, named Noah Greenberg.

Noah proselytized for Schachtman's socialist organization while working as a machinist and, during the war, as a merchant seaman. He continued to work in the merchant marine after the war, reaching the exalted rank of third refrigerator engineer on a banana boat, and took part in National Maritime Union politics.

But all the while, his private passion was music. When not shipping out, he did odd musical jobs as a copyist, as an occasional piano teacher, and, most importantly, as a choral conductor. At various times Noah conducted choral groups of Locals 22, 91, and 135 of the ILGWU, thus combining unionism with music. He also conducted amateur groups, and, in the late 40s-early 50s he developed an intense interest in early music. Somehow, out of this melange of semi-professional work, Noah organized a little group to sing and play Renaissance music. After casting around a bit for a name, they hit on one with a nice ring to it: "The New York Pro Musica".
The NYPM was blessed with terrific musicians and in Noah it had a combination conductor, musicologist, manager, and promoter of great musicianship and superhuman energy. Their local concerts (originally at the 92nd St. YMHA) went from strength to strength; their production of the medieval Play of Daniel at the Cloisters became a New York institution; and within a few years their concert tours and recordings catalyzed a phenomenal revival of early music. By the mid-sixties there seemed to be, as one of the NYPM members put it, little Pro Musicas on every campus in the US. The group toured in Europe as well, where their influence added to an early music revival that was already under way.

James Gollin tells this exhilarating story well enough, although the book could have used better editing. It is good at recreating the excitement of the NYPM's early days, and at explaining the sheer effort that went into making it a success. The group's musical quality was necessary but not sufficient for that success, which depended critically on Noah's formidable abilities to organize, promote, network, schmooz, and raise money. In the end, he paid for his frantic schedule with a fatal heart attack at age forty-six. Nothing costs nothing.

The conjunction of Left politics, the shop floor, banana boats, and the Early Music revival tickles one's sensibility; they have, I think, deeper connections than the author himself realizes. Schachtman's group, which by the 50s had become the Independent Socialist League, was both independent-minded and intellectually rigorous, rather in the spirit of Karl Marx himself in the previous century. When class analysis made plain that a new exploiting class was expropriating the fruits of labour in the USSR, well ... this had to be faced. Unlike the morass of propaganda and sentimentalism in which the conventional, pro-Stalinist Left wallowed, the Schachtmanites believed in telling it like it is. Likewise, authenticity was Greenberg's lodestone in performing old music: he aimed to play it like it was.

By the way, a Marxist analysis of the Soviet Union is still invaluable for explaining what happened there, and in the societies which have replaced it. As for the Greenbergism --- well, this year just try to count the number of concerts that were performed, CDs that were released, or amateur groups that met to play music from Medieval to Renaissance to early Baroque. And while you are at it, pass me down my krummhorn.

Our Reviewer at Play 
I have loved the sound of those Renaissance wind instruments (or "buzzies" in early music jargon) since I first heard them in NYPM recordings. A few years ago, I finally took up one of them myself --- actually a rauschpfeife, which is a straight krummhorn. To hear me play it is to know why the instrument went extinct.

The story carries a bittersweet implication about what Left politics in the US came to in the end. Maybe Mike Harrington's book The Other America had a small effect on the domestic programs espoused by the Democratic Party in the early 60s. Otherwise, the Schachtmanites all together had about as much influence on the politics of this planet as they did on the orbit of Ganymede. I remember who Max Schachtman was, and now you do, but that is about it.

In the introduction to "Pied Piper," Gollin quotes Jesse Simon, a veteran of the old days as follows:

I knew dozens of the people who were around in those days --- politicals, labor people, intellectuals. We were all going to make the world a better place. But the only one who really left the world a better place than he found it was Noah, with his music.

--- Dr. Phage

Noah Greenberg was that rarest of human beings, an artiste without self-regard. However he may crave immediate success, a composer or a playwright knows that, if his work is any good, it is irreplaceable and will continue to be played after he is dead. A conductor or a singer or an actor, on the other hand, knows that, however good he may be, he is necessarily replaceable simply because he is mortal; if he does not succeed in his lifetime, he has failed. The temptation for an artiste, therefore, to draw attention to himself by mannerisms and “personal interpretations,” to conform to popular taste rather than risk a flop, is so great that only the strongest character can resist it. Noah Greenberg did.
Moreover, in no field are the pressures so great as in the field of music. However psychologists may explain it, the musical taste of the average man is more conservative than his taste in any of the other arts. Whereas most people like to see a play they have never seen before, few feel well-disposed towards a piece, still fewer towards a style, of music they have never heard before. Hence the extraordinary narrowness of the standard concert repertory. To devote one’s musical career, as Noah Greenberg did, to works outside this repertory, calls for faith and courage of the highest order.
When he first formed the Pro Musica Antiqua, I must confess I was skeptical. How on earth, I wondered, is he going to persuade anybody except a few cranks to listen to Medieval and Baroque music? Am I even going to enjoy it myself? As we all know, he did succeed, and premature as his death was, he died knowing that his company had become an indispensable element in the musical life not only in the States but also in Europe.
His total absorption in the music he loved, without a thought of his own fame or reward, showed itself also in his relations to those he worked with. In my own dealings with him, for example, I found that, when it came to a matter of contracts, I had to be careful he didn’t cheat himself.
Professionally, it was a singular privilege for me to have been permitted to collaborate with him on several occasions; personally, I shall cherish his memory as long as I live.
—W. H. Auden

Ref The New York Review of Books.


Section II

Wikipedia Entry on Noah Greenberg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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For other people with the surname Goldberg, see Goldberg (surname).
Noah Greenberg (1919, Bronx – 8 January 1966, New York City) was an American choral conductor.[1]
In 1937, aged 18, Greenberg joined the Socialist Workers Party of Max Shachtman, and worked as a lathe operator and party activist. He lost work-related draft deferment in 1944 and joined the U.S. Merchant Marine till 1949. By this time he had lost interest in formal politics.[2]
Greenberg, although self-taught, had been conducting amateur choruses such as that of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, and by 1950 was known as a choral conductor. Greenberg founded New York Pro Musica in 1952, signing with Esoteric Records of Greenwich Village, and recorded the first of 28 LP albums over the next 14 years.
W. H. Auden wrote of him, in regard to his having successfully revived interest in medieval, renaissance and baroque music, "To devote one’s musical career, as Noah Greenberg did, to works outside (the standard concert) repertory, calls for faith and courage of the highest order."[3]
He died at University Hospital, Manhattan, after an apparent heart attack, on January 8, 1966.[4]

Select discography[edit]

  • New York Pro Musica: An Anthology of Their Greatest Works, Noah Greenberg, conductor. 7 record set. Everest Records (1966, Everest 3145/7)

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up ^ James Gollin, Pied Piper: The Many Lives of Noah Greenberg, Pendragon Press (2001), ISBN 1-57647-041-5
  2. Jump up ^ Terry Teachout: Noah Greenberg's Revolution (October 2001)
  3. Jump up ^ [1]
  4. Jump up ^ Noah Greenberg Is Dead at 46; Founded New York Pro Musica; Group Spurred a Revival of Pre-Classic Music — Mother Dies on Hearing News, New York Times, January 10, 1966 [2]

External links[edit]

New York Pro Musica / Noah Greenberg - A discography

Conception & research: Pierre-F. Roberge
For comments, additions and corrections mccomb@medieval.org (continuing this discography for PFR)
Last update: 07/04/2007
This is an "under construction" and for now a relatively complete discography of the New York Pro Musica Ensemble

The founding of the New York Pro Musica

(This account of the founding of the New York Pro Musica was written by James Gollin. Mr. Gollin's full-length biography of Noah Greenberg was published in March 2001.)
The New York Pro Musica was founded in late 1952 and incorporated in March 1953 as the New York Pro Musica Antiqua. Its co-founders were the choral director Noah Greenberg and the recorder player Bernard Krainis. Of special interest to discophiles is the fact that neither Greenberg nor Krainis had any intention of creating a concert ensemble. Rather, Pro Musica was a combination of Greenberg's Primavera Singers and Krainis's Saint Cecilia Players. Both groups had been formed solely to make recordings.
Noah Greenberg, born in 1919, had studied composition as a teenager and had developed a keen interest in early music under the tutelage of composer-choral conductor Harold Brown. Always devoted to music, starting in 1950 Greenberg had led choruses of the members of several locals of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union and also formed and worked with small private groups that mixed amateur and professional singers.
Bernard Krainis, five years younger than Greenberg, had come home to New York after college in Denver for graduate study with musicologist Gustave Reese at N.Y.U. He had put aside the jazz trombone to master the recorder, but also on occasion sang with Greenberg's informal vocal ensembles.
Through a musician friend, Greenberg met Jerry Newman, a recording engineer who, with a partner, owned a small record company. Esoteric Records was looking for material, and Greenberg landed a contract to record a Renaissance work, Festino, a group of madrigals for carnival entertainment by the Benedictine monk and composer Adriano Banchieri. With this commitment in hand, Greenberg asked Bernard Krainis to help him recruit good young male singers to add to a group that already included sopranos Ruth Daigon and Lois Roman and mezzo-soprano Sheila Jones. Krainis recommended bass Brayton Lewis and a young lyric tenor, Russell Oberlin.
Krainis, meanwhile, had come across a rare work by the 17th-century English composer John Blow. Blow's Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell called for two counter-tenors, two alto recorders and continuo. Krainis himself could be one of the recorder players and he knew where to find a second one. He also knew that Russell Oberlin, whom he had heard at The Church of the Ascension and in a madrigal group led by Suzanne Bloch, had the voice and range of a true counter-tenor. Tenor Arthur Squires, whom Noah Greenberg had already contacted for Festino, might sing the second part. Cellist George Koutzen and harpsichordist Herman Chessid would create the continuo.
By late March 1953, Esoteric had recorded both Festino and Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell (with Charles Bressler instead of Arthur Squires singing the second counter-tenor part) and had both scheduled for release in May. When it became apparent that the company had no marketing plan and no budget for promotion, Greenberg and Krainis decided to pool their own resources. On March 29, the pair met at Greenberg's Greenwich Village apartment and agreed to join The Primavera Singers and the St. Cecilia Players in a single entity and give a concert to garner pre-release publicity and sell records. The concert, at The New School for Social Research on April 26, also launched the New York Pro Musica Antiqua on its 21-year concertizing career.

This discography is divided into three parts.
Part I lists the original recordings (35) and re-edited material containing tracks not previously released or excerpts. I have excluded from the list recordings by a sole performer, part of the NYPM at the time of recording (ex.: Decca "Gold Label" DL 10040 / DL 7 10040). Each individual title is linked to a descriptive section containing as much information as possible about the original recording; this description is cross-linked to available CDs actually on the market (april 2001) in North America or western Europe. Great care has been taken to prevent misinformation and a large part of the data originates from the records themselves (although often they are not as reliable as they should be). If the recording was not available, the content originates from the usual sources (periodicals such as The Gramophone [and the Catalogue], Diapason [and the Catalogue], Bielefelder Katalog, Notes, and Fanfare, etc.). Also data has been re-checked using the excellent Indiana University Library database [IUCAT]. Those interested in the discography of the medieval and renaissance period, should refer to the following three publications:
  1. James Coover & Richard Colvig
    Medieval and Renaissance music on long-playing records
    Detroit studies in music bibliography, no. 6; xii, 122 p.
    Detroit, Information Service inc., 1964
  2. James Coover & Richard Colvig
    Medieval and Renaissance music on long-playing records
    Supplement, 1962-1971
    Detroit studies in music bibliography, no. 26; 258 p.
    Detroit, Information Coordinators, 1973
  3. Trevor Croucher
    Early music discography: from plainsong to the sons of Bach
    2 Vol. (v. 1: Record index -- v. 2: Composer, plainsong, anonymous work, and performer indexes)
    Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ, c1981
I tried to list titles according to their label and release dates. In the linked section, I tried to follow the track order of the recording; in some cases when the recording was not available, the order may need correction by a careful reader owning the disc. In Part I, the number appearing before the entry refers to an original recording; if no number appears it is a compilation. My goal is to cover all original recordings, but this may well be wishful thinking without comments and corrections. These could be directed to my E-mail address (pfr@videotron.ca). Credit for any significant contribution will be given at the end of the discography.
In the early LP era, as a general rule (the most noteworthy exception being Deutsche Grammophon "Arkhiv Produktion"), dates of recording and release are not stated; most dates stated in this discography were kindly provided by James Gollin.
Part II deals mostly with reedition on CDs.
Pierre-F. Roberge


I.L.G.W.U. (Esoteric Records, Inc.)

Early 1953
(Total original recordings = 1)

  1. I.L.G.W.U. (Esoteric Records, Inc.) [LP, 25cm, mono]
    We work - We Sing (Commemorative Recording - 1953 Convention of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union)
    Rec. & rel.: 1953
  2. Esoteric Records, Inc.

    [Later known as Counterpoint, Counterpoint / Esoteric (Everest Records Production), Everest Records]

    May 1953 - January 1955
    (Total original recordings = 7)

  3. Esoteric ES 515 [LP, mono]
    Handel - Music for ancient instruments and soprano voice
    Rec. & rel.: 1953
  4. Esoteric ES 516 [LP, mono]
    Banchieri: Festino - A Renaissance Madrigal Entertainment to be sung "... on the evening of Fat Thursday before Supper.."
    Rec. & rel.: 1953
  5. Esoteric ES 519 [LP, mono]
    Henry Purcell, John Blow - Instrumental & Vocal Selections
    Rec. & rel.: 1953
  6. Esoteric ES 520 [LP, mono]
    Thomas Morley - Elizabethan Madrigals , Canzonets and Ballets
    Rec. & rel.: 1953
  7. Esoteric ES 521 [LP, mono]
    English Medieval Christmas Carols
    Rec. & rel.: 1953
  8. Esoteric ESJ-6 [LP, mono, 25cm]
    An Elizabethan songbag for young people
    Rec.: 1953 & rel.: 1954
  9. Esoteric ES 535 [LP, mono]
    Henry Purcell - Songs
    Rec.: 1954 & rel.: 1955
  10. Counterpoint / Esoteric CPT 540 [LP, mono]
    Children's Songs of Shakespeare's time
    Rel.: 1957
    Counterpoint / Esoteric CPT 1502 [LP, mono]
    A Baroque Concert
    Rel.: ca 1957
    Everest 6145 / SDBR 3145 [LPx7, mono / elect. stereo]
    Noah Greenberg conducting the New York Pro Musica - An Anthology of Their Greatest Works
    Rel.: 1966


    [Also known as Contrepoint (France) and later Dover]

    (Total original recording = 1)

  11. Period PL 597 [LP, mono]
    Anthology of Renaissance Music
    Rec.: 1953 & rel.: 1954
  12. Columbia recordings

    [Also later, Odyssey label]

    (Total original recordings = 3)

  13. Columbia ML 5051 [LP, mono]
    Evening of Elizabethan Verses & Its Music
    Rec.: 1954; rel.: 1955
  14. Columbia ML 5159 [LP, mono]
    Vocal Music of Claudio Monteverdi
    Rec.: 1954; rel.: 1957 or prior
  15. Columbia ML 5204 [LP, mono]
    The Music of Salamone Rossi, Hebreo of Mantua
    Rec.: 1954; rel.: 1957
  16. Decca (US) Recordings

    1957-1968 (Total original recordings = 23)

  17. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9400 [LP, mono]
    Music of Medieval Court and Countryside
    Rec.: 1957; rel.: 1957
  18. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9402 / DL 7 9402 [LP, mono / stereo]
    The Play of Daniel
    Rec.: 1958; rel.: 1958
  19. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9404 / DL 7 9404 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Sacred Music of Thomas Tallis
    Rec.: 1958; rel.: 1959
  20. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9406 / DL 7 9406 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Elizabethan and Jacobean Ayres, Madrigals & Dances
    Rec.: 1959; rel.: 1959
  21. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9409 / DL 7 9409 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Spanish Music of the Renaissance
    Rec.: 1959 or 1960; rel.: 1960
  22. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9410 / DL 7 9410 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Josquin Des Préz: Missa Pange Lingua, motets and instrumental pieces
    Rec.: 1960; rel.: 1961
  23. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9412 / DL 7 9412 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Music of the Early German Baroque - Heinrich Schütz & Melchior Franck
    Rec.: 1960; rel.: 1961
  24. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9413 / DL 7 9413 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Heinrich Isaaac: Music for the Court of Lorenzo the Magnificent - Jacob Obrecht: Missa Fortuna desperata
    Rec.: 1961; rel.: 1961
  25. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9415 / DL 7 9415 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Instrumental music from the Courts of Queen Elizabeth and King James
    Rec.: 1961; rel.: 1962
  26. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9416 / DL 7 9416 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Spanish medieval music
    Rec.: 1962; rel.: 1962
  27. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9418 / DL 7 9418 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Medieval English Carols and Italian Dances
    Rec.: 1962; rel.: 1962
  28. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9419 / DL 7 9419 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Renaissance Festival Music - Flemish Dances and Venetian Music
    Rec.: 1962; rel.: 1963
  29. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9420 / DL 7 9420 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Ludwig Senfl - Composer to the Court and Chapel of Emperor Maximilian I
    Rec.: 1963; rel.: 1964
  30. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9421 / DL 7 9421 [LP, mono/stereo]
    It was a lover and his lass - Music of Shakespeare's time
    Rec.: 1963; rel.: 1964
  31. Decca DXA 187 / DXSA 7 187 [LP, mono/stereo]
    The Play of Herod
    Rec.: 1964; rel.: 1964
  32. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9424 / DL 7 9424 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Renaissance Bands
    Rec.: 1965; rel.: 1965
  33. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9425 / DL 7 9425 [LP, mono / stereo]
    Early Baroque Music of Italy
    Rec.: 1965; rel.: 1966
  34. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9428 / DL 7 9428 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Florentine Music
    Rec.: 1966; rel.: 1967
  35. Decca "Gold Label" DL 7 9431 [LP, stereo]
    Ah Sweet Lady - The Romance of Medieval France
    Rec.: 1967; rel.: 1967
  36. Decca "Gold Label" DL 7 9434 [LP, stereo]
    The Kynge's Musicke
    Rec.: 1968; rel.: 1968
  37. Decca "Gold Label" DL 7 9435 [LP, stereo]
    Petrucci - First Printer of Music
    Rec.: 1968; rel.: 1969
  38. Decca "Gold Label" DL 7 9436 [LP, stereo]
    Music of the Spanish Theater in the Golden Age
    Rec.: 1969; rel.: 1969
  39. Decca "Gold Label" DL 7 9438 [LP, stereo]
    Medieval Roots
    Rel.: ??
    Decca DL 7 9174 [LP, stereo]
    Anne of the Thousand Days
    Rel.: 1970


    (Total recording = 1)

    Horizon DL 34 541 [LP]
    Music for a Medieval Day - Music of the cloister, cathedral, court, marketplace, and countryside
    Rec.: 1957-1968; rel.: 1968

    Musical Heritage Society

    (Total original recording = 1)

  40. Musical Heritage Society MHS 1953/4 [LP, mono / stereo]
    Marco da Gagliano - La Dafne
    Rec.: 1973 & rel.: 1974 (?)
  41. Melodya Recordings

    1964 (Total original recordings = 3)

  42. Melodya C10 23417 002 [LP]
    Pro Musica I - Ensemble of Old Music: Live recordings of outstanding Musicians - G. Dufay, A. Agricola, H. Brumel, H. Isaac, J. Despréz
    Rec.: 1964; rel.: 1986
  43. Melodya C10 23415 008 [LP]
    Pro Musica II - Ensemble of Old Music: Live recordings of outstanding Musicians - G. Gabrieli, T. Susato, L. Viadana, H.L.Hassler, M. Praetorius
    Rec.: 1964; rel.: 1986
  44. Melodya C10 23413 003 [LP]
    Pro Musica III - Ensemble of Old Music: Live recordings of outstanding Musicians - C. Monteverdi, G. Frescobaldi
    Rec.: 1964; rel.: 1986


Re-editions (CD, Video and Laserdic)

  1. MCA D2 10102 [CDx2]
    The Play of Daniel - The Play of Herod
    Rel.: 1991 (no longer available, may 2001)
  2. Millennium Classics UMD 80 565 [CD]
    Praetorius - Susato: Renaissance Dances
    Rel.: 1999
  3. National Educational Television WOM-21 [video]
    The Renaissance Band
    Rec.: 1965
  4. Rykodisc TCD1056 [CD]
    English Medieval Christmas Carols
    Rel.: 1997
  5. Universal Studios [Video, VHS]
    Anne of the Thousand Days
    Rel.: 1986
  6. VAI A 1258 [CD]
    Music of John Blow and Henry Purcell - John Blow: Ode on the death of Henry Purcell - Mr Henry Purcell: Songs & Airs
    Russell Oberlin et al.
    Rel.: 2006
  7. Audio tape - KPFK Studio [cassette]
    Conversation betwwen William Malloch and Noah Greenberg
    Rec.: ca 1964

....And thanks to all contributors....
Todd McComb <mccomb@medieval.org>
Joel Bresler
John Howell
James Gollin
David H. Green
Mitchell Mularz
Donald Rice
Jeff Vilencia
Joanna Morris
Jon Stringer
Fernando Acosta
Eriko Aoyama
Darlene Trieste
I am waiting.... for others...
Pierre-F. Roberge

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