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How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

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Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood. If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 4 Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood. If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 48 wonderful lectures designed to make music accessible to everyone who yearns to know it, regardless of prior training or knowledge. It's a lecture series that will enable you to first grasp music's forms, techniques, and terms - the grammatical elements that make you fluent in its language - and then use that newfound fluency to finally hear and understand what the greatest composers in history are actually saying to us. And as you learn the gifts given us by nearly every major composer, you'll come to know there is one we share with each of them - a common humanity that lets us finally understand that these were simply people speaking to us, sharing their passion and wanting desperately to be heard. Using digitally recorded musical passages to illustrate his points, Professor Greenberg will take you inside magnificent compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more. Even if you have listened to many of these illustrative pieces throughout your life - as so many of us have - you will never hear them the same way again after experiencing these lectures.


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Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood. If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 4 Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood. If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 48 wonderful lectures designed to make music accessible to everyone who yearns to know it, regardless of prior training or knowledge. It's a lecture series that will enable you to first grasp music's forms, techniques, and terms - the grammatical elements that make you fluent in its language - and then use that newfound fluency to finally hear and understand what the greatest composers in history are actually saying to us. And as you learn the gifts given us by nearly every major composer, you'll come to know there is one we share with each of them - a common humanity that lets us finally understand that these were simply people speaking to us, sharing their passion and wanting desperately to be heard. Using digitally recorded musical passages to illustrate his points, Professor Greenberg will take you inside magnificent compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more. Even if you have listened to many of these illustrative pieces throughout your life - as so many of us have - you will never hear them the same way again after experiencing these lectures.

30 review for How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas

    My friends, this is one amazing series of lectures. This is thanks almost entirely to the professor, Robert Greenberg, whose incredible ability to keep the listener engaged in the subject matter is beyond my ability to describe adequately. He is eloquent, yet down-to-earth; extremely knowledgeable on his subject matter, yet doesn't make the listener feel stupid; humorous without being silly. But most of all, he is super enthusiastic about the material and that certainly rubbed off on me. Now, I'v My friends, this is one amazing series of lectures. This is thanks almost entirely to the professor, Robert Greenberg, whose incredible ability to keep the listener engaged in the subject matter is beyond my ability to describe adequately. He is eloquent, yet down-to-earth; extremely knowledgeable on his subject matter, yet doesn't make the listener feel stupid; humorous without being silly. But most of all, he is super enthusiastic about the material and that certainly rubbed off on me. Now, I've never been particularly knowledgeable about classical music (or should I say 'concert music'? See I was paying attention back on disc #1) In school I developed into a pretty fair trumpet player and was 1st chair in my high school orchestra. But my tastes tended toward jazz and rock music as most of the people my age did. Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, etc. were for old people or snooty folk who wanted to be considered intelligent and elite somehow. But as I grew older and actually listened to some of that sort of music...well, it would be nice to say that I grew to appreciate what it had to offer. But, frankly, I still almost always found it boring. So when my wife ordered this set of 48 lectures (45 minutes for each one) I ignored it. However, I do have a long commute to work each day, over an hour each way, and when I finished my last audio book, I was left with nothing. Except this lecture series. So I put in that first disc. And my world was opened. Yeah, I know, that sounds cheesy, but Dr. Greenberg's lecture style was so engaging that I kept on listening. And when that first lecture was complete, I kept on going to the second lecture. And so on and so on. Yes, this is a very long series and I did take a break to listen to an audio book or two in between but I was always happy to return to the lectures. The lectures themselves include lots of historical perspective including biographical details of many of the famous composers as well as about the country and era in which it was written. Dr. Greenberg is not only enthusiastic about the music but he's a darn fine storyteller as well. The many types of compositions are broken down and dissected so we can understand how they are constructed, from symphonies to chamber music, to themes on a variation. The music itself is grand and the recording quality is awesome, so we can truly begin to appreciate the very soul of the music itself. Color me amazed, not only at the material itself but also at my reaction to it. This is a survey course and as Dr. Greenberg says several times, he wishes he could go into more detail in many areas. Fortunately, he has quite a few other lecture series available that do just that. Not only will I seek them out but I will no doubt listen to many of these individual lectures time and again as well. Bravo!

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Everling

    48 lectures, 45 minutes each http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/co... Course Lectures: Introduction Sources-The Ancient World and the Early Church The Middle Ages Introduction to the Renaissance The Renaissance Mass The Madrigal Introduction to the Baroque Style Features of Baroque Music and a Brief Tutorial on Pitch, Motive, Melody, and Texture The Rise of German Nationalism in Music Fugue Baroque Opera, Part 1 Part 2 Baroque Sacred Music, Part 1-The Oratorio Part 2-The Lutheran Church Cantata Baroque Instrumen 48 lectures, 45 minutes each http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/co... Course Lectures: Introduction Sources-The Ancient World and the Early Church The Middle Ages Introduction to the Renaissance The Renaissance Mass The Madrigal Introduction to the Baroque Style Features of Baroque Music and a Brief Tutorial on Pitch, Motive, Melody, and Texture The Rise of German Nationalism in Music Fugue Baroque Opera, Part 1 Part 2 Baroque Sacred Music, Part 1-The Oratorio Part 2-The Lutheran Church Cantata Baroque Instrumental Forms, Part 1-Passacaglia Part 2-Ritornello Form and the Baroque Concerto The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era The Viennese Classical Style, Homophony, and the Cadence Classical-Era Form-Theme and Variations Minuet and Trio I-Baroque Antecedents Minuet and Trio II Rondo Sonata-Allegro Form I, Part 1 Part 2 Classical-Era Form-Sonata-Allegro Form II Classical-Era Orchestral Genres-The Symphony The Solo Concerto Classical-Era Opera-The Development of Opera Buffa Mozart and the Operatic Ensemble The French Revolution Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, Part 1 Part 2 Introduction to Romanticism Formal Challenges and Solutions in Early Romantic Music-Miniatures-Lieder and Chopin Program Symphony-Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Part 1 Part 2 Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera-Bel Canto Opera Giuseppe Verdi Nineteenth-Century German Opera-Nationalism and Experimentation Richard Wagner The Concert Overture, Part 1 Part 2 Romantic Nationalism-Post-1848 Musical Nationalism Russian Nationalism The Early Twentieth Century and the Modernist Movement-An Introduction The Search for a New Musical Language-Debussy Stravinsky Schönberg

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    I just discovered this was available through Audible for the mere cost of one credit. Just finished the first lesson and have to say that the tidbit about Beethoven at the end was practically worth the price all by itself. I will never listen to that piece of music again without laughing ... brilliant. UPDATE Lesson 26: the Symphony, music for everybody. Finally! Miss Allbright: Today's topic will be Hell. Bart: All right. I sat through Mercy and I sat through Forgiveness. Finally, we get to the goo I just discovered this was available through Audible for the mere cost of one credit. Just finished the first lesson and have to say that the tidbit about Beethoven at the end was practically worth the price all by itself. I will never listen to that piece of music again without laughing ... brilliant. UPDATE Lesson 26: the Symphony, music for everybody. Finally! Miss Allbright: Today's topic will be Hell. Bart: All right. I sat through Mercy and I sat through Forgiveness. Finally, we get to the good stuff.I sat through the Baroque and I sat through sonatas. Finally, we get to the good stuff. UPDATE The Romantics! Oooooo, if there's one thing I like it's a good romance. C'mon Berlioz ... woo me!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    This lecture series was amazing. Sure, I did not learn to tell the difference between at Rondeau and a Minuet, or between A and A', or to tell when theme 1 is codaing into theme 2. But I know all those things exist now, which is cool, and throughout the 48 lectures, I listened to a whole lot of great music. And I think, for a little while at least, I will be able to tell the difference between a Mozart and a Beethoven, or a Debussy and a Tchaikovsky... The professor is funny, passionate and engag This lecture series was amazing. Sure, I did not learn to tell the difference between at Rondeau and a Minuet, or between A and A', or to tell when theme 1 is codaing into theme 2. But I know all those things exist now, which is cool, and throughout the 48 lectures, I listened to a whole lot of great music. And I think, for a little while at least, I will be able to tell the difference between a Mozart and a Beethoven, or a Debussy and a Tchaikovsky... The professor is funny, passionate and engaging, I will seek out his other lecture series.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tom Rowe

    This lecture series taught me a lot about concert music. I can now appreciate it on several new levels. It is so full of information that I could listen to it again and still get a lot out of it. Greenberg is a riot. He is so funny and makes the material so much fun. Towards the end, I even strarted writing down some of his better quotes like "two twists short of a slinky." HA! It would get five stars, but it didn't sell me on opera. I'm still not sure what it is and how exactly it differs from This lecture series taught me a lot about concert music. I can now appreciate it on several new levels. It is so full of information that I could listen to it again and still get a lot out of it. Greenberg is a riot. He is so funny and makes the material so much fun. Towards the end, I even strarted writing down some of his better quotes like "two twists short of a slinky." HA! It would get five stars, but it didn't sell me on opera. I'm still not sure what it is and how exactly it differs from musical theater. I highly recommend this series especially if you are someone who is interested in being interested in concert music.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David K. Lemons

    Greenberg is a masterful teacher. He is very understanding of his novice audience and teaches music appreciation with passion. I suggest that readers refer to the review written by Benjamin Thomas, which I completely agree with.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Awallens

    I’m not sure if I should classify this as a book, but who’s counting? This was fantastic. There were some sections that were a bit of a slog, but I’m not a fan of opera so that’s why. This book really kept my attention, and the presenter was great and very funny. Very educational, and I will be looking for more work by this lecturer.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    This was a great audio course that I played during morning and evening routine and housework. (Thanks, Alexa!) I have had experience with music theory, but strangely little of the music history and appreciation presented here. I loved the deep dives into various works representative of styles and forms. Normally I would listen to something this long (36 hours, guys!) at an increased speed, but since I didn’t want to distort the music I kept it real. Finishing feels like a significant accomplishm This was a great audio course that I played during morning and evening routine and housework. (Thanks, Alexa!) I have had experience with music theory, but strangely little of the music history and appreciation presented here. I loved the deep dives into various works representative of styles and forms. Normally I would listen to something this long (36 hours, guys!) at an increased speed, but since I didn’t want to distort the music I kept it real. Finishing feels like a significant accomplishment!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mahendra Palsule

    This lecture series was well beyond my expectations. Having both attended and studied music appreciation courses myself and having engaged in sharing that knowledge with others, I know what a challenge it is, to even try. Prof. Greenberg not only excels, but the period and styles of music he covers in this series is as comprehensive as you would ever find anywhere. The subject matter can become dry and academic a few times in the course of these 48 lectures but these occasions are few and far bet This lecture series was well beyond my expectations. Having both attended and studied music appreciation courses myself and having engaged in sharing that knowledge with others, I know what a challenge it is, to even try. Prof. Greenberg not only excels, but the period and styles of music he covers in this series is as comprehensive as you would ever find anywhere. The subject matter can become dry and academic a few times in the course of these 48 lectures but these occasions are few and far between. For the majority of the time, it is a kaleidoscope of history, composer biographies and anecdotes, and major representative works and their analysis, all generously sprinkled with good humor. Prof. Greenberg's passion is infectious, his knowledge is commanding, and his teaching is superlative. Highly recommended for any student of music.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason Friedlander

    I've rarely felt compelled to write reviews on this site, but having finished this today I'm moved to express, in all the sincerity that this often-times extravagant claim may purport, that this truly has been life changing for me. There are few things I find more valuable than being brought into the fold of artistic beauty. To have been given the opportunity to appreciate and invoke hundreds of years of this mystical tradition over the last few months through these lectures has been absolutely I've rarely felt compelled to write reviews on this site, but having finished this today I'm moved to express, in all the sincerity that this often-times extravagant claim may purport, that this truly has been life changing for me. There are few things I find more valuable than being brought into the fold of artistic beauty. To have been given the opportunity to appreciate and invoke hundreds of years of this mystical tradition over the last few months through these lectures has been absolutely invaluable. Gesualdo. Bach. Beethoven. Mozart. Brahms. Berlioz. Mahler. Chopin. Tchaikovsky. Rimsky-Korsakov. Debussy. Stravinsky. Schoenberg. I've been graced with the condition of music. And I can't wait to explore it further.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This is an audio-class which I listened to in my car (for months upon months!) -- 48 lectures doesn't sound like a lot, but at 45 minutes each, well... it took some time. Very good class, outstanding professor who made me laugh all the time! What I missed is not his fault -- it was that dedicated note taking, study, and review work that I used to do in college which really cemented the lessons and helped me compare and contrast themes and ideas throughout courses. I would have also liked a few r This is an audio-class which I listened to in my car (for months upon months!) -- 48 lectures doesn't sound like a lot, but at 45 minutes each, well... it took some time. Very good class, outstanding professor who made me laugh all the time! What I missed is not his fault -- it was that dedicated note taking, study, and review work that I used to do in college which really cemented the lessons and helped me compare and contrast themes and ideas throughout courses. I would have also liked a few recap lessons thrown in there for each major period and then a synthesis at the end. But, I highly recommend it and encourage you to check out all the other incredible courses at Great Courses!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vladimir Mityukov

    A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rafael Rosa

    Professor Greenberg takes us across the centuries to see the evolution and history of music, focusing especially on the works that defined how western music sounds, starting with the greeks and going up to the modernists of the beginning of the 20th century. It's a long course, 48 lectures of 45 minutes each, but they are really well produced, we hear a lot of music, even if not complete pieces and Greenberg is a good lecturer, I like his style even if I don't like his sense of humour all the muc Professor Greenberg takes us across the centuries to see the evolution and history of music, focusing especially on the works that defined how western music sounds, starting with the greeks and going up to the modernists of the beginning of the 20th century. It's a long course, 48 lectures of 45 minutes each, but they are really well produced, we hear a lot of music, even if not complete pieces and Greenberg is a good lecturer, I like his style even if I don't like his sense of humour all the much. A really great course, it opened my mind a lot about music, it showed its complexity in a way that now is more approachable, even if I don't really understand it. It even incentivized me to buy a piano and start to try to learn, let's see if I can play a Beethoven sonata some time in the future.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Snooty1

    Wow! There is no question..I’m significantly snootier now than I was before. This is A LOT of musical knowledge with not only the breakdown of the most influential pieces of music ever created but also a dive into the lives and backgrounds of the musicians. Definitely will continue the series with the dedicated lectures for each musician.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pastor Matt

    I'll have to listen to and read this again. I've always wanted to learn about classical music but I have a tin ear and am still feeling my way around learning the ins-and-outs of the greats. Dr. Greenberg is a gifted lecturer. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Hellstrom

    This was a fun course to listen to. Each of the 48 lectures were engaging and Greenberg's mercurial tangents were very funny.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    Part I: Forty-eight lectures of 45 minutes apiece may not be enough time to explain the history of Western music and encourage its appreciation, but the genial and passionate Professor Robert Greenberg certainly starts off giving his best effort here.  It is easy to appreciate this selection of songs, even if he returns to the same ones over and over again to look at different aspects of these various songs of the repertoire and how it is that they say something important about the importance of Part I: Forty-eight lectures of 45 minutes apiece may not be enough time to explain the history of Western music and encourage its appreciation, but the genial and passionate Professor Robert Greenberg certainly starts off giving his best effort here.  It is easy to appreciate this selection of songs, even if he returns to the same ones over and over again to look at different aspects of these various songs of the repertoire and how it is that they say something important about the importance of the context in which music is made as well as the language that we need in order to properly communicate various aspects of music.  Music may be intensely abstract, but the professor does a great job in making these lectures both intensely entertaining as well as immensely full of worthwhile information.  Education and entertainment go hand in hand, at least for those of us who appreciate the repertoire of Western music.  And, as is proper to do, this appreciation goes all the way back to the beginning of Western music, and the author includes some surprising examples of songs that have survived from the ancient and early medieval world. The eight lectures of this particular part of the course (there are six parts overall) give a context to the role and place of music in the Western world.  The instructor begins with an introduction to the Western musical tradition, discussing what this particular collection is not as a way of properly framing the expectations of the listener (1).  After that there is an examination of some of the surviving Greek and Latin songs from antiquity, which are hauntingly beautiful in their own way, before discussing the plain chant of the early medieval Church (2).  This leads into a look at the music of the High Middle Ages, including the odd but lovely Quant Et Moi, with its diversity of increasingly complex polyphony (3).  The professor then moves into the Renaissance where he introduces the period (4), before focusing on the works of des Prez and Palestrina (5).  An entire lecture is spent on the madrigal and its role in the late Renaissance search for expression (6) before the instructor introduces the Baroque period (7), spending some time looking at the birth of the opera.  Finally, this part closes with a somewhat technical discussion of the stylistic features of Baroque music, including a brief tutorial on pitch, motive, melody, and texture (8). What is it that makes this instructor so enjoyable to listen to?  Part of it is his undeniable passion about music.  If you are passionate about music, and I am, it is easy to appreciate the way that the instructor can be enthusiastic about everything from ancient songs written in notation on monuments to early operas and the music of diverse and often obscure figures.  Likewise, the instructor infuses this course with a great deal of knowledge.  Some of this includes technical knowledge like how one describes music as conjunct or disjunct, some of it includes the ability to pick apart various layers and look not only at music over a diverse geographic and temporal and stylistic range, but also to appreciate the social and historical context in which the music was made.  Somehow the author manages to simultaneously praise the creative individuality of composers along with the institutional context of the Roman Catholic Church in allowing music to survive during the Dark Ages and also comment on ways in which composers had to deal with problems of how to fit different parts, different instruments, and express both eternal truths and personal ideas and whimsies.  All of this leads to a complex but rich appreciation for music provided by a warm and engaging professor, all of which makes for an enjoyable listening experience. Part II: One of the pleasures of listening to this series of lectures, which in its entirety goes on for 48 lectures of 45 minutes apiece--this particular part of the course being eight lectures within that larger arc, is listening both to great music and to someone who is both passionate and knowledgeable about it.  As someone who has listened to many hours of this particular professor talking about music and various composers, this is definitely a course I appreciate, and if you have gotten to this point of the lectures, you definitely have much that you will enjoy as well.  Over and over again the instructor laments that he is unable because of a shortage of time to introduce still more music, but for many people, there is still a great deal to enjoy with the way that the author not only introduces a good variety of Baroque songs here but also that he introduces some of them in different contexts so that one can appreciate the layers of what good Baroque composers like Percell and J.S. Bach were doing in their works, and that makes this even more valuable than just a superficial survey of Western music. In the eight lectures included here the author manages to discuss a few fascinating aspects of the High Baroque era that are worthwhile and notable.  First, the instructor begins (9) with a discussion of the rise of German nationalism in music and how that influenced the course of the Baroque when compared with the Italian focus on beautiful music inspired by a different language that allowed for more melisma than German offered.  After that the author discusses the characteristic fondness of Baroque for the vivid creativity and tight compositional control that were exercised in the fugue (10).  This leads to two lectures on the Baroque Opera (11, 12) that look both at the beginnings of opera in Italy and how it was inspired by madrigals and similar art forms that sought to capture the emotional resonance that classical Greek music was thought to have as well as the way that operas were created in Northern Europe, with a focus on Percell's Dido & Aeneas.  After that there are two lectures that focus on Baroque sacred music with a lecture on the oratorio (13) that focuses on Handel's Messiah and another one on the Lutheran Church Cantata that focuses on Bach's efforts (14).  The series of lectures then concludes with two lectures on Baroque instrumental forms, namely the Passacaglia/chacone (15) and the ritornello form and the Baroque concertinos (16). It is by no means necessary to be an orchestra music snob to appreciate these lectures, and the author does a good job at expanding the sort of music that a listener can appreciate.  Though I have been by no means hostile to operas, this particular series of lectures gave me an appreciation for the best of Baroque operas that will encourage me to listen to them more often if they are available.  Likewise, the author explained some of the struggles of Johann Sebastian Bach to be thought of as a serious composer and the way that instrumental and vocal forms were affected during the Baroque period by the politics of nationalism and by the desire of mainstream audiences for fare that was less complicated and easier to understand in both vocal and instrumental forms.  Likewise, the author does a great job at showing how it is that abstract instrumental music came to have genres that allowed it to be understood and appreciated by ordinary audiences, likely including the listeners here as well. Part III: There is a certain joy in listening to this particular talk about chamber music, a joy that only increases if you happen to be a musician or already somewhat familiar with the music.  A large part of that joy comes from the fact that Professor Greenburg is himself so immensely joyful about what he is teaching, so aware of the stern limitations of having only 48 lectures of 45 minutes each (of which this part consists of eight of those lectures), and not being able to include more of the music that he so dearly loves to talk about.  And it is clear in listening to this part of the course that the author is very familiar with the classical era and very intent in helping the listener to understand the forms of the classical era, at least a few examples of these forms, and the ways that the classical era drew upon the previous Baroque era for inspiration, showing a great deal of continuity even as there is also a great deal of distinction as well.  This allows him the chance to backfill a bit of his discussion of Baroque music by including Canon in D and some music by Lilly that he wasn't able to cover earlier for lack of time. The lectures included in this part of the professor's longer course are about half of the author's total instruction on the Classical Era.  We begin with a discussion of the Enlightenment and an introduction to the Classical era, which discusses the connection between an age and its concerns with the sort of chamber music that is created in that larger social context (17).  After that there is a discussion of the Viennese classical style and two aspects that are of vital importance to its music, namely homophony (instead of Baroque polyphony) and the importance of cadences (18).  After this the author discusses a variety of forms, beginning with the theme and variations form (19).  The professor spends two lectures on the Minuet and Trio form (20, 21), first discussing baroque antecedents to this form and then discussing the form as it was used by classical composers like Haydn and Mozart.  After this comes a lecture on the Rondo (22), and then the final two lectures of this particular part of the course discuss the first half of the author's discussion on Sonata-Allegro form, with some excellent examples of the form from Beethoven and Mozart. There is a lot to appreciate about this particular class.  For one, the course is simply full of great music that is part of the classical repertoire, and the author's joy in talking about this music is definitely contagious.  For another, the author spends a great deal of time helping the listener recognize the difference between thematic music as well as transitional music, and to understand the grammar and structure of classical era music that allows the listener to be a vastly more intelligent and knowledgeable listener (and even performer) of such music by seeking to understand what the composer was trying to communicate and how it is that one can modulate between different keys and how different types of cadences change the listening experience for the reader, providing clues to whether a section is thematic or not, and sometimes, as in the case of the deceptive cadence, putting the listener in a sense of unease about the way a particular piece is progressing.  This particular discussion is the sort of music theory discussion I wish I would have had more of when I was an orchestra student, but I suppose such discussion is usually limited to those who are in training to become composers themselves. Part IV: At this point the course has moved beyond the halfway to the two-thirds mark, and it is striking to see Greenberg in his element as he passionately discusses the music of the classical era as well as Beethoven's work, comment about his lack of time to discuss things in as much detail as he would like, and point to his other courses on opera appreciation as well as Beethoven's own work.  The author even demonstrates a striking degree of compassion for viola players in pointing out how they get a raw deal in the string orchestra because of the harmonic role that they play, which certainly wins the support of this viola player.  And even if this section contains things I either know a good deal of already or have never had a great interest in, I found this selection of lectures to be a very enjoyable one and well worth celebrating.  I was especially intrigued by the way that even the "naturalistic" opera of the classical era still relied on tropes from Italian low comic opera as a way of providing shorthand.  The implications of this are quite intriguing. The eight lectures of this particular part of the course cover a small period of time but manage to do it very well.  We begin with the second part of the Sonata-Allegro Form (25), continuing from the previous part of the course.  After that we have a discussion of how the symphony was music for every person because it was an arena classical version of the chamber music that was lovely but a bit fussy for mainstream audiences (26).  After this comes a discussion of the classical era concerto (27) and its antecedents.  Greenberg spends a lecture talking about the development of opera buffa (28) and the political implications of this opera in ancien regime France as well as providing some excellent insight into Mozart's operatic ensembles (29) by looking at Don Giovanni.  Finally, the last three lectures discuss the French revolution and introduce Beethoven (30) and focus on Beethoven's 5th Symphony (31, 32).  It must be admitted that if one had more time there is a lot more music from Beethoven that one would want to explore, but it is very worthwhile that even in this abridged discussion of music that there is enough time to discuss Beethoven's creative approach and love of motives in his best-known symphony. There were at least a couple of undercurrents in this particular series of lectures that I found particularly interesting and worthwhile.  For one, understanding the cultural and political context of music can be very important, because when someone like Rousseau champions a piece of music, one can be sure there are ulterior motives involved.  For another, I was struck by the way that music appreciation depends on a contract between the composer, musician(s), and audience.  The musician promises to play the piece as written to the best of his or her ability, so as to transmit to the audience what the composer is seeking to communicate.  Additionally, the composer and the audience agree that a given language of tones and notes is the way that the composer will convey some sort of message to the audience, and that the form itself will have some sort of meaning and importance as well.  The audience can then appreciate the creativity of the composer and the skill of the musician(s) within the context of shared understanding of what they are all about.  And when a composer violates the expectations of his (or her) audience, the resulting lack of appreciation can be serious, which is one reason why there are so few great composers anymore, and why there has been a great divide between audiences and composers in the period after the beginning of the 20th century. Part V: I must admit I have some mixed feelings about this part of the course.  Having enjoyed the first two thirds of the professor's investigation of great music, we have finally come to the period after Beethoven, where the author spends a great deal of time discussing Romanticism and its effect on music.  My feelings about this are mixed for a few reasons, not least of which is the fact that I do not enjoy the Romantic period of writing as much as I enjoy the Classical and Baroque periods that came before it.  And a lot of that lack of enjoyment comes from the way that the composers of this period often failed to be very good at composing (they relied on their own subjective view of their genius to overcome poor music theory and education and understanding of the genres they were working in) and that they began to neglect the contract that exists between composers and audiences concerning the content and form of instrumental music.  Also, this book has a lot of opera in it and that is probably also not for the best as I am not a huge fan of opera. Be that as it may, there was still some enjoyable music to be found in these eight discs, each of them one lecture, even if it was not to the high levels of previous parts of the series.  If one is going to explore the music of the 19th century, there are few more enjoyable people to explore it with, I suppose.  The first lecture introduces the audiences to Romanticism and what it means in a musical context as opposed to a literary context (although there are many similarities to be found) (33).  After that the professor moves to discuss the formal challenges and solutions in early romantic music in the miniatures of German lieder as well as the short works of Chopin (34).  Next, the program symphony of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is explored in two lectures (35, 36), demonstrating the power of its music while also its defects as a symphony.  The rest of the lectures are focused on opera, with a lecture devoted to 19th century Italian Bel Canto opera (37) and another to the works of Giuseppe Verdi (38), as well as a lecture devoted to nationalism and experimentation within 19th century German opera (39) as well as the works of Richard Wagner in German opera (40). This is one of those courses where if you are a big fan of romantic music and Italian and German opera of the 19th century, you will enjoy this course a lot more than I did.  For me, this material was definitely a big step down from the first four parts of the course, which focused on beautiful music from the Middle Ages and beyond, and the fact that the course ends with a look at the music of the late 19th and early 20th century which I tend to view as far more problematic than the music that came before.  Perhaps my musical tastes are far less avant garde than that of many people, especially those with an academic interest in music history, but all the same this particular course demonstrated that the romanticist turn of composers marked a decisive turn away from much of the aspects of instrumental music that were most popular with audiences and remain so.  I would have preferred lectures that focused on more neo-classical composers or nationalist composers, whose music is certainly well worth appreciating and often based on folk traditions rather than on the demented imaginations of corrupt and decadent 19th century Europeans.  But that's just my own personal opinion. Part VI: It would be unfair to be too hard on Professor Greenberg for the way in which this six-part sampling of the music of the Western concert music tradition ends.  I knew going into this course, based on my own perspective and viewpoint, that I would not particularly enjoy the trends of 20th century orchestral music, and so it is no great surprise that I did not like them.  The instructor certainly wants the listener of this course to spend the time to acquire a taste for the brokenness and dissonance of 20th century music, which he openly admits is an acquired taste and not one that a lot of people have.  He notes that the extremism of 20th century music springs from composers' desires to move beyond existing trends, and to speak to disturbing and dissonant realities, including images of primitive and heathen religion and sexuality, but that is precisely why I do not like 20th century musical and artistic trends as a general rule in the first place--because they speak to a rebarbarization of the West that I am hostile towards and implacably opposed to.  So why would I like this?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roger Feenstra

    Long, sometimes tedious, but my knowledge of the history of music has expanded. Four months to finish!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rita Berk

    Dr. Greenberg lectures on the history of music from plain chant to current music. He explains what the excerpts are and places them in history. He does an excellent job; it is long but worth it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Over a period of several months, I listened to a little of this audiobook every day, as Mr Greenberg deftly traced the history of Western music from surviving Greek and Roman examples to plain chants, masses, madrigals, fugues, operas, and many other musical forms into the twentieth century in this series of 48 lectures covering musical terminology, structure and composers/history. When I got to the end, I had enjoyed it so much I wanted to start all over again, and I do anticipate doing just th Over a period of several months, I listened to a little of this audiobook every day, as Mr Greenberg deftly traced the history of Western music from surviving Greek and Roman examples to plain chants, masses, madrigals, fugues, operas, and many other musical forms into the twentieth century in this series of 48 lectures covering musical terminology, structure and composers/history. When I got to the end, I had enjoyed it so much I wanted to start all over again, and I do anticipate doing just that sometime in the future. Entertaining, informative, and, best of all, illustrated with lots of musical examples. Audiobook skillfully presented by Robert Greenberg.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

    I've just finished the series, and what a joy driving has become thanks to Dr. Greenberg! To illustrate my ignorance and that I've now actually learned something thanks to him.... I glanced at Chris' shelves and put on Bolero. I'd always labeled it "classical" in my mind, but as I listened to it, it clicked that the music was about timbre (I'd just listened to Greenberg's lecture on Debussy), was experimental, didn't sound classical, and that it had to be "modern"--and then it clicked that Ravel I've just finished the series, and what a joy driving has become thanks to Dr. Greenberg! To illustrate my ignorance and that I've now actually learned something thanks to him.... I glanced at Chris' shelves and put on Bolero. I'd always labeled it "classical" in my mind, but as I listened to it, it clicked that the music was about timbre (I'd just listened to Greenberg's lecture on Debussy), was experimental, didn't sound classical, and that it had to be "modern"--and then it clicked that Ravel was French and probably a contemporary of Debussy (looking it up, he actually was born a decade later, but they're generally grouped together as having bridged romantic to modern). I'm still pretty musically clueless, but at least there's progress! On to Dr. Greenberg's The Concerto (the library has tons of his stuff, I am SO happy, it feels like I've discovered a giant stash of chocolate). ***** I've just finished Volume 3 (of 6) and it was really exciting to listen to the final movement of Mozart's Symphony #40 in G Minor and for the first time to have a small clue as to what was going on. I am a highly visual person and have always felt clueless when it came to music. At this point in my life, anything that has eluded me (which is a heck of a lot) is something I relish taking on and trying to understand. Dr. Greenberg (who is a hoot and a great speaker) has taken me on a brief tour of (Western) musical history, explaining musical vocabulary, how language and culture (and religion!) have influenced the development of music, and finally has brought everything together in this volume to explain the forms developed in the classical period. Understanding the structure of a sonata, as he explains, sets me free for the first time to hear the details. Realizing that music is a story without words (and how this fits in with all the Buddhist stuff I've been reading!) has opened up this whole new world to me. I've always had a terrible time concentrating on music; unintentionally, I've always drifted away. Now I can see a storyline and suddenly, click, there I am, present with the music. I can't wait to get Volume 4 from the library!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Maybe you're like me. Maybe you have some musical background, but never felt like it was very comprehensive or complete. Maybe, like me, you played an instrument and had an interest in concert music for many years, but could not articulate how you felt about what you liked and didn't like. Maybe you always wanted to be a little more well-rounded as a consumer of culture. This course, How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, is an incredible gateway to understanding and appreciating Western mu Maybe you're like me. Maybe you have some musical background, but never felt like it was very comprehensive or complete. Maybe, like me, you played an instrument and had an interest in concert music for many years, but could not articulate how you felt about what you liked and didn't like. Maybe you always wanted to be a little more well-rounded as a consumer of culture. This course, How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, is an incredible gateway to understanding and appreciating Western music. I always had a sense of what I liked and didn't like in "Classical" (concert) music, but never had a true scope of the development of this music over time. Greenberg's incredible course filled this gap in my life. Starting with our fragmentary knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman music, up through the Middle Ages, then to the Renaissance and Enlightenment, then the 19th and 20th centuries, Greenberg guides us through the evolution of this most sublime of the arts. This course gave me a deeper understanding of how music became more sophisticated and changed over time, and introduced me to new elements to make me appreciate music in new ways. He calls this a survey course, and that is a very accurate description. Even as a lengthy installment in The Great Courses, this course must skip over a great number of composers and famous pieces. Instead, it is held together by looking at the development of different musical concepts over time-- polyphony, harmony, melody, sonata form, and most significantly, the role of the composer. Therefore, even though I was disappointed at some of the omissions of the course (no Strauss, little Brahms, no one American, no Shostakovich), the overall breadth of the course makes it incredibly valuable. I think anyone with an interest in music who has not already studied music history in depth will find this course valuable. Truly, I would recommend this book for absolutely any college student working in the humanities. Greenberg ties music in with culture, literature, and philosophy, all with his typical wit and engaging style.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jerzy

    Overall, it's been a good (but LONG!) course. I do wish Greenberg had spent a bit less time on telling jokes or gossiping about composers' personal lives, and more time on concrete musical examples (which were great when he presented them---just not as often as I'd have liked). The course has given me more appreciation for how novel some old/familiar-sounding works must have been when they were first composed. The first few lectures (pre-Baroque) were particularly good, helping me understand why h Overall, it's been a good (but LONG!) course. I do wish Greenberg had spent a bit less time on telling jokes or gossiping about composers' personal lives, and more time on concrete musical examples (which were great when he presented them---just not as often as I'd have liked). The course has given me more appreciation for how novel some old/familiar-sounding works must have been when they were first composed. The first few lectures (pre-Baroque) were particularly good, helping me understand why homophony wasn't just obvious to pre-Classical composers. I also learned how important opera was to the development of music I love (even if I still can't stomach the sound of most operatic singers' vibrato). Finally, listening to the technical discussions of motive and standard musical forms, I've almost felt inspired to try composing something myself. I still haven't given it a go, but at least I have a sense that it's possible. Many great works came out of following standard "forms" or "processes," not just sprang out of the composer's head ex nihilo, so it'd be perfectly respectable (and not just "painting by numbers") if I wanted to compose something using these forms too.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bill Glover

    48 lectures, that took a while. I'm glad for the historical context, it was definitely interesting. It's only been a hundred years since the time of recorded music. Before than people lived in mostly music free environment and if they wanted to hear some they had to play it themselves. It's strange to imagine, and interesting to try and figure out the ways in which that's effected every other part of our society across so many ethnic ad cultural boundaries. One of the last books I read was about 48 lectures, that took a while. I'm glad for the historical context, it was definitely interesting. It's only been a hundred years since the time of recorded music. Before than people lived in mostly music free environment and if they wanted to hear some they had to play it themselves. It's strange to imagine, and interesting to try and figure out the ways in which that's effected every other part of our society across so many ethnic ad cultural boundaries. One of the last books I read was about the Taliban; they banned all musical recordings, radios, tvs, dancing, even performing. So some societies are still so close to the days of silence people lived through a hundred years ago that they still have trouble assimilating the change (and in their ignorance and endless quest for attention they oppose it). It was nice to listen more closely to selected pieces with an expert's reading of them along side. I still don't get that excited about Mozart; like the Beatles he is to omni-present for me. The Russian composters are what I'm into now. Love that Rimsky Korsakov!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Aldrich

    This was simply lovely and interesting. Given the huge amount of material one could cover under such a broad topic, Greenberg did a fantastic job "editing" and creating as simple and clear a line through the material as possible. Obviously there is a lot missing, but you can only do so much in an introductory treatment. And even with the introductory treatment, I'll likely need a second and third pass through everything to really absorb it all. I can't wait to delve into some of his other works o This was simply lovely and interesting. Given the huge amount of material one could cover under such a broad topic, Greenberg did a fantastic job "editing" and creating as simple and clear a line through the material as possible. Obviously there is a lot missing, but you can only do so much in an introductory treatment. And even with the introductory treatment, I'll likely need a second and third pass through everything to really absorb it all. I can't wait to delve into some of his other works on music, and I'm glad there are several others to follow this up. Most interesting to me was the "musicality" of his voice and presentation that makes actually listening to the material that much more engaging over and above it's inherent general interest. This musicality also makes his enthusiasm so much more contagious!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Neil Crocker

    You don't read this; you listen to it. In this case all 48 discs. Professor Robert Greenberg is a riot. He is a total music nerd with a fantastic turn of phrase and contagious enthusiasm for great music. Although I did not retain more than about 10% of the information covered, I enjoyed listening to almost every minute of this course and am ready to attend some music recitals, with a little background knowledge and a framework for listening to and understanding the music being played. Awesome!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mariana

    At times so exciting and at times very demanding, it took me 2 months to finish this course. But I definitely feel that my understanding of music has reached another level, especially its evolution throughout time. I'm looking forward to another one of Greenberg's courses.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Arno Mosikyan

    A nice guidance into the world of music history for layman.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lenny Husen

    4.0 stars, rounding up because rating Greenberg less than 5 stars would be like rating a piece (any piece) by Mozart less than 5 stars. Greenberg is THAT good a lecturer. HOWEVER: this is not his best work, and there were times, especially after 35 lectures, when the silly jokes and repetition got tedious and I shouted out loud in my car "SHUT UP YOU WINDBAG!" but then in the next 5 minutes was an amazing piece of music that I'd never heard before. This wasn't terribly well organized and some ed 4.0 stars, rounding up because rating Greenberg less than 5 stars would be like rating a piece (any piece) by Mozart less than 5 stars. Greenberg is THAT good a lecturer. HOWEVER: this is not his best work, and there were times, especially after 35 lectures, when the silly jokes and repetition got tedious and I shouted out loud in my car "SHUT UP YOU WINDBAG!" but then in the next 5 minutes was an amazing piece of music that I'd never heard before. This wasn't terribly well organized and some editing and restraint of Greenberg's pomposity and grandiosity would have been well-advised. Not enough music and too much talking about the music. Having said that, this course was very good, very educational, and I feel as if I just climbed a mountain and that it took me 2,160 minutes to do so. Whew! I found out that I really like Debussy more than I realized and now can appreciate Stravinsky (great gardening music!), that I love Beethoven (and WHY), I love Purcell (and WHY), anything Baroque, some Classical, some Romantic, some Modern. Mahler is just OK, Shoenberg no fun, Berlioz not so much, Tchaikovsky I don't like except when I do. Liszt I like the Toten Tanz. Wagner--ot sure yet. Rimsky-Korsakov is fabulous. Who should listen to this: Anyone who really, really, really loves music. I learned a lot, and parts were very engaging. I wouldn't listen to it a second time, whereas Greenberg's Course, "The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works" I would definitely (and will) listen to again and again. I have Greenberg's Wagner Course ready to go--but I think I will take a well-deserved break of at least a couple of weeks from Greenberg's wit.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Wow. Just... huge wow. I took me forever to get through this lecture series because it's so thorough and so interesting, I had to listen to some parts over and over. Greenberg is such an engaging speaker, and he knows his material inside and out. He's a delight to listen to! His delivery is a perfect balance of insight, experience, emotional investment in his subject matter, and an understanding of his audience, which is probably a lot like me: people who don't have a much in the way of musical Wow. Just... huge wow. I took me forever to get through this lecture series because it's so thorough and so interesting, I had to listen to some parts over and over. Greenberg is such an engaging speaker, and he knows his material inside and out. He's a delight to listen to! His delivery is a perfect balance of insight, experience, emotional investment in his subject matter, and an understanding of his audience, which is probably a lot like me: people who don't have a much in the way of musical background but really, really want to learn! Perfect example of how some of these lessons hit home: I visited Vienna twice in a year. Until recently, I hadn't traveled abroad at all, but then, to visit Vienna? Between the two trips, I started listening to these lectures. By the second trip, so much beyond just the scope of the music revealed itself to me. I was really able to appreciate the experience so much more. And an organ concert in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Passau at Christmas? Icing on the cake. This lecture series made all the difference in the world. Can't say enough about it. Worth every minute, every penny, and every note.

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