Great Masters: Brahms—His Life and Music

Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved the details of this course... I feel that the information about his life it’s relevant and super interesting. I can understand his music better now. The teacher it is engaging and keep the interest going Thanks for this amazing course
Date published: 2020-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good expose of Brahms This was my third course given by Professor Robert Greenberg. Again, I found his lectures stimulating. Brahms, the enigma, the onion was peeled away by Prof. Greenburg. I have a few of Brahms works and now I must get Symphony's No1 and 2 . I enjoyed the lectures.
Date published: 2020-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Inviting overview Greenberg is a popular lecturer for The Teaching Company and it's clear why. He is exciting to listen to. Sometimes he's a bit too excited and compulsive for my taste, as in the very opening minutes of this series, when he bubbles on about some inconsequentials, like Brahms's cigar smoking. Greenberg's insights in Brahms's character and personality are especially enjoyable.
Date published: 2018-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Light shed on a great mysterious Master! I have purchased a number of the Great Masters courses over the years and when I bought Brahms, I honestly did not know what to expect. Wow, what a surprise! Robert Greenberg is one of my favorite lecturers, and I have thought many times how I would have loved to sit under his teaching when I was in college (now increasingly long ago). He opens with a great deal of biographical information on Brahms, which might be a negative sometimes, but in this case, I have to admit I was in the dark about this author of the lullaby. Brahms had a tough early life, and Greenberg does not step around the truth that his growing up around the brothels of Hamburg shaped his early on, and affected his personal relationships for the rest of his life. He also goes into great detail related to his relationship with Clara Schumann, both before and after Robert's death. Johannes Brahms is an enigma. A writer of beautiful music who was a pain to be around. A generous man to his family and others, but one with a cutting wit and a contrarian attitude all his life. Antonin Dvorak (whose Cello Concerto has to be in my 5 favorite pieces of music EVER) owed his career to Brahms. And then, Brahms's music. What a mind! I love his 3rd Symphony, and then there's Piano Concerto #2, "The Long Terror." His Violin Concerto is unbelievable, and it showcased his great friend the violinist, Joseph Joachim. I have to admit this is not an easy series to listen to because of some of the subject matter, but I gained an appreciation for this Romantic master, the great "subjective objectivist" of his time. I highly recommend this series of lectures. I now have several of Brahms pieces in my musical library. BRAVO!!
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of Greenburg’s Great Masters’ Best I have now taken over 10 of Dr. Greenburg’s courses, including several of the “Great Masters” series. As usual, Dr. Greenburg combines quite a bit of biographical information about the selected composer, including his personal and professional relationships along with his music; both composed and performed. Once again when taking one of these courses, I am amazed about how little I know regarding a composer’s life and about music in general. While I am not, nor ever have been a musician, I have listened seriously to music my entire life and have really been fairly smug as to my layperson’s knowledge. For example I thought I knew all about the life-long relationship between Brahms and Clara Schuman. In just a few short minutes, I found how little I really knew (Brahms’ relationship with one of Clara’s daughters for example). Or that Brahms actually appreciated the music of Wagner, if not Liszt’s. And in the area of the music itself, I needed Dr. Greenburg to point out to me how Brahms combined elements of 18th century classic music with 19th century techniques. The objective with the subjective, as it were. Professor Greenburg suppresses his usual shtick to a marked degree in this course, to the point that I personally would have liked a bit more, although I well understand that others differ. In the end, I felt that I knew quite a bit about a man and musician, especially one who tried his best to not allow future generations to know anything about him other than his best music. Very well done, Dr. Greenburg.
Date published: 2018-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this course Well done. Nice blend of music samples and history. This is my first course of great composers and I will surely study another.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An unqualified delight I have been listening to Brahms’ music for decades, and I have found it to be highly sophisticated, evocative, beautiful, intoxicating; in short – nothing short of divine. Professor Greenberg does an absolutely fabulous job in allowing us to know who Brahms was – at least to the extent that this is possible: in the first lecture he says “we barely got to know you JB”… He does tell us quite thoroughly at least what is known about his non-bourgeoise life-style, his nasty temper, his lack of patience for nobility and his deep sympathy and generosity to the working class and to the small group of people closest to him. Even to them, apparently, he remained to a large extent an enigma. Professor Greenberg discusses in some detail some of his intimate relationships (of which there were apparently only a handful), including his relationship with Joseph Joachim and the Schumanns. We follow his career from his early childhood, though his “discovery” on his first tour by (consecutively) Joachim, Liszt and the Schumanns, and onto its unfolding of Brahms as a mature, master musician of his era. Through the course, a lot of music I was not acquainted with was introduced – some of it out of the comfort zone of what I usually listen to. I will surely be listening to a lot of what was introduced soon. After hearing the course, I feel I have a much better context for understanding his music. Overall, this has been a brilliant course. Professor Greenberg is a wonderful teacher: his wonderful wit, his musical and historical knowledge (both of musical history and the general historical context of the era), and his boundless enthusiasm for the subject make listening to the course an unqualified delight. Of course, my deep love for Brahms’ music may also have had something to do with my total enjoyment…
Date published: 2018-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brahms - His life and music Learning about the life of Brahm helped me to understand and appreciate his music much more than I did before this course..
Date published: 2017-09-19
  • y_2021, m_4, d_20, h_17
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.14
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_2, tr_56
  • loc_en_CA, sid_757, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 4.24ms
J.B., We Hardly Knew You!
1: J.B., We Hardly Knew You!

Johannes Brahms tried to "shape" the future's memory of himself by destroying much of his own work and correspondence. Feelings of inferiority could have come from his humble origins. He was born in Hamburg's red-light district. By the time he was eight, his potential as a pianist was apparent. His teacher recognized Brahms's talent, and grounded him in the music of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and others in the German/Austrian tradition.

48 min
The Brothels of Hamburg
2: The Brothels of Hamburg

One of the disturbing formative experiences of Brahms's childhood was his employment as a piano player in the bars and brothels of Hamburg. Brahms continued his lessons and came to appreciate the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Brahms met a Hungarian violinist named Eduard Rimenyi; they went on tour together. The contacts Brahms made on this tour would catapult him to fame only seven months after he left Hamburg.

45 min
The Schumanns
3: The Schumanns

Clara and Robert Schumann were overwhelmed by Brahms's music, and Robert used his influence to have a number of works by Brahms published and himself wrote an article declaring Brahms to be the new messiah of German music. Robert Schumann died in July 1856, but even though he loved her, Brahms decided he could not marry Clara. They remained friends for the rest of their lives.

44 min
The Vagabond Years
4: The Vagabond Years

From 1857 to 1862, Brahms took various appointments and traveled but refused to take on a long-term professional position. The 1859 premiere in Leipzig of the Piano Concerto in D Minor was disastrous. The years conducting choirs in Hamburg were the key to Brahms's musical maturity. By 1860, Brahms had developed his mature musical voice—Romantic melody and harmony objectively constrained by Classical formal structures.

45 min
5: Maturity

Although Brahms's mature compositional style was conservative, his melody, harmony, and expressive content were entirely contemporary. His successes in the early 1860s lifted his spirits and fattened his wallet. He traveled to Vienna and settled into the musical life there, but in 1864, his mother died, and Brahms grieved mightily. He began work on a piece that would stand as a memorial for the dead: A German Requiem, Brahms's longest work and an extraordinarily personal one.

45 min
6: Mastery

The years 1865 and 1866 were compositionally productive for Brahms, and in 1868, he triumphantly premiered A German Requiem, which would come to be the foundation of his compositional career. By the early 1870s, his position among German composers was considered equal to that of Liszt. His position as director of the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna allowed him to study and conduct the music of his choosing and would ultimately bring him back to orchestral composition.

46 min
The Tramp of Giants
7: The Tramp of Giants

Brahms's Symphony no. 1 in C Minor ushered in a second golden age for the symphony that saw the composition of works by Dvorak, Mahler, and others. In 1877, Brahms completed his Second Symphony, the charming and lyric Pastoral Symphony. At this time in his life, Brahms was rich, famous, and was producing one genuine masterwork after another, including his monumental Piano Concerto no. 2 in B-flat Major.

47 min
8: Farewells

As Brahms entered his 50s, he was still healthy and maintained his creative powers. He produced a great deal of vocal music in the early 1880s, as well as his majestic Third Symphony. In 1885, his brilliant Fourth Symphony was triumphantly premiered. He also produced songs, sonatas, a trio, and a double concerto. But when Clara Schumann died in 1896, Brahms was devastated. His own health deteriorated, and he succumbed to cancer of the liver on April 3, 1897.

47 min
Robert Greenberg

For thousands of years cultures have celebrated themselves through their music. Let us always be willing and able to join that celebration by listening as carefully as we can to what, through music, we have to say to one another.


University of California, Berkeley


San Francisco Performances

About Robert Greenberg

Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions-which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles-performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. He has served on the faculties of the University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Hayward; and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Chicago Symphony. For The Great Courses, he has recorded more than 500 lectures on a range of composers and classical music genres. Professor Greenberg is a Steinway Artist. His many other honors include three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress. He has been profiled in various major publications, including The Wall Street Journal; Inc. magazine; and the London Times.