Great Masters: Liszt-His Life and Music

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining and educational Apart from a few factual inaccuracies and mispronunciations, this course was very fun and educational. It is just long enough to give you a good idea of who Liszt was without going too much into detail. Professor Greenberg has a big personality, but once I got used to those little quirks, I really enjoyed the lessons. On to Beethoven now!
Date published: 2021-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Masters - Liszt, His Life and Music Robert Greenberg is exceptional in his understanding of music, his knowledge of Liszt and his ability to convey the depths of each.
Date published: 2020-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get to know Liszt I have been gradually acquiring all of professor Greenberg's lectures. They are both entertaining and educational and a good introduction to classical music.
Date published: 2020-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from High on my Liszt of favorites Greenberg once again puts pizzazz into his lectures, making the music, the man and the mood always interesting. History and humor meet with this guy to perfection. Keep them coming!
Date published: 2020-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another winner from Professor Greenberg! I've listened to almost all the other "Great Masters" courses and this one is fantastic, just like the rest. Professor Greenberg does an amazing job of telling an interesting story without devolving into cute anecdotes or boring minutia. Selections from LIszt's music are interspersed at reasonable and enjoyable intervals. Nothing can match Prof. Greenberg's enthusiasm. He loves music and it that feeling is contagious. My only critique is that he really could spend a few minutes brushing up on his French and Hungarian pronunciation, they are pretty dreadful.
Date published: 2019-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of music's most fascinating figures This one is really more biography than music, and I think it may be in part because Professor Greenberg doesn’t consider Liszt a truly great composer on par with Brahms, Mozart, etc (also my opinion). However, Liszt was a truly gigantic figure in 19th Century music—first to really capitalize on the new metal-framed pianos, first to give a complete all-piano concert (“recital”), inventor of the master class, center of one of the 2 opposite camps in German Romanticism—and an extraordinary person in numerous respects. Dr Greenberg does a great job of telling his story, and I really enjoyed it. The last 2 lectures are particularly good.
Date published: 2019-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good title What was great was able to learn and hear the great music and the naughty details of his life.
Date published: 2019-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have listened to several of Dr. G's lectures, all of them great, but Liszt--now, there is a fascinating story to say the very, very least. 8 Lectures on 8 CDs. Totally worth it. It is nothing short of astonishing how Dr. Greenberg can keep producing lecture after lecture on subject after subject, all at such high levels of expertise. Each presentation represents an enormous amount of research and preparation. These productions are a genuine gift to the musical community worldwide. It seems no matter how much a person may already know on a given composer or musical subject, Dr. G is still able to offer additional information, insights, and connections to make each subject even more complete. For example, the time spent offering the detailed information on the technical development of the piano is so helpful and so relevant here, especially when we consider that the construction of the piano was nearing the end of its evolution just in time for the Romantic Era and Chopin, the first pianistic composer, and Franz Liszt, the greatest pianist of the era and perhaps of all time. Other important influential information of this sort included the effect of the French Revolution, the impact of Chopin and Berlioz, and Liszt's friendship with Paganini on his development as a musician. Liszt is well-portrayed here as the anomaly he is, achieving a well-deserved fame for his performing skill, and yet at the great cost of a complicated and convoluted personal life, full of many painful episodes, some of which were brought on by himself - some not so. Dr. G explores every nook and cranny of Listzt's amazing life. In addition to Liszt's music and all things connected to it, Dr. G really outdoes himself in giving us a full view of Liszt the man who, among innumerable other misfortunes, certainly had bad luck with women, (In 1871 Olga's Janina's life's ambition was to kill Liszt, and she gave it a good try.) It's amazing that he even survived his life, let alone became a musical icon to boot. And what about these gems---?---Franz Liszt, a priest??? Unbelievable. Best of all, it was no joke! And the Wagner/Cosima/Hans von Bulow triangle and its aftermath leaves one speechless. Liszt's swift switch from performer to composer is remarkable, and Dr. G's in-depth examinations of the B Minor Piano Sonata and the Faust Symphony are particularly appreciated. Speaking personally, for all his faults, I have to say that a few character traits particularly attract me to Liszt, the first of which is his generosity. In the book Composers On Music, edited by Sam Morgenstern, the editor says of Liszt, "Scarcely any young composer of worth who came to his notice--and few failed to--was not encouraged, and his music keenly analyzed and criticized. What is more, it was brought to performance and helped toward publication through Liszt's immense influence. Similarly, performers were helped forward in their careers. Liszt offered them his invaluable, free instruction and undertook to procure them engagements on an almost wholesale basis, acting as agent or manager in the best sense of the word. He drew a clear line of demarcation between genius and talent: men like Wagner, Berlioz and Schumann he accepted as they were; he tried to improve, through suggestion and advice, the creations of lessers composers; the truly bad was never cut to pieces--it was correctly ignored." I was also impressed with the way Liszt handled the severest criticism, incorrect and motivated by envy as it was, by making dignified and generous statements such as, "Despite these words, (Joseph) Joachim remains a great artist and a noble spirit." And one more thing in his favor--Liszt's excellent fatherly advice to his daughter Cosima was right on the money. Plus, Dr. G's clever humor once again always hits the bullseye and makes my wife and me Iaugh out loud. Subtitle: The Great One, by a great teacher. P.S. Yes, Virginia, Liszt's critics were not right, as so many critics of so many composers and performers through the centuries were also not right. Upon reading what a few others have to say about Dr. Greenberg's teaching, I am saddened to see that the spirits of Eduard Hanslick, George Bernard Shaw, Harold Schonberg and Virgil Thomson are alive and well.
Date published: 2018-12-22
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Le Concert, C'est Moi-The Concert is Me
1: Le Concert, C'est Moi-The Concert is Me

Franz Liszt was an outrageous showman and a performer of musical "firsts." He was a legend before he turned 30, the embodiment of the Romantic era's vision of the artist as god. To understand Liszt, we must first learn a little history of the piano, the instrument he uniquely exploited....

49 min
A Born Pianist
2: A Born Pianist

Liszt was surrounded by music from infancy and began to reveal his musical gifts at about age five. He stunned his teachers and, at his first performance at age 11, astonished reviewers and his audience. When Liszt was 15, his father died, sending Franz into depression and apathy for three years. He was finally blasted out of his lethargy by the July Revolution of 1830....

47 min
3: Revelation

Writers, musicians, artists, and intellectuals flocked to Paris after the July Revolution of 1830. Liszt was a stellar attraction in the Paris salons. In 1833, Liszt met and fell in love with the beautiful, married, and neurotic Countess Marie d'Agoult; they had three children together. A devastating flood in Hungary prompted Liszt to go to Vienna and give a series of benefit concerts. The experie...

46 min
4: Transcendence

Liszt had been immersed in practicing and composing. His approach to composition created a technique of interchangeable fingerings, interlocking hands, and crossed hands that revolutionized piano playing in the 19th century. He had attained a level of virtuosity at the piano that would soon take Europe by storm when he went on tour. His concerts became major events, and he proved himself to be the...

47 min
5: Weimar

Marie believed that Liszt had abandoned her, and she spent the rest of her life trying to blacken his reputation. Liszt retired as a touring concert pianist in 1847, after he met Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein. He took over the orchestra in Weimar and aimed to recreate the city as the hub of European culture. Liszt and Carolyne lived in a spacious house in Weimar and hosted a circle of fr...

46 min
The Music at Weimar
6: The Music at Weimar

Although Liszt was conducting and learning to compose for the orchestra, his heart still belonged to the piano. During this time, he composed one of the greatest keyboard works of the 19th century, the B Minor Sonata for Piano. Liszt's orchestral masterwork of these years is the Faust Symphony, which has modern themes to depict the story of Faust's struggle for his soul. With its completion in 185...

46 min
7: Rome

By the 1850s, Liszt became the focal point of a debate concerning program music versus absolute music and expression versus structure. Twenty years before, Liszt and his fellow young Romantic musicians had a common goal: to create a new music based on individual expression. As they grew older, many became conservative, but Liszt never lost his revolutionary spirit. But brokenhearted by the death o...

46 min
A Life Well Lived
8: A Life Well Lived

Liszt's last 12 years were filled with music, traveling, honors, and a few disappointments. He was hailed as a genius in Hungary and divided his living arrangements among Rome, Weimar, and Budapest. He spent much time teaching and helped to found the Hungarian Royal Academy of Music. His health and energy began to fail him in 1881 and he died in Bayreuth, Bavaria, on July 31, 1886....

45 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.