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Great Masters: Robert and Clara Schumann—Their Lives and Music

Learn why this critic and composer and his pianist wife have earned a distinct place in the annals of Western music.
Great Masters: Robert and Clara Schumann-Their Lives and Music is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 45.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Greenberg is a delight Dr. Greenberg is always as entertaining as he is informative. As a music major in college I took many music courses taught by professors who well educated but pedantic and boring. I would have taken every course offered by Dr. Greenberg and plan to do just that through the Great Courses of the learning Company.
Date published: 2022-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Greenberg brings these to life! We have had all of the Great Masters lectures for many years and enjoyed listening to them again while doing jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic. All are excellent! We learned so much & enjoy the music more. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2022-02-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Robert and Clara Schumann Do not ask me to review a course in the same week I received the course. Give me a couple of months to view the course.
Date published: 2022-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I hate that GC no longer sells CD versions of most wits courses.
Date published: 2021-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting overall - but out of tune piano This was not the first course I listened to with professor Greenberg. As always, he is well documented and lively, and it gives us a broader perpsective on Robert and Clara Schumann's life and compositions. One thing that really bothered me was that the piano used for the excerpts sounds terrible and is badly out of tune! Given that Schumman's music is so beautiful, why in the world ruin it by playing it on a worn down piano?! It shouldn't sound like this.
Date published: 2020-10-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Certainly complete This course was on sale when I bought it and I enjoying the course.
Date published: 2020-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FUNNY BUNNY Professor Greenberg is an energizer bunny that just keeps on going and going … making several Great Course titles, all (that I have seen) presented with an intense gesticulating manner. Far from being a distraction to studious concentration, I find his performances very enjoyable because they are punctuated with bon mots, jokes and quotes from critics emphasizing his love of humor. I consider ‘Robert and Clara Schumann – Their Lives & Music’ the most entertaining so far. Poor Clara’s Dad!
Date published: 2020-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vintage Greenberg Like other Teaching Company courses of this popular lecturer, these lectures are informed, dramatic, captivating. The course is mainly about the Schumanns' lives. Their works are played as examples, some extensively, one of the attractions of the course. But analysis of their music as such is minimal.
Date published: 2020-03-12
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Meet Robert and Clara Wieck Schumann, the most brilliant, gifted, troubled, and unique couple in the history of concert music. In Great Masters: Robert and Clara Schumann—Their Lives and Music, taught by popular Teaching Company Professor Robert Greenberg, learn why this critic and composer and his pianist wife have earned a distinct place in the annals of Western music. These fascinating lectures take you through not only the Schumanns' unique relationship, but their respectively powerful impact on the course of 19th-century Romantic music.


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.


San Francisco Performances

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.

You can find more music content from Robert Greenberg on Patreon:

By This Professor

The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works
Music as a Mirror of History
Great Music of the 20th Century
Symphonies of Beethoven
The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works
How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition
Isn't it Romantic!

01: Isn't it Romantic!

This lecture provides background on Romanticism, the dominant movement in European art in the 19th century, and on Robert Schumann's youth. He showed an early talent for piano and composing. In his teen years he wrote songs that began to reveal the duality of poet and musician in his personality and work. Before he went on to university, Schumann experienced two tragedies: the death of his sister Emilie and the sudden death of his father from a heart attack at age 53.

49 min
A Pianist in Leipzig

02: A Pianist in Leipzig

Schumann enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1828. He began piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck, father of Clara. In 1831, Schumann also made his debut as a professional music critic. When his hands started to go numb, Schumann knew that he would not have a career as a pianist; he turned to composition. In July 1833, illness and deaths caused him to go into a deep depression.

47 min

03: Clara

Schumann's teacher and Clara's father, Friedrich Wieck, was an ambitious and difficult man, determined to transform Clara into a great pianist using his teaching methods. Clara was well received wherever she and her father traveled. Robert Schumann lived with the Wiecks for almost a year. Clara played Schumann's "Papillons", and by the time she was 16, they had fallen in love.

45 min

04: "Carnaval"

Schumann composed "Carnaval", which is made up of 21 miniatures describing Schumann's friends and colleagues in the setting of a masked ball. When Wieck discovered Schumann's relationship with Clara, took Clara away from Leipzig and severed all ties with Schumann. Schumann was driven to episodes of mania and depression. During one of his manic periods, he composed "Kreisleriana," a kind of ";spiritual diary" of his emotions and personality at the time.

47 min
Marriage and Songs

05: Marriage and Songs

After Robert and Clara won a lawsuit filed against her father, they were married. Robert was composing prodigiously, producing almost 150 songs in the year 1840, including the beautiful "Frauenliebe und Leben" (Woman's Love and Life). The early days of their marriage were happy, but the realities of balancing their demanding professional and personal lives soon brought conflict to the couple.

48 min
The Symphonic Year

06: The Symphonic Year

Robert's Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, op. 38, was brilliant and wonderfully received by both audiences and critics. Inspired by the symphony's triumph, Robert wrote a number of other orchestral works and chamber music. Clara returned to touring just three months after the couple's first child was born. Robert and Clara managed to strike a balance in their professional and personal lives.

46 min
Illness Takes Hold

07: Illness Takes Hold

Robert Schumann's compositional career took off, but in 1844, his mental health began to decline. They moved to Dresden to be closer to Robert's doctors. They moved to Kreischa, where Schumann experienced a period of intense creativity. In 1850, Schumann took an appointment as music director for the city of Düsseldorf. They were initially welcomed with enthusiasm, but three years later, the orchestra would demand Schumann's resignation.

47 min

08: Madness

In Düsseldorf Robert was inspired to write the Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, along with trios, sonatas, orchestral works, and pieces for chorus and voice and piano. Robert and Clara also met Johannes Brahms there; he became a lifelong friend and source of strength for Clara. In 1854 Robert attempted to drown himself in the Rhine and was taken to an asylum. He died there two years later. Clara managed to sustain the family through her concerts but was dealt even more pain by the early deaths of several of her children.

47 min