Great Masters: Tchaikovsky—His Life and Music

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful lectures with an amazing professor! I listened to this course after a night at the symphony with only Tchaikovsky music. I loved learning about this great composer and his incredible life.
Date published: 2019-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Biography! Very informative and entertaining account of Tchaikovsky's life, complete with an excellent range of musical excerpts. The description of his phobias and orientation and of his end were completely new to me. Dr. Greenberg made it all come alive.
Date published: 2018-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and interesting Through lesson 4 of 6. Very interesting. Good mix of commentary and music.
Date published: 2018-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Flawed Genius, but Still a Genius I’ve likely lost count, but I this is around the 14th review I’ve done on one of Professor Robert Greenberg’s courses—some in audio and others in video. And I have a few more in my purchased but unwatched (un-listened) file. While the quality of the material has varied a bit from time to time, and Dr. Greenberg’s delivery has sometimes been less frenetic than other times, I have always learned a lot, while being highly entertained. This course is no exception. True enough that Tchaikovsky is presented with all of his warts, some in graphic detail, but at least for me, this was not only a part of who Tchaikovsky was, but is necessary to understand his often sad life and its ending. I note that Dr. Greenberg also reveals unseemly details about many (most) of the other composers in his courses about their lives, so I think that no one should be surprised. While I have listened to his music ever since Van Cliburn won the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, playing the Tchaikovsky 1st (and the Rachmaninoff 3rd) to a standing ovation, I really knew very little about his life. I found it really interesting to listen to Dr. Greenburg’s critique of that piano concerto, as well as his unmitigated praise for the Violin Concerto in D and the Serenade for Strings (a piece with which I was not familiar). So not only did I learn a lot about Tchaikovsky’s life (and more of the good than the bad), I have been presented with more music to love. As always in reading Greenberg course reviews, there are those who dislike his humor and delivery. While I understand those who object, he hits the mark with me in leavening dates, times, places and people with levity. And not for the first time, have reviewers complained about Professor Greenberg’s pronunciation of non-English words. I am not competent to comment as to his mispronunciations, but given my very heavy accent when speaking Spanish, I find this not at all off-putting and understandable. Perhaps not the most compelling bio in this series, but still worth a full rating from me.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tchaikovsky Dr. Greenberg made Tchaikovsky come to life! I have gained a whole new perception of a composer I've loved since childhood. Back in March I did my best at age 72 performing the viola part for Romeo & Juliet Overature w/ The Omaha Symphony. After hearing RG's commentaries I understand much better how & why Tchaikovsky's music grabs me like it does. How I wish RG could have been my teacher 50 yrs ago at UNL (Lincoln) School of Music. I look forward every day to some music learning w/ RG. He's a GEM!
Date published: 2018-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a great course. After getting this course and like the way professor was teaching that I bought six more courses. I am done with 3 only. Looking forward to finish what I bought. Dear professor, You are an inspiration for me... Thank you.
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite composer. bt not my favorite person Oh my goodness, so many masterpieces in so many genres. Piano concertos, violin concerto, ballets (sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Swan Lake), symphonies, string quartettes, Operas, etc.. Yet he lived an absolutely miseable life, committing suicide in the end. To bad for us because he could surely have lived another 10 years and provided us with even more masterpieces.
Date published: 2017-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course from one of the great teachers I've enjoyed every course I've taken from Prof Greenberg, including the 'biographies' of Beethoven, Haydn, and Brahms. I thought his course on Tchaikovsky excellent, and I learned a lot about his music and the man. I think the balance is right. It's essential to devote time to Tchaikovsky's homosexuality, since being gay in a society and at a time when it was literally illegal to be gay had a huge influence on his music. I came away with a deeper appreciation of his music, and have already bought recordings of some beautiful compositions of which I had heard, but never really heard before.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful introduction to Tchaikovsky I loved this course, it is a wonderful introduction to Tchaikovsky the human being, and to his profoundly beautiful music. Professor Greenberg presents Tchaikovsky in his historical and cultural context, and the composer's family and upbringing, while emphasizing his unique, extraordinary creative gift. Professor Greenberg is never dry, his presentation is alive, funny, and so appreciative. This course moved me to purchase some recordings of Tchaikovsky's music, and to buy Professor Greenberg's course "How to Listen To and Understand Great Music," which I am *greatly* enjoying!
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great overview of Tchaikovsky Great overview of his life and work. More heavy on anecdotes than I prefer, less focus on music per se. Professor states this intense biographical focus is to understand music in more depth, appreciate Tchaikovsky's emotional turmoil and pathos. I think some of the biographical detail could have been condensed, to focus on more of the music itself (good example: his course on Mozart's chamber works, only enough bio material as needed for the work in question). Overall a very good course, another solid offering from Dr. Greenburg.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from If It's Greenberg, It's Good, But... Robert Greenberg is nothing if not entertaining, and the entertainment is in high style in this course. Robert Greenberg is nothing if not informative, and nformative is putting it mildly here. At the same time, I have more reservations about this one than any of Greenberg's other offerings with the Great Courses. First is his relation to his subject. While Greenberg expresses genuine admiration for Tchaikovsky's music, it's hard to avoid the feeling that he holds his subject in some disdain. More than once he seems to make light of Tchaikovsky's melancholy and depression. And while I am sure that Dr. Greenberg is not homophobic, some of his wisecracks relating to Tchaikovsky's homosexuality made me squirm. In a nutshell, he does not seem to be sympathetic to Tchaikovsky the man, a kindness he manages even for the notoriously difficult Beethoven. Second, as other reviewers have pointed out, there is more life story than music. Very little of the music is deconstructed in any helpful way. Which is unfortunate, because the pieces that Greenberg does explain are very tantalizing and eye-opening. Yet Greenberg focuses on Tchaikovsky's life, or more accurately, his personal failings and foibles. In fact, we really don't end up with a good life sketch, not like Greenberg's parallel courses on Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. It's not that Greenberg treats Tchaikovsky as a pathetic clown, but sometimes he comes dangerously close. Third, there are the constant needless mispronunciations. Look, Russian names and places really aren't hard to say if you put the stress where it belongs. Greenberg could easily have looked a few things up and thrown an accent mark on his notes. AnDREYevna, PeTROvich, FilaRETovna, even Tchaikovskaya (the female form of Tchaikovsky, in reference to the composer's mother and sister) are not that alien to the English-speaking tongue. But Greenberg stumbles over and butchers all these and more. Weirdly, every single time Greenberg says the name of Tchaikovsky's hometown of Votkinsk it comes out as - I have no other word for it - a snarl. Either he had a very bad experience there or he is struggling to say it. A couple of time he seemed to be under the impression that it's "Votkinksk." Two simple syllables, accent on the first. If you can say Minsk, you can say Kinsk, and if you can say Vot as well, then you can say Votkinsk. The fact is that any musicologist worth his salt should have a smattering of French, German, Italian and Russian, at least enough to know the pronunciations. Greenberg gives us a German pronunciation of "Bach" but mispronounces "Alsace." He even makes the freshman error of putting an English "th" sound in Pathétique. Minor irritants, to be sure. But they are distracting and, with ever so little checking, unnecessary. Fourth and most concerning are the errors of fact and history. Several times Greenberg gets the Julian (Old Style) and Gregorian calendars backwards. Nadezhda von Meck had eleven children, not 18. And her break with Tchaikovsky wasn't forced on her because "her children were bleeding her dry"; if anything, her outlandish largesse to the composer (even after he was funded by Tsar Alexander) was impoverishing the family business. (It is true that some loss occurred because her son Vladimir managed business affairs poorly.) Greenberg ignores the fact that Tchaikovsky's niece married von Meck's son - an occasion attended by the composer but not his patron - and a raging conflict between mother and her Tchaikovskaya daughter-in-law was probably a far more decisive factor. Not to mention von Meck's realization that her tuberculosis was terminal. Greenberg makes two comments that have given me pause about purchasing his course on Wagner. He refers to Wagner's patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, as "very rich and very crazy" in one lecture and in another refers to him as "Mad King Ludwig - who really was nuts." I'm sorry, but anybody at the turn of the 21st century who seriously thinks King Ludwig was mad is just plain guilty of sloppy research. Ludwig was overthrown in a palace coup while he was out of town. It was done by forcing a team of doctors (who had never examined him) to sign a document certifying him insane. He died under mysterious circumstances at Berg Castle (his captors claimed suicide by drowning, but the autopsy they frantically tried to prevent showed no water in his lungs). Ludwig was a hopeless romantic, reclusive, socially awkward, and guilt-ridden over his homosexuality, but no responsible historian since the 1950s seriously believes there was anything actually wrong with his mind. A final caution regarding this course: The exact cause of Tchaikovsky's death is a matter of lively dispute. But Greenberg presents the "forced suicide" theory as if it were the established consensus of historians. He says that the Soviet government covered up the truth but that previously suppressed documents released from the Communist archives under Yeltsin confirm this version of events. In fact, the "Court of Honor" theory, far from being hidden by the Soviets, was first aired by a Russian musicologist during the Brezhnev era. Among other problems, it relies on the interception of a letter to the Tsar from one Duke of Stenbok-Fermor, with whose nephew Tchaikovsky had allegedly had an affair. Problem is, no such Duke existed. There was a Count Stenbok-Fermor, and Greenberg has obligingly corrected the rank. But the Count was an intimate of the Tsar who lived in the palace. He would hardly have sent any correspondence, let alone such explosive correspondence, through an intermediary. In any case, Greenberg describes events as if they took place when in fact they're speculation. Which is not to say that the forced suicide theory is necessarily false. I happen to be inclined toward it. But it's important to acknowledge that it has at least as many holes as any of the other theories surrounding Tchaikovsky's death. The matter is not as resolved as Greenberg would have us believe. Even given all of the above, I do recommend this course. Some reviewers are turned off by Greenberg's style. I find it refreshing and stimulating. This course has prompted me to buy some music I did not previously own, and Greenberg is right - I wasn't sorry that I did. I only wish Greenberg had taken a little more time with the music and significant life events and gone lighter on the tabloid approach.
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent - but too short Prof. Greenberg is fantastic -- knowledgeable, funny, and incisive, with a distinct New York humor. The only "problem" with this course is that it is too short -- should have been double the length to do Tchaikovsky's corpus the depth it deserves. But for anyone who wants to get the "core" of this master Romantic composer -- a great course.
Date published: 2017-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful content, presentation not so much This course content and organization is wonderful. Prof. Greenberg does a great job of providing the history of the times and of Tchaikovsky and explaining how Tchaikovsky's experiences informed his music. He intersperses segments of music with his discussion in a wonderful way so that you appreciate and have a better understanding of the music you are listening to. However, Prof. Greenberg's presentation style is pretty bad. He is clearly excited about his subject, and certainly is providing great information, but his excitable presentation style and his continual over stressing of words is rather jarring.
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative Dr. Greenberg is one of the best professors I have ever viewed. His presentation is both rewarding and informative. Tchaikovsky is one of the great music masters and I'll learned much about his life from this course. I took this course at an OLLI Class at UNLV and liked it so much that I decided to buy it for myself.
Date published: 2016-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Happy I Bought This Course I don't really know much about classical music and have endeavored to learn more about it. I really enjoy Professor Greenberg's presentation of the material. It's funny, raw, and fast paced. It also presents samples from each work to reinforce the topic at hand. He also really helps his class to connect with Tchaikovsky personally. At times, too much information was presented about the composer's various tastes. However, there was a point to everything he said and that was really appreciated. He's a great lecturer--his enthusiasm transfers nicely towards whatever he discusses, his passion for the topic is both realistic and inspiring. The course is great and I'm glad I purchased it.
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love this man... Both Tchaikovsky and Robert Greenberg. I probably am biased in favor of the composer after years of ballet, but I can't get enough of his music. This course gave me a new perspective on many of his works, as it showed how much of his work was related to events in his life. I agree with Dr. Greenberg that Tchaikovsky, not Johann Strauss, should be called the Waltz king...Strauss never wrote anything as good (plus, as my father said, "if you have heard 8 bars of anything Johann Strauss wrote, you have heard everything Johann Strauss wrote)." I wish Dr. Greenberg had been able to identify the performers for the piano and the violin concerti, as I found the recordings wonderful, and I don't have them. The information about Tchaikovsky's death was new to me, although I had never believed he died of cholera, the symptoms not matching that disease. But the reason he died is appalling: how could anyone terminate a composer of his talent for such a trivial reason?
Date published: 2016-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent value, engagingly presented This has been my favorite of the many Great Courses I have taken on music. It is an enjoyable balance of music, commentary, and biography. In eight lectures I have learned to relate Tchaikovsky's music to his life and been introduced to some wonderful pieces of music I did not know previously.
Date published: 2015-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful, Enjoyable. This was a very informative and insightful lecture serious. It helped me have a deeper appreciation for Tchaikovsky's life. Thus it has helped me to understand his approach to writing music --the context. There did seem to be some contradictions. At one point I was almost sure Professor Greenberg stated that Peter's music was too Germanic, but then later stated that it was too melodically driven --which is not Germanic at all. But perhaps I need to listen to it more. His music was of a hybrid nature, so it may be too nuanced to say it is too Germanic or too melodic. Structure is most definitely there, but perhaps in a different way then we generally think of it. Overall a very enjoyable and informative lecture serious. Can't wait to listen to more lectures by this professor.
Date published: 2015-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling and enlightening Professor Greenberg delivers yet again with a riveting biography of Tchaikovsky that also introduces you to some of his music that you may not have heard but certainly should- his "Serenade for Strings" chief among them in my opinion. Absolutely wonderful!
Date published: 2015-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Virtuoso Lecture Series The Great Courses equivalent of a book that you "can't put down" - it is a biography presented with Professor Greenberg's trademark excitement and wry humor. Most enjoyable, however, is the way in which Greenberg combines an elegantly paced and richly developed narrative with musical excerpts that serve to illuminate the work product and inner temperament of the composer. All components of this course blend harmoniously to leave the listener awestruck by the sheer sensual joy of this learning experience
Date published: 2015-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing course. " Professor Robert Geenberg is not only an expert but also a humorous, insightful and delightful presenter who brings the subject to life. I highly recommend beginning with Professor Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music," then select the five or six composers of greatest interest. For example, I have worked through Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and, Wagner. Next is his "How to Listen to and Understand Great Opera" followed by Verdi. Professor Greenberg demonstrates how the individual composer's private life and psyche as well as the historical setting are intimately revealed in their music. If you long to fill that great gap in your education on Western Civilization and culture begin here. Then, you can move on to great literature with Professor Marc C. Connor and his amazing "How to Read and Understand Shakespeare." Walter J. McDonald, Jr. "
Date published: 2015-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spellbound! I purchased the Tchaikovsky Great Courses DVDs of lectures given by musical scholar, Robert Greenberg. I am watching them with a friend who also loves them and we have finished six lectures so far out of eight. They are BEYOND excellent!! Professor Greenberg is incredibly knowledgeable and knows just what parts of a composer's life to focus on. He is brilliant, thorough, and witty. I learned of these musical lectures through a class offered in a lifelong learning program in the Baltimore area for +50 people in which I am enrolled. The instructor played the whole sequence of Great Courses lectures on Mozart in one class I signed up for and they were equally as good as the Tchaikovsky ones. (Professor Greenberg also lecturing in those DVDs) The class came first and inspired me to buy the Tchaikovsky DVDs. My friend who is enjoying the Tchaikovsky lectures with me gave me three of your great courses for Christmas! (the ones on Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler.) Like me, he loves music and is now hooked on Mr. Greenberg's lectures as I am. We will be watching all of these lectures together. The lifelong learning program I attend always uses your products for its classes on composers and there are plans to run a class on Brahms using your DVDs in the fall. I will be the first one to sign up for that class! Do you think I like your products??? :-)
Date published: 2015-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Music Biography at its Best I really cannot recommend this course highly enough. Tchaikovsky was not entirely likeable, and he most certainly did not lead the life of a saint. But his musical legacy is undeniable, and the context that Greenberg provides for why he was who he was -- and the music he made -- is nothing short of spellbinding. I was riveted by this course. Yes, I wish there were more musical samples, but it is a musical biography, not a history of the music per se. You will never listen to the man's music without thinking about the man's tragic life again. Bravo, Prof. Greenberg. Bravo.
Date published: 2014-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Exploration of Life & Music This is an excellent course on an extraordinary composer that provides rich detail about his life, his music, and how the two influence each other. Professor Greenberg is passionate and affable in his presentation and oftentimes playful; cracking jokes and making puns that regularly bring a chuckle. This is not to say that he doesn't take his subject matter seriously. The emotion and tragedy are there when called for, just as humor is. Please be advised that this course is much more of an exploration of Tchaikovsky's life than of his music. This is a biography that also covers music and not a musicological examination that also contains biographical side notes. It still hits most of the big pieces and might introduce the less initiated into some new compositions. For instance, I was familiar with all his ballets, most of his operas, and a couple orchestra pieces but not his violin concertos or symphonies. So I was very pleased with the variety of music presented. All in all, this was a very enjoyable course that I found myself rushing through in less than a week. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-08-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More life than music As a biography of the great man, this was engrossing. I found it less rewarding as a study of his music. The audio format should make for an interesting opportunity to intersperse clips of music with spoken information, but somehow the promise was not fulfilled here. The usual approach was to play a segment and then talk about how the composer was feeling at the time. That's interesting, certainly, but perhaps I was hoping for a more critical approach to the music -- something that would help me understand how the composer's innovations should be understood in the context of the history of music.
Date published: 2013-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Passionate music--passionate man Tchaikovsky's music is passionate and intense, as was his life. Dr. Greenberg is able to weave the multiple and varied colors of the master's life into the fine fabric of his music. Listening to the hardships; the discrimination; the tortures implicit in Tchaikovsky living a different life than was accepted in his time was heart wrenching just to hear about. Great lectures--fascinating...
Date published: 2013-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I love Tchaikovsky's music, but wanted to learn more about the man AND the music with which I was unfamiliar. This course was great! Professor Greenberg reminds me of all of the great teachers I had in high school and college that had such flare that they kept me on the edge of my seat the entire length of the class. There were many times that he made me laugh out loud. I enjoyed Prof. Greenberg so much that I am going immediately to another of his lectures, The Schumanns.
Date published: 2013-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Composer with a Tortured Soul I have listened to several of Prof. Greenberg's composer courses, and this one maintains the high standard of the series. As with the others, what interests me the most in these mini-biographies are the personal and historical facts, which go far beyond what most music history survey books provide. You may learn more about Tchaikovsky's tortured personal life than you wanted to know, but Greenberg is honest about the man's troubles as well as his triumphs. The stories behind the first performances of many of these works are also eye-opening. I have two "negatives" about this course: first, it skipped many of Tchaikovsky's major works and didn't take us into many of the lesser-known pieces; and second, I wish someone as educated as Prof. Greenberg could do better with his pronunciation of foreign names. (I've wanted to mention the latter point on some of his other courses but haven't.) All in all, a fascinating course, a kind of classical soap opera with an emotional musical score.
Date published: 2012-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinatingly Tragic Audio Version (Library): I got this course because I heard that the great ballad we hear every 4th of July was actually a Russian victory song by Tchaikovsky. I knew nothing about him or his work at the time and needed to "kill some time" between TGC deliveries. Boy was I surprised! As someone who is not really "into music” I found the story of Tchaikovsky fascinating to say the least. I was drawn into every lecture by the twists and turns of his story and by the wonderful music that he composed. At one point in his life story I got pretty choked up. Then, the accompanying music he wrote that corresponded to that moment got me choked up as well (and yes, I am a grown man). This was truly an amazing course and I recommend it to music lovers and history buffs alike! It is an emotionally gripping tale and you will not be disappointed!
Date published: 2012-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much to be learned Like most people, I have heard most of Tchaikovsky's famous works, but knew very little about the man. I had a deep appreciation of his violin concerto, because it was featured prominently in the movie Together, as well as the Right Stuff as discussed in the course. His Piano concerto, Nutcracker, and Swan Lake are just a few other familiar works. But there was so much I didn't know about the works or the composer. I didn't know that the violin concerto and the piano concerto received initially scathing reviews, because both have become repertoire staples, and I share Prof Greenberg's love for the violin concerto. I didn't know Tchaikovsky was homosexual, and although it doesn't matter when it comes to his greatness, it does enhance listening to the music when you feel like you knew the man. Listening to this course makes you feel like you knew the man, a feat which Greenberg has also achieved in the Haydn course. The professor describes his marriage and separation in adequate detail, which makes for an amusing story. If only Tchaikovsky had lived in modern times, he could have been left alone to live his life as he felt and not be forced underground. Other great works which you will develop a deeper appreciaton for by listening to the course are Eugene Onegin, souvenir of Florence, and serenade for strings. He achieves his goal, which is to stimulate interest in the composer and his recordings.
Date published: 2011-07-31
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Introduction and Early Life
1: Introduction and Early Life

Tchaikovsky was an extremely sensitive child, obsessive about music and his mother. His private life was reflected to a rare degree in his music. His mother's death when he was 14 years old was a shattering experience for him—one that found poignant expression in his music.

47 min
A Career in Music
2: A Career in Music

According to Tchaikovsky, Mozart's Don Giovanni was the inspiration for his musical career. After a brief turn as a civil servant, he joined the teaching faculty at the new Moscow Conservatory, and in 1868 his First Symphony was premiered. He was the only composer in Russia at that time with the education, craft, and talent to combine the best of Western European compositional technique with his own Russian heritage.

47 min
The First Masterworks
3: The First Masterworks

The Russian nationalist composer Mili Balakirev championed Tchaikovsky's music and suggested the idea for Tchaikovsky's first masterwork, the Overture-Fantasy Romeo and Juliet of 1869. Tchaikovsky's first two symphonies and the iconoclastic First Piano Concerto were written between 1868 and 1872. His success allowed him to acquire his own apartment, freeing him to lead a double life as a homosexual. Yet he feared public exposure in a country that severely punished homosexuality.

45 min
4: Maturity

Tchaikovsky took a number of structural liberties with his First Piano Concerto that drew criticism as well as praise. It soon became a favorite throughout Europe and the Americas. Despite his success, Tchaikovsky lacked confidence in his creative abilities and felt alienated by his homosexuality, which may have forced him to turn inward to a world of self-expression. Swan Lake, written in 1876, revolutionized the way ballet depicted mood, dramatic action, and characters in the tragic story.

47 min
Three Women—Tatyana, Antonina, and Nadezhda
5: Three Women—Tatyana, Antonina, and Nadezhda

In 1877, Tchaikovsky wrote Eugene Onegin, an opera inspired by Pushkin's tale of unrequited love. In July 1877, he married a former conservatory student, Antonina Milyukova. The marriage was such a disaster that Tchaikovsky would attempt suicide. He separated from her that October. He was then exchanging letters with a wealthy widow, Nadezhda von Meck, who became his patroness and lifeline for the next 14 years.

45 min
“My Great Friend”
6: “My Great Friend”

With the generous financial support of Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky lived abroad, and in 1878 resigned from the Moscow Conservatory to compose full time. His Fourth Symphony was premiered in Moscow and was quickly followed by the brilliant Violin Concerto in D Major, which became a pillar of the repertoire within a few years.

44 min
“A Free Man”
7: “A Free Man”

Tchaikovsky's masterwork of 1879–80 is the Serenade for Strings, for which he himself had a special affection. In the 1880s, Tchaikovsky became an international celebrity. He conquered his fear of conducting and promoted his music across Europe. Yet he was still unhappy due to depression and anxiety over public discovery of his homosexuality. In the late 1880s he wrote the Fifth Symphony.

46 min
The Last Years, or Don't Drink the Water
8: The Last Years, or Don't Drink the Water

In 1890, Tchaikovsky lost his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck; she could no longer support him. In 1891, he made a highly successful conducting tour of the United States. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Cambridge University. In August 1893, he completed his Sixth Symphony. On November 4, 1893, he died of self-inflicted arsenic poisoning. It was publicly announced that he had died of cholera. Tchaikovsky's music endures—a unique marriage of Western European compositional technique and passionate Russian nationalism.

46 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.