How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Illuminating and fun The quirky humor goes over well with some reviewers and not so well with others. Because it follows a transparent formula, it does get tiresome after a while. Like the keto diet, maybe it's best in small doses, and yes, that remark could pass as Greenbergian humor.
Date published: 2020-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb It got me through lockdown - and introduced me to so many wonders. 10/10.
Date published: 2020-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A sweeping view of music I am learning so much. I look forward to each lecture.
Date published: 2020-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great music and musical history The presentation of history and music by Prof. Greenberg is wonderful. His lectures are never dry and one does not lose interest. He tells a great story and his demonstrations at the piano of what he is discussing are excellent. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Loved it, loved it, loved it. I bought this in CD format years ago and really enjoyed it. I lent the CDs out and were never returned. Loved it so much I bought it again in audio format. My very serious son at first turned his nose up at Prof. Greenberg's humor, but I soon found him secretly listening to the lectures on his own and chuckling. I even caught him singing "Running down the hill" in Madrigal version as he is going down a hill... BTW, did I mention I loved it?
Date published: 2020-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect Partner This is my first introduction into such a rich and full rendition of music in the context of a composer's history. It's so beautifully interwoven by Professor Greenberg. He also shows that the voice is as a much a instrument in its own right as a piano or violin. I just discovered Professor Greenberg and his wonderful way of bringing us on his journey of great music and history.
Date published: 2020-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Professor I have watched this set of lectures twice now, and have learned a ton! Professor Greenburg is laugh-out-loud funny, and makes the music and the composers come alive in a way that is easy to relate to and understand. He is by far the most engaging teacher I have ever had, both virtually and in real life. His contagious enthusiasm and deep understanding of classical music make his lectures not only informative, but a joy to watch. If you are looking for a course with in depth technical information about classical music, I would recommend you keep looking, but if you are looking for a course with stories and insights that give the dry facts both meaning and memorability, then look no further! One of my favorite lectures was on Beethoven's fifth where his personification of the minor and major themes allowed me to listen to and understand the form, instrumentation, and motivic development as a unified whole. I would highly recommend this course to any music lover, amateur musician, or music teacher.
Date published: 2020-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Listen to and Understand Great Music Dr. Greenberg is a very accomplished lecturer, who interjects humor and interesting asides into every lecture. I think his knowledge of the subject matter is unending! I'm very pleased with this course. I would like to know why the brown draperies in the background keep opening and closing!
Date published: 2020-05-18
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How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition
Course Trailer
Music as a Mirror
1: Music as a Mirror

This opening lecture introduces themes, concepts, and terminology that will be used throughout the series. The nature of concert music as a living, breathing entity and not a fossil of the past is introduced. Important definitions and distinctions are discussed, including: concert music, classical music, popular music, and Western music. The concept of music as a mirror is introduced. Lastly, usin...

47 min
Sources-The Ancient World and the Early Church
2: Sources-The Ancient World and the Early Church

This lecture introduces the ancient world as a 4,000-year period of extraordinary cultural richness and variety. From this long ancient era only 40 or so fragments of music have survived. In this lecture we discuss the cyclical, rather than linear, nature of art and music. Ultimately, this lecture focuses on the role of music in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and concludes with a brief examina...

45 min
The Middle Ages
3: The Middle Ages

This lecture focuses on the changing role of music in the medieval world. First we examine the liturgical plainchant of the so-called Dark Ages, its role within the Church, and its musical characteristics. The rebirth of Europe during the High Middle Ages and the attendant development of polyphony are examined. Finally, we explore the violent disruptions of the 14th century-the so-called Babylonia...

44 min
Introduction to the Renaissance
4: Introduction to the Renaissance

This lecture examines the impact of the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture on Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Important Renaissance trends-from Humanism to Classicism-are defined and discussed. The ancient Greek ideal of music as a humanistic art powerfully influenced the music of the Renaissance, an influence that is examined both theoretically and musically (through the works ...

46 min
The Renaissance Mass
5: The Renaissance Mass

This lecture introduces the mass as the most important compositional genre of the Renaissance. The mass itself is defined and the ceremony is discussed in detail, in particular the nature and content of the Proper and Ordinary. We then examine the Renaissance musical setting of the Ordinary of the mass and the three types of Renaissance masses: the Cantus Firmus or Tenor mass, the Paraphrase mass,...

45 min
The Madrigal
6: The Madrigal

This lecture focuses on the madrigal, the most important genre of Italian secular music of the late Renaissance. We examine the heightened poetic content of the madrigal and the Petrarchian revival. Then we examine the role played by word-painting in the genre of the madrigal. Three madrigals are examined for the progressive development of the genre from the mid-16th century to the very early 17th...

45 min
An Introduction to the Baroque Era
7: An Introduction to the Baroque Era

This lecture introduces the brilliant and exuberant Baroque era. We differentiate between the measured elegance of Renaissance music and the extravagant emotionalism of Baroque music. Special attention is paid to the scientific and investigative spirit of the Baroque and its impact on the arts of the era. The Baroque artistic duality of emotional extravagance and intellectual control is examined a...

45 min
Style Features of Baroque-era Music
8: Style Features of Baroque-era Music

In this lecture we build listening skills and a descriptive vocabulary and discuss style and features of Baroque music. A vocabulary for addressing sound aspects of music is presented, defining and discussing discrete sound, frequency, pitch, melody, motive, theme, and tune. The advent of instrumental music during the Baroque era is examined. Essential musical elements as pulse, meter, scales, and...

48 min
National Styles-Italy and Germany
9: National Styles-Italy and Germany

This lecture describes the rise of German music during the Baroque. The Protestant Reformation put a new emphasis on the German language in worship, and the music with it followed the idiosyncratic cadences of the German language, as opposed to Latin/Italian. We also explore the Lutheran view of music and composition as a spiritual act, a view that altered the history and nature of German music.

46 min
Fugue
10: Fugue

This lecture examines fugue, defined as a typically monothematic, polyphonic work in which a theme is examined, broken down, reassembled, etc., in as many ways as possible. Drawing on fugues by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, this lecture introduces and examines the parts of a fugue: the exposition, subject restatements, and episodes. This lecture also seeks to define and discus...

46 min
Baroque Opera, Part 1
11: Baroque Opera, Part 1

We discuss the evolution of opera from the late Renaissance through the early Baroque. Believing that ancient Greek drama was entirely sung, members of the Florentine Camerata sought to create their own music dramas, and, in doing so, they invented opera around the year 1600. These lectures discuss two early operas-Jacopo Peri's Euridice and Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo-and describe and demonstrate ...

45 min
Baroque Opera, Part 2
12: Baroque Opera, Part 2

We continue the evolution of opera from the late Renaissance through the early Baroque. We discuss the transition of Italian opera from courtly to popular entertainment and the development of the aria around 1660.

48 min
The Oratorio
13: The Oratorio

This lecture and the next focus on the adaptation of Baroque operatic elements to the world of Baroque sacred music. This lecture introduces the oratorio and Lutheran Church cantata, and briefly discusses and defines the Baroque Mass, Magnificat, Passion, and sacred Motet as well. The oratorio is then examined in detail, from its modest beginnings as a musical setting of some Biblical text through...

44 min
The Lutheran Church Cantata
14: The Lutheran Church Cantata

This lecture continues the examination of Baroque sacred music, focusing now on the Lutheran church cantata, which evolved as a musical commentary on a particular Bible reading, becoming known as the musical "sermon before the sermon." We also examine the operatic ideals of the Lutheran librettist Erdman Neumeister, and Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata No. 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die St...

47 min
Passacaglia
15: Passacaglia

We introduce the concept of instrumental musical form-processes that organize musical materials into recognizable structures without the presence of, or need for, words. The advent of instrumental music during the Baroque indicated that parts of musical speech-melody, rhythm, harmony, form-had developed enough to provide a satisfying, although "abstract," musical experience. We then focu...

45 min
Ritornello Form and the Baroque Concerto
16: Ritornello Form and the Baroque Concerto

The discussion of Baroque instrumental form begun in Lecture 15 now focuses on ritornello form and the Baroque concerto. We first differentiate between chamber and orchestral music. Next, we discuss the degree to which the opera house was responsible for the development of the orchestra, as well as genres such as overture, suite, and concerto. The three types of high Baroque concerti are defined a...

46 min
The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era
17: The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era

This lecture introduces the Age of Enlightenment and its impact on musical style. The dramatic difference between the music of the late Baroque and Classical eras is brought into high relief-differences that are a function of societal change during the 17th century. This lecture discusses Enlightenment-inspired and Classical trends such as cosmopolitanism and the rise of musical amateurism.

45 min
The Viennese Classical Style, Homophony, and the Cadence
18: The Viennese Classical Style, Homophony, and the Cadence

This lecture seeks to further build listening skills and vocabulary regarding cadence, or musical punctuation. The four cadence types are defined, demonstrated, and discussed. We examine the geographical and social importance of the city of Vienna for the origin of the Classical style.

46 min
Classical-era Form-Theme and Variations
19: Classical-era Form-Theme and Variations

This lecture initiates a discussion of Classical instrumental musical form that will continue through Lecture 25. We examine the theme and variations form, an adaptation of Baroque variations to the expressive and musical needs of the Classical era. The Classical theme and variations form uses a tune as its theme rather than a bass line or harmonic progression. Wolfgang Mozart's Variations on &quo...

48 min
Classical-era Form-Minuet and Trio: Baroque Antecedents
20: Classical-era Form-Minuet and Trio: Baroque Antecedents

This lecture continues the examination of Classical instrumental musical form with an investigation of Baroque minuet and trio form, the antecedent of Classical minuet and trio form. The importance of courtly dance in 17th-century France is discussed, as is the development of stylized dances. This lecture lists the most important and popular dance types to come out of 17th-century France, among wh...

44 min
Classical-era Form-Minuet and Trio Form
21: Classical-era Form-Minuet and Trio Form

This lecture continues the discussion of minuet and trio form begun in Lecture 20 with an examination of Classical minuet and trio form. Late 18th-century composers extended the formal structure and the expressive content of minuet and trio to create movements appropriate for the multimovement instrumental genres of the Classical era. With minuet and trio movements by Mozart and Haydn as examples,...

47 min
Classical-era Form-Rondo Form
22: Classical-era Form-Rondo Form

This lecture continues the examination of Classical instrumental musical form with a discussion of rondo form. We discuss the antecedents of rondo form-the French rondeau and the Baroque ritornello (or refrain) form. In a Classical rondo form movement, the rondo theme is the central musical element, not the departures from that theme. Movements by Beethoven and Haydn are demonstrated as examples....

49 min
Classical-era Form-Sonata Form, Part 1
23: Classical-era Form-Sonata Form, Part 1

In Lectures 23 and 24 we examine sonata-allegro form, but first, we observe the life and personality of the extraordinary Wolfgang Mozart. We discuss the many meanings and uses of the word "sonata." The fourth movement of Mozart's Symphony in G Minor, K. 550, is analyzed and discussed in depth as an example.

43 min
Classical-era Form-Sonata Form, Part 2
24: Classical-era Form-Sonata Form, Part 2

In Lectures 23 and 24 we examine sonata-allegro form, but first, we observe the life and personality of the extraordinary Wolfgang Mozart. We discuss the many meanings and uses of the word "sonata." The fourth movement of Mozart's Symphony in G Minor, K. 550, is analyzed and discussed in depth as an example.

46 min
Classical-era Form-Sonata Form, Part 3
25: Classical-era Form-Sonata Form, Part 3

This lecture completes the survey of the Classical instrumental musical forms with a continuation of sonata-allegro form. Two additional sonata-allegro form movements are analyzed and discussed: the first movement of Haydn's Symphony No. 88 in G Major, and the overture to Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. Regarding the overture, we examine the long, tragic introduction that precedes the brilliant and c...

46 min
The Symphony-Music for Every Person
26: The Symphony-Music for Every Person

This lecture explores the Classical symphony as both an orchestral genre and a social phenomena-it had become by the early 19th century the musical property of the rising middle class. The Baroque antecedents of symphony are described and discussed; a Baroque, Italian-style overture by Handel is compared directly to an early Classical symphony by Johann Stamitz. We then examine the tremendous infl...

43 min
The Solo Concerto
27: The Solo Concerto

This lecture examines the Classical solo concerto. We discuss the perfection of the violin family and the invention of the piano during the Baroque era, primary instruments for the concerto repertoire during the Classical era. We discuss the invention of the piano and compare the sound of an early piano to a harpsichord. Mozart's incredible piano concerti-27 in all-are discussed as a pinnacle of h...

43 min
Classical-era Opera-The Rise of Opera Buffa
28: Classical-era Opera-The Rise of Opera Buffa

Lecture 28 explores the development of Classical opera buffa: the ideal operatic genre for the Classical era's more realistic plots, more "natural" music, and more common characters, over the Baroque era's formulaic nature in opera seria and the domination of these operas by singers and virtuosic singing. We will consider Jean-Jacques Rousseau's objections to Baroque opera seria and his ...

45 min
Classical-era Opera, Part 2-Mozart and the Operatic Ensemble
29: Classical-era Opera, Part 2-Mozart and the Operatic Ensemble

We discuss the operas of Mozart with special attention to Don Giovanni. We then discuss the nature and content of an opera buffa finale. As an example of Mozart's unparalleled ability to sustain a musical-dramatic line, this lecture features a hearing and discussion of Act I, Scene 1, of Don Giovanni. We examine the Act II finale of Don Giovanni, when the tragic music that initiated the overture r...

44 min
The French Revolution and an Introduction to Beethoven
30: The French Revolution and an Introduction to Beethoven

This lecture discusses the life of Ludwig van Beethoven and the revolutionary times in which he lived. In comparing Haydn's Symphony No. 88 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, we emphasize the fact that Beethoven's symphony does not reflect a period style but is, rather, a self-referential art work. We explore Beethoven's early life and progressive hearing disability to understand the sources of his r...

44 min
Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 1
31: Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 1

Lecture 31 describes Beethoven's mature compositional innovations and artistic beliefs through the example of his Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808). Beethoven's four compositional periods are described and discussed, as are his great compositional innovations. These innovations are all a function of Beethoven's essential artistic tenet that music composition is self-expression above all. We...

45 min
Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 2
32: Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 2

Lecture 32 continues describing Beethoven's mature compositional innovations and artistic beliefs through the example of his Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808). Beethoven's four compositional periods are described and discussed, as are his great compositional innovations. These innovations are all a function of Beethoven's essential artistic tenet that music composition is self-expression ab...

46 min
Introduction to Romanticism
33: Introduction to Romanticism

This lecture introduces the Romantic era. The difference between Classicism and Romanticism has to do with expressive content, as Romantic composers sought to express more and more in their music: to paint pictures, describe complex emotions, and tell stories in instrumental terms. This lecture also examines the legacy of Beethoven's vision of music as self-expression. Finally, we introduce and ex...

44 min
Formal Challenges and Solutions in Early Romantic Music
34: Formal Challenges and Solutions in Early Romantic Music

This lecture explores a paradox encountered by many early Romantic composers: the spontaneity and creative freedom of the composer being at odds with the preordained musical form. This lecture discusses the formal solutions embraced by composers who chose to abandon Classical form, and focuses on two miniatures: lieder or German language songs, and instrumental miniatures. Works by Franz Schubert ...

46 min
The Program Symphony-Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 1
35: The Program Symphony-Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 1

This lecture is the first of two to explore a great Romantic original-Hector Berlioz. In 1830 at age 27 he wrote his Symphony Fantastique, a work that combines his four great loves: the drama of Shakespeare, the musical storytelling of opera, the symphonic genre of Beethoven, and himself. We examine the gestation of the symphony, the fixed melodic idea that is heard in each movement and that repre...

45 min
The Program Symphony-Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 2
36: The Program Symphony-Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 2

This is the second lecture to explore Hector Berlioz. In 1830 at age 27 he wrote his Symphony Fantastique, a work that combines his four great loves: the drama of Shakespeare, the musical storytelling of opera, the symphonic genre of Beethoven, and himself. We examine the gestation of the symphony, the fixed melodic idea that is heard in each movement and that represents the "beloved image,&q...

49 min
19th-Century Italian Opera-Bel Canto Opera
37: 19th-Century Italian Opera-Bel Canto Opera

This lecture begins a four-lecture examination of 19th-century opera. In this lecture, early 19th-century Italian opera is examined as a popular art, the product of a highly profitable media industry. The style of this opera is called bel canto; its essential composers were Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gioacchino Rossini. Rossini's opera Il Barbieri de Siviglia (The Barber of Seville),...

46 min
19th-Century Italian Opera-Giuseppe Verdi
38: 19th-Century Italian Opera-Giuseppe Verdi

This lecture continues the examination of 19th-century Italian opera with the life and music of Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi was not an innovator or reformer; his operatic style evolved as he sought ever-greater refinement of dramatic line, singing technique, and literary truth. He elevated the role of the orchestra and favored characterization and dramatic truth over the vocal prettiness of the bel cant...

48 min
19th-Century German Opera-Nationalism and Experimentation
39: 19th-Century German Opera-Nationalism and Experimentation

In this lecture we examine early 19th-century German opera, which developed rather late compared to Italian and French opera. Genuine German opera evolved from native German roots, not by imitating and adapting Italian operatic plots and singing style. The lecture discusses the rise of German literature and musical theater in the late 18th century in the works of Goethe and Mozart. It examines 19t...

46 min
19th-Century German Opera-Richard Wagner
40: 19th-Century German Opera-Richard Wagner

We continue to review 19th-century German opera with an examination of the life, ideas, and music of Richard Wagner. Wagner was a revolutionary who sought to radically reinterpret the function and substance of music drama in the mid-19th century. This lecture explores his early life and his paternity, an issue of great importance to Wagner's emotional development. We observe Wagner's ideas about o...

46 min
The Concert Overture, Part 1
41: The Concert Overture, Part 1

We return to the realm of instrumental music, specifically late 19th-century orchestral program music. We will define and discuss major genres of 19th-century orchestral program music and Shakespeare's importance to 19th-century music. We introduce the life and personality of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and conclude with an in-depth examination of his Overture-Fantasy to Romeo and Juliet....

44 min
The Concert Overture, Part 2
42: The Concert Overture, Part 2

In this lecture we continue to discuss major genres of 19th-century orchestral program music. We discuss Shakespeare's importance to 19th-century music. We introduce the life and personality of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and conclude with an in-depth examination of his Overture-Fantasy to Romeo and Juliet....

47 min
Romantic-era Musical Nationalism
43: Romantic-era Musical Nationalism

This lecture examines the trend of folkloric musical nationalism during the second half of the 19th century with a brief history, followed by a discussion of musical exoticism. Ultimately, the lecture turns to Franz Liszt, perhaps the most representative instrumental virtuoso/composer of the 19th century, and his composition Totentanz....

46 min
Russian Nationalism
44: Russian Nationalism

We turn to 19th-century Russian musical nationalism with a brief history of St. Petersburg, a city built by Czar Peter I as his window on the West. Russia's entry into the greater European community as a result of the defeat of Napoleon and the Decembrist Revolution of 1825 are discussed, as is the growing conviction that the language and native music of Russia were capable of the highest artistic...

46 min
An Introduction to Early 20th-Century Modernism
45: An Introduction to Early 20th-Century Modernism

This lecture seeks to explain the historical inevitability of early 20th-century modernism by surveying musical and expressive trends from the Baroque era through the late 19th century. With an expressive language pressed to the breaking point, with a new scientific and technological world at hand, and the thrill of a new century about them, will the best young composers be content to work within ...

44 min
Early 20th-Century Modernism-Claude Debussy
46: Early 20th-Century Modernism-Claude Debussy

This lecture explores early 20th-century modernism with an examination of the life and music of Claude Debussy. We discuss the alienation of French artists from Austrian/Germanic models and the increasing French cultivation of the French language in the arts, both visual and musical. We observe and analyze the music of Claude Debussy, a French-language-inspired music that represented an extraordin...

45 min
Early 20th-Century Modernism-Igor Stravinsky
47: Early 20th-Century Modernism-Igor Stravinsky

We continue our exploration of early 20th-century modernism with a discussion of Igor Stravinsky. He gained almost instant fame in Paris with The Firebird in 1910, which displays aspects of tradition and innovation, the latter marked by Stravinsky's idiosyncratic use of rhythm. Stravinsky's early experiments with rhythmic asymmetry and layering reach a pinnacle in Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite o...

45 min
Early 20th-Century Modernism-Arnold Schonberg
48: Early 20th-Century Modernism-Arnold Schonberg

In this lecture we conclude our exploration of early 20th-century modernism with Arnold Schönberg. He saw himself not as a revolutionary but as the next inevitable step in the history of German/Austrian music. To that end, we discuss the elements of German music from the Protestant Reformation through the 19th century. We explore and discuss Schönberg's "emancipation of dissonance&q...

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.

ALMA MATER

University of California, Berkeley

INSTITUTION

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.