Symphonies of Beethoven

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Insights! I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I found Greenberg's insights to be illuminating. I can't read music, so when I saw the annotations, I thought I would be totally lost. I don't understand the technical details, but he kept my attention throught the technical descriptions. I appreciate his knowledge and enthusiasm; I've heard the symphonies hundreds of times, but gained a better understanding and appreciation of them through this course.
Date published: 2020-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Keep Coming Back to It Over and Over One winter’s evening in 1964, my musical world flipped upside down, backward, inside out and sideways. As our family watched the Ed Sullivan Show together - didn’t everybody back then? - my teenaged brothers and I were electrified by this new band from England called the Beatles. To our parents, whose idea of music was Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Percy Faith and Lawrence Welk, the Beatles were just so much incomprehensible noise. To us, their sound was the future. With this course, Professor Robert Greenberg drives home the point that Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (the “Eroica,” or Heroic) was a watershed every bit as sharp (and controversial) as the gulf between Glenn Miller and Jimi Hendrix. He even draws a brief but telling parallel between America’s experience in Vietnam and Austria’s experience in the Napoleonic Wars. To us today, there is nothing startling or shocking about Beethoven’s symphonies, just as the early Beatles sound passe and even amateurish. Greenberg does a good job, however, of bringing us into European musical mind of 200 years ago. He gives us a front row seat to Beethoven as the man drags classical music, kicking and screaming, into the 19th century. There is as much biography here as is necessary to understand the music. Greenberg comes under criticism for presenting his subjects “warts and all.” But as he puts it, “Myths don’t write music. People do.” But the focus is on what makes each symphony so remarkable. Greenberg helps us see Beethoven’s innovations as his contemporaries did: radical, dissonant, chaotic, “so much noise,” interesting for mathematicians and musical know-it-alls but ugly to the ear. I particularly appreciated Greenberg’s take on the much-neglected 4th, a favorite of mine: “If any of Beethoven's contemporaries had written this symphony, it would be considered that composer's masterwork, and that composer would be remembered forever for this symphony, and this symphony would be played – often – as an example of that composer's great work. As it is, for Beethoven, it is a work in search of an audience. It's the least known and least appreciated of the nine.” For me, the crowning point of this course are the lectures treating the 9th Symphony, familiar to anyone who’s seen Die Hard or Dead Poets Society. Greenberg takes the time to give this remarkable composition the attention it deserves. Every time I listen to this symphony now, thanks to what I learned from Greenberg, I find myself literally gasping with emotion and admiration at the end. I do wish Greenberg would look up some of his pronunciations. It’s hard for me to see how a musicologist of his stature thinks motif is a homonym of “motive,” or that Lichnowski is pronounced “Litch-now-skee,” or that Thun has an English th (would he say “Beeth-oven” with a th??). He would never pronounce Mozart “Moe’s Art,” so why can’t he say “Zeitung”? These aren’t a crucial failing for the course and I can forgive them. But they do grate. I have the audio version of this course, which works just fine for me. I find Greenberg interesting enough for repeated listens. If you have any interest in, or even just curiosity about, Beethoven’s symphonies, you should consider this course essential.
Date published: 2020-06-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A dip in content from Greenberg's earlier lectures I have listened now to five of Prof. Greenberg's entertaining courses on symphonic music, and up until this course, I could not have been more impressed. But a couple of things happen with these lectures that do not occur with the others. First of all, Greenberg's usually flawless delivery stumbles. He loses his place at times, repeats himself here and there, misstates points and has to restate them. And second, his reliance on reading the word score is simply nonsensical. Why make the word score available to students, then read from it during the lecture? It makes for a very stilted and halting review of each section of the symphony, the kind of limiting commentary that was not present in earlier lecture series. I attribute all of this to the fact that I listened to the soundtrack of a videoed lecture series. The earlier classes were audio only, and in that environment, Prof. Greenberg is smooth, entertaining, sure of himself and in full command. But put him in front of a camera, and most of that changes. It makes for a surprisingly dull and uninspired series of lectures, and a disappointment for me.
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An oldie but goodie! This is an older course by Robert Greenberg, I love the chalkboard and the classroom setting! He puts his course notes on the board and points to them while we listen. Maybe it is my age (I'm 60), but I find this way of learning somehow comforting and relaxing. I also like the fact that you know there are people in the room learning from him. Prof. Greenberg does a great job of explaining what to listen for in the symphonies and connects all the dots for us. There is a lot of great music played during the course. I am really enjoying it!
Date published: 2019-12-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great talk. The information that Robert Greenberg gives is very interesting and informative. However I would appreciate some visuals. When he was talking about Beethoven himself he could have presented a photo of him and when he was talking about his home he could have shown a photo of the home, etc. I know his later lectures on other topics have good visuals.
Date published: 2019-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Don't miss it! An oldie but goodie. Greeenberg is the best. Beethoven ain't bad either.
Date published: 2019-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Beethoven This was my second course with Dr. Greenberg. It was very comprehensive and beyond my needs.That is a compliment, not a complaint. I purchased the How to listen to music course after this one and realize that I did it backwards. Even though he explains again all of the terminology, he has longer explanations in the second course. I would advise novices to take the listening course first.
Date published: 2019-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Greenburg is excellent. Very complete. I learned a lot. It certainly enables me to better enjoy Beethoven.
Date published: 2019-05-19
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Symphonies of Beethoven
Course Trailer
Beethoven and the Heroic Style, I
1: Beethoven and the Heroic Style, I

Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of ...

47 min
Beethoven and the Heroic Style, II
2: Beethoven and the Heroic Style, II

Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of ...

46 min
Beethoven and the Heroic Style, III
3: Beethoven and the Heroic Style, III

Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of ...

45 min
Beethoven and the Heroic Style, IV
4: Beethoven and the Heroic Style, IV

Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of ...

46 min
Symphony No. 1-Beethoven as Classicist-Tradition and Innovation, I
5: Symphony No. 1-Beethoven as Classicist-Tradition and Innovation, I

Lectures 5 and 6 examine the "new path" that Beethoven began with his first symphony. We see his innovations in the context of contemporary events. Symphony no. 1, Beethoven's great Classical symphony, is analyzed along with the musical style and the major musical forms of the Classical era....

47 min
Symphony No. 1-Beethoven as Classicist-Tradition and Innovation, II
6: Symphony No. 1-Beethoven as Classicist-Tradition and Innovation, II

Lectures 5 and 6 examine the "new path" that Beethoven began with his first symphony. We see his innovations in the context of contemporary events. Symphony no. 1, Beethoven's great Classical symphony, is analyzed along with the musical style and the major musical forms of the Classical era....

45 min
Symphony No. 2-Beethoven at the Edge, I
7: Symphony No. 2-Beethoven at the Edge, I

Lectures 7 and 8 analyze Symphony no. 2 of 1802. We see how this symphony heralded a heroic style that Beethoven fully realized in Symphony no. 3. Also discussed is the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter he wrote about his personal crisis as he realized he was going deaf. We consider how Beethoven's development as a composer was affected by his fight with deafness....

46 min
Symphony No. 2-Beethoven at the Edge, II
8: Symphony No. 2-Beethoven at the Edge, II

Lectures 7 and 8 analyze Symphony no. 2 of 1802. We see how this symphony heralded a heroic style that Beethoven fully realized in Symphony no. 3. Also discussed is the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter he wrote about his personal crisis as he realized he was going deaf. We consider how Beethoven's development as a composer was affected by his fight with deafness....

45 min
Symphony No. 3-The "New Path"-Heroism and Self-Expression, I
9: Symphony No. 3-The "New Path"-Heroism and Self-Expression, I

Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis....

46 min
Symphony No. 3-The "New Path" -Heroism and Self-Expression, II
10: Symphony No. 3-The "New Path" -Heroism and Self-Expression, II

Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis....

45 min
Symphony No. 3-The "New Path"-Heroism and Self-Expression, III
11: Symphony No. 3-The "New Path"-Heroism and Self-Expression, III

Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis....

46 min
Symphony No. 3-The "New Path"-Heroism and Self-Expression, IV
12: Symphony No. 3-The "New Path"-Heroism and Self-Expression, IV

Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis....

46 min
Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, I
13: Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, I

Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period....

45 min
Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, II
14: Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, II

Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period....

45 min
Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, III
15: Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, III

Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period....

46 min
Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, IV
16: Symphony No. 4-Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, IV

Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period....

45 min
Symphony No. 5-The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, I
17: Symphony No. 5-The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, I

Lectures 17 through 19 focus on Symphony no. 5 with references to its disastrous 1808 premiere and an in-depth analysis of the score. Beethoven is revealed as an extraordinary and unprecedented master of the art of developing entire movements from small, seemingly inconsequential motives. Symphony no. 5 also shows him to have a revolutionary concept of rhythm as a narrative element and a key facto...

45 min
Symphony No. 5-The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, II
18: Symphony No. 5-The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, II

Lectures 17 through 19 focus on Symphony no. 5 with references to its disastrous 1808 premiere and an in-depth analysis of the score. Beethoven is revealed as an extraordinary and unprecedented master of the art of developing entire movements from small, seemingly inconsequential motives. Symphony no. 5 also shows him to have a revolutionary concept of rhythm as a narrative element and a key facto...

46 min
Symphony No. 5-The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, III
19: Symphony No. 5-The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, III

Lectures 17 through 19 focus on Symphony no. 5 with references to its disastrous 1808 premiere and an in-depth analysis of the score. Beethoven is revealed as an extraordinary and unprecedented master of the art of developing entire movements from small, seemingly inconsequential motives. Symphony no. 5 also shows him to have a revolutionary concept of rhythm as a narrative element and a key facto...

45 min
Symphony No. 6-The Symphony as Program, I
20: Symphony No. 6-The Symphony as Program, I

Lectures 20 through 22 discuss Symphony no. 6 as an example of pure expression, representative of Beethoven's love of nature and the countryside. We see how Beethoven elevated program music to heights it had not previously enjoyed, presaging the Romantic era's love affair with the genre. We examine how Symphony no. 6 is as different from Symphonies no. 5 and 7 as night from day....

46 min
Symphony No. 6-The Symphony as Program, II
21: Symphony No. 6-The Symphony as Program, II

Lectures 20 through 22 discuss Symphony no. 6 as an example of pure expression, representative of Beethoven's love of nature and the countryside. We see how Beethoven elevated program music to heights it had not previously enjoyed, presaging the Romantic era's love affair with the genre. We examine how Symphony no. 6 is as different from Symphonies no. 5 and 7 as night from day....

42 min
Symphony No. 6-The Symphony as Program, III
22: Symphony No. 6-The Symphony as Program, III

Lectures 20 through 22 discuss Symphony no. 6 as an example of pure expression, representative of Beethoven's love of nature and the countryside. We see how Beethoven elevated program music to heights it had not previously enjoyed, presaging the Romantic era's love affair with the genre. We examine how Symphony no. 6 is as different from Symphonies no. 5 and 7 as night from day....

47 min
Symphony No. 7-The Symphony as Dance, I
23: Symphony No. 7-The Symphony as Dance, I

Lectures 23 and 24 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 7 with references to the historical and personal events surrounding its composition. The essence of the symphony is seen to be the power of rhythm, and originality is seen to be an important artistic goal for Beethoven....

46 min
Symphony No. 7-The Symphony as Dance, II
24: Symphony No. 7-The Symphony as Dance, II

Lectures 23 and 24 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 7 with references to the historical and personal events surrounding its composition. The essence of the symphony is seen to be the power of rhythm, and originality is seen to be an important artistic goal for Beethoven....

47 min
Symphony No. 8-Homage to Classicism, I
25: Symphony No. 8-Homage to Classicism, I

Lectures 25 through 27 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 of 1814, and refer to the personal and political events that affected Beethoven's life. We learn how Symphony no. 8, reminiscent of the Classical style, is a "modern" work, full of Beethoven's personality. Other topics discussed include the "Immortal Beloved" affair, Beethoven's deteriorating health, Napoleon's demise, W...

45 min
Symphony No. 8-Homage to Classicism, II
26: Symphony No. 8-Homage to Classicism, II

Lectures 25 through 27 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 of 1814, and refer to the personal and political events that affected Beethoven's life. We learn how Symphony no. 8, reminiscent of the Classical style, is a "modern" work, full of Beethoven's personality. Other topics discussed include the "Immortal Beloved" affair, Beethoven's deteriorating health, Napoleon's demise, W...

45 min
Symphony No. 8-Homage to Classicism, III
27: Symphony No. 8-Homage to Classicism, III

Lectures 25 through 27 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 of 1814, and refer to the personal and political events that affected Beethoven's life. We learn how Symphony no. 8, reminiscent of the Classical style, is a "modern" work, full of Beethoven's personality. Other topics discussed include the "Immortal Beloved" affair, Beethoven's deteriorating health, Napoleon's demise, W...

46 min
Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, I
28: Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, I

The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Ka...

45 min
Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, II
29: Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, II

The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Ka...

45 min
Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, III
30: Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, III

The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Ka...

46 min
Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, IV
31: Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, IV

The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Ka...

45 min
Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, V
32: Symphony No. 9-The Symphony as the World, V

The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Ka...

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.