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The Symphony

Immerse yourself in the symphony and discover why it is the longest-lived and most expressive of all genres of instrumental music.
The Symphony is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 63.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Symphony This video is not what we expected. We want to learn about the history of symphonies, the instruments, how music is composed and orchestrated, the conductor's role, etc. Rather, this video (at least the first 2 sessions) discusses differences in musical scores (which is difficult to understand unless the viewer has a classical musical background). We have a decent background in classical music having regularly attended the New York Symphony , the National Symphony (DC) and regional symphonies, but this video is disappointing.
Date published: 2022-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Symphony - Robert Greenberg I've never purchased a course a course I didn't enjoy, but I own 7 of Dr. Greenberg's courses and all were outstanding! The Symphony is another great course. Never dull , always informative and at times, laugh out loud funny. I would HIGHLY recommend all of Dr. Greenberg's courses and especially The Symphony! You'll be glad you bought it.
Date published: 2022-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from we can always use more robert greenberg another great course by robert greenberg. the only thing wrong with it is that the lectures aren’t twice as long. there’s just not enough time to allow for a satisfying biography of each composer while also enagaging in a close examination of every part of a given symphony. as a result, we’re often obliged to skim over entire movements with little more than a “this is how it begins.” still, the professor fits in as much as he can, and one can fill in a lot of the pieces by listening on one’s own. despite the nearly 300-year history of the symphony, we move quickly over those periods with a homogenous sound in order to focus on works that require their own special explanations. as a result a large chunk of the course is spent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. this is helpful in that it exposes the listener to a fair number of works and even composers that may be unfamiliar; it can also be more challenging. and if you do find modern works more challenging, there will be very few supports here: the professor devotes no time to explaining modern styles or musical theories, and he gives very few hints as to how exactly we should train our ear to listen to, say, something as unique as the turangalila. now this again is simply because he doesn’t have the time, and it’s fair in a course like this to presume a bit of prior knowledge. nonetheless i couldn’t help but feel that a few words about how to change or adapt the way you listen to music might have been helpful in the later lectures. but don’t let these words scare you. prof. greenberg takes care to pick works that are unlikely to alienate most listeners, and even if not all of these symphonies will enter my own personal rotation, i didn’t find anything that i simply wasn’t able to listen to. indeed, much of the point in taking a course like this is to expose yourself to works that you probably wouldn’t approach on your own. overall, a highly recommended survey.
Date published: 2021-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Always excellent Profssor Greenberg is always excellent. The sheer energy in his lectures pin your attention.
Date published: 2021-01-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I just ordered it for Pete's Sake -- please get your act together. Asking me to review this now is totally absurd
Date published: 2020-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great informational course I bought this for my grand daughters who both playing in a
Date published: 2020-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic course The course had the right blend of lecture and examples of music. The enthusiasm of Professor Greenberg showed through and left the listener very excited about the different symphonies.
Date published: 2020-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Symphony I live in Northern California and ride my bike for hours through the vineyards. It was a total joy to listen and hear about these great composers as I rode with my AirPods. I kept listening as I stopped for a sip of wine. Good wine! Good music! A good ride!
Date published: 2020-07-16
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This course brings longtime favorite Professor Robert Greenberg to a 300-year survey of the symphony with the enthusiasm, energy, and breadth of knowledge that are his trademarks. As you explore the evolution and development of this remarkable musical genre, you enjoy musical excerpts from well- known compositions in addition to some that may be new to you, along with enlightening musical and biographical analysis.


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
Let's Take It From the Top!

01: Let's Take It From the Top!

Beginning in the orchestral overtures of opera and the concertos of Baroque Italy, the symphony would emerge as its own genre in the 18th century.

48 min
The Concerto and the Orchestra

02: The Concerto and the Orchestra

The simultaneous development of the orchestra and the opera were crucial to the birth of the symphony as a genre. By the 1730s, the orchestral genre of the Italian-style opera overture had developed to such a point that those overtures were substantial enough to be performed separately from the operas themselves.

45 min
The Pre-Classical Symphony

03: The Pre-Classical Symphony

The earliest true symphonies were exponents of the so-called "galant" style that emerged in the period between the high Baroque and Viennese Classicism. The chief composers of this period included Giovanni Sammartini, and two of J. S. Bach's sons, Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach.

46 min

04: Mannheim

In the unlikely city of Mannheim, Germany, the formation of the outstanding Mannheim Court Orchestra paved the way for a great series of symphonists in the 18th century—Stamitz, Richter, Holzbauer, and Cannabich.

46 min
Classical Masters

05: Classical Masters

By the late 1770s and 1780s, Europe boasted an enormous number of first-rate symphonists, including Francois-Joseph Gossec, Michael Haydn, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Johann Baptist Vanhal, and Luigi Boccherini.

45 min
Franz Joseph Haydn, Part 1

06: Franz Joseph Haydn, Part 1

Franz Joseph Haydn wrote at least 108 symphonies. We examine his Symphony no. 1 in D Major (1759), and later symphonies, no. 77 in particular, revealing Haydn's ongoing development as a symphonist.

45 min
Franz Joseph Haydn, Part 2

07: Franz Joseph Haydn, Part 2

Inspired by the "Sturm und Drang" movement in the early 1770s, Haydn's symphonies begin to reflect experimentation with minor keys, abrupt changes of dynamics, and a greater degree of thematic contrast.

45 min

08: Mozart

Unlike Haydn, Mozart never made symphonic composition as much of a priority as opera and the piano concerto. Yet he created some of the most important symphonies of the classical era, among them his Symphony no. 41 in C Major—the "Jupiter" Symphony.

45 min

09: Beethoven

The sublime and iconoclastic Beethoven, in Professor Greenberg's words, "came to believe in self-expression and originality above all else. ... A symphony was no longer an aristocratic amusement, but a multifaceted musical statement, an instrumental genre operatic in its degree of contrast, conflict, and resolution."

45 min

10: Schubert

Schubert's "Unfinished" B Minor and "Great" C Major Symphonies demonstrated that the lyric and the colorful could coexist with the Beethoven-inspired vision of the symphony as a vehicle for profound self-expression.

45 min
Berlioz and the

11: Berlioz and the "Symphonie fantastique"

In his "Symphonie fantastique," Hector Berlioz adopts the extreme emotions and drama of the opera house, and explicit, intimately autobiographical narrative, all bound together by a recurring, representative musical theme—the famous "fixed idea." The personally and creatively controversial Berlioz goes on to inspire a rising generation of Romantic radicals.

46 min
Mendelssohn and Schumann

12: Mendelssohn and Schumann

The symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann merged Classical tradition with elements of Romanticism within very personal and innovative expressive frameworks.

45 min
Franck, Saint-Saens, and the Symphony in France

13: Franck, Saint-Saens, and the Symphony in France

In the 1860s and 1870s, French composers re-established a tradition of symphonic music in Paris, led by Cesar Franck and Camille Saint-Saens.

44 min
Nationalism and the Symphony

14: Nationalism and the Symphony

Few composers used the symphony to explore national identity more than Peter Tchaikovsky and Antonin Dvorak—two extremely different men, yet both conservative Romantics drawing on the music of their homelands for substance and inspiration.

46 min
Brahms, Bruckner, and the Viennese Symphony

15: Brahms, Bruckner, and the Viennese Symphony

Anton Bruckner and Johannes Brahms both achieved fame in Vienna—and both were inspired by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. But that's where their similarities end.

45 min
Gustav Mahler

16: Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler's symphonies are, in Robert Greenberg's words, "philosophical tracts, spiritual musings, musical reflections on the great, unanswered questions." We focus on his Symphony no. 2 in C Minor ("Resurrection") of 1895.

46 min
Nielsen and Sibelius

17: Nielsen and Sibelius

The key to Carl Nielsen's music is its directness of expression, inspired by the rustic simplicity of his Danish homeland. Jean Sibelius's Finnish homeland also exerted a strong influence on his creative palette, in which musical nationalism was expressed with a highly individual flavor.

46 min
The Symphony in Russia

18: The Symphony in Russia

Nationalism played a crucial role in the 19th-century emergence of a Russian symphonic tradition, with composers such as Glinka, Balakirev, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Glazunov. In the 20th century, the "steel-fisted modernist" Prokofiev never ceased to shock and surprise—even with his First Symphony, which, ironically, pays homage to the Classical style.

45 min
Charles Ives

19: Charles Ives

Charles Ives synthesized classical training, a love for American music of every kind, the New England of his childhood, radical experimentation, and his abject belief that music was the common language that bound together all humanity.

45 min
Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber

20: Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber

Aaron Copland epitomized the pan-American musical spirit of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, remaining the most representative American composer of the 20th century. Samuel Barber's Symphony no. 1 is a beautifully constructed work of great and enduring power.

46 min
Roy Harris and William Schuman

21: Roy Harris and William Schuman

Roy Harris created symphonies marked by a primitive simplicity underlain by great emotional depth and expressive sophistication. William Schuman's Third Symphony heralded a period when American composers became accepted, performed, and appreciated in their own country to a previously unprecedented degree.

44 min
The Twentieth-Century British Symphony

22: The Twentieth-Century British Symphony

It was not until the end of the 19th century that Britain would make a significant contribution to the international symphonic repertory. While Edward Elgar's symphonic music was not explicitly nationalistic, Ralph Vaughn Williams's symphonies did draw heavily from England's folk heritage.

45 min
Olivier Messiaen and Turangalila!

23: Olivier Messiaen and Turangalila!

Olivier Messiaen's "Turangalila," organized around a number of cyclic themes, was hugely controversial—and a magnificent achievement, completely unique in the symphonic repertory.

46 min
Dmitri Shostakovich and His Tenth Symphony

24: Dmitri Shostakovich and His Tenth Symphony

Dmitri Shostakovich was used and abused by the Soviet powers during much of his life. Somehow, he survived—even as his Tenth Symphony made dangerously implicit criticisms of the Soviet government.

47 min