First of all, I have several Great Courses for which I paid full price from the Teaching Company - I love the courses and get a lot of pleasure out of listening to them. The value of being able to get Great Courses for one Audible Credit per course is ALONE worth an annual Audible subscription.
Second, I think Robert Greenberg's Music Courses are terrific and really one of the best uses of the audio book format for university level lectures. You not only hear the discussion of the music but hear music samples as well which makes it far superior to books about music history which can't provide samples of the music discussed. Greenberg's choices of music to illustrate the points he make are always excellent and really make listening to these lectures an enormous pleasure. Like others have said elsewhere, he can be quite corny -if that bothers you this is not the professor you will want to hear. I find his energy and enthusiasm makes the course more interesting and his attempts at humor are rather endearing (it may be that people from New Jersey find corniness less offensive). I appreciate his attempts to liven things up even if some of the jokes are rather silly.
Third, although I am not particularly knowledgeable about music the more I get to know opera the more I realize how very much I love Mozart's operas. It is true that Greenberg spends a lot of time on Cosi Fan Tutte as another listener noted. I didn't expect this to be exhaustive but rather Greenberg's own view of the most interesting aspects of Mozart's operas since it is still an introductory level course. For someone as prolific as Mozart it didn't surprise me that the professor made a selection based on his views. However, if you are expecting it to be exhaustive you will not be satisfied. Greenberg is very informative but selective, and with me that's OK.
Lastly, some negative comments have been made on the lack of librettos included with the course - those librettos are not part of the more expensive versions of the course either. You have to get librettos on your own - there are no entire operas included in the course, only excerpts so I don't know why anyone would think a libretto would be needed to follow the lectures. Some of the complaints made by listeners are very picky considering the comparative value of getting these courses so cheaply on Audible.
Very highly recommended.
This story focuses on 'netsuke', tiny Japanese carvings which were fashionable in Paris during La Belle Epoque. The narrative wanders among the lives of the family who owned a particular collection of netsuke through Paris, Vienna and Tokyo with a few stops in other cities for background. Because the family was one of the wealthy Jewish banking families of the late 19th century and early 20th century, the story of the 'netsuke' illuminates some of the significant political, economic and cultural trends in which the family was involved,. In particular the role of the first Effrusi owner of the 'bibelots' in the high culture of Paris at the turn of the century is examined in letters and novels of the period. The story then travels to the transformation of Vienna from the capital of a splendid empire to the forefront of National Socialism, and makes a stop in the postwar period in Japan. The role of the objects we own and value is examined from multiple planes, much like through different sides of a prism.
I found the book very satisfying but found the performance frustrating at times. It was well read in terms of speed but the tone was at times overly dramatic. Also, the accent of the narrator was very pleasing and upper class (which matched the narrative) but he gets a bit carried away with the sound of his own voice and this sometimes distracted from the story. I have actually purchased a copy of the book because I would just like to read the story without the dramatic intonation. And despite sounding like he has an ear for languages, the narrator misprounounces a LOT of the foreign words, including 'netsuke'. If you listen to the podcast interview that follows the book, the pronunciation by the author and the interviewer makes it clear that it is mispronounced throughout the book. That was my only complaint with this recording. HIghly recommended book otherwise, especially for anyone interested in turn of the century culture and art.
I have recently developed a passion for opera that has found me attending an opera I know little about beforehand. A colleague in London got tickets for Don Giovanni and I decided my first visit to Covent Garden demanded a little investment in preparation ahead of time. This series from Naxos is just perfect to get you ready to attend an opera with a little bit of historical and musical context to make the experience richer.
The recording is only about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. The narrator is good, he provides not only background for the specific opera in question but also for other operas by the same composer. Clips of the music are part of the 'explanation' - one of the nicest feature of audiobooks vs. reading a regular text.
So, you get a summary of the story, some musical interludes and some historical and musical context - helpful to allow you to focus more attention on the music and the staging once you get to the opera.
I've read several other so-called biographies of Bruce Springsteen and was amazed at how little factual information they contained of a living, accessible person. Mr. Carlin pretty well resolved that problem for me in this big biography, Bruce. The story starts with the tragic death at a very young age of Bruce Springsteen's aunt, Virginia. It explores the histories of both sides of his family as they came from Europe. It lightly touches on the unusual circumstances around his maternal grandfather's imprisonment, and his father's manic depression. The events that impacted the artist on his way up are well researched and chronicled. The one exception that I hoped Carlin would realize was important was the acquisition of the Telecaster. Mike Appel famously stated that Bruce still played the same $189 guitar he's always had. Well, Bruce's Telecaster is NOT $189 instrument under any normal circumstances. Perhaps Mr. Carlin does not play guitar but that is a story those of us who do are interested to hear.
In the introduction Carlin tells us that during his interviews with Springsteen Bruce advised him if he found warts and wrinkles to print them. Carlin followed this advice up to a point. He certainly addresses Springsteen's mercurial temper, his obnoxious behavior toward his band mates, and his jealousy and disregard often in public of his lovers. Where he holds back, however, is in the transition between Springsteen's two marriages. We get plenty of information about who Julianne Phillips is, that is he tells us all the good stuff. Abruptly they divorce and almost instantly Bruce is a couple with Patti Scialfa. I'm not really looking for gossip. I'm looking to understand a series of songs on Bruce Springsteen's two 1992 albums. Human Touch and Lucky Town.
Carlin explains how these two unusual records were recorded and how slow and how fast the various songs were written. What he leaves out to the distraction of we who follow these things obsessively, is what inspired the specific songs. He offers these insights on other records, so I had hope. On previous albums Springsteen tells stories about plain people, for the most part fictional. On Human Touch and Lucky Town he reveals himself in a much more cathartic way than he ever did before. Songs like Human Touch, Cross My Heart, All or Nothing at All, Man's Job, and I Wish I Were Blind, are not only stunningly beautiful chronicles of heartbreak but for me personally they mirrored real events in my own life and I wondered how "The Boss" could find his psyche in the same place as an underpaid graphic designer. For me buying those two records on the same day was like a Badder-Meinhoff phenomenon. I hoped this long book would give me an inkling. Unfortunately Carlin gives these two brilliant records shorter shift than most. He does point out that they both eventually went platinum.
The other thing nearly ignored is Springsteen's relationship with his wife, Patti Scialfa, herself a brilliant rock singer and a cathartic song smith. This is not out of any fear of impropriety as Mr. Carlin gives us plenty of info about their sexual activity. I suppose he wants to allow the family a buffer but that's hardly the job of a biographer. Both song writers use their relationships powerfully in their work and it would be interesting to explore the intersection between their records. Scialfa's heartfelt contrition (for want of a better word) in songs like Come Tomorrow, As Long As I Can Be With You, and Lucky Girl, the passion and regret of Romeo and Stumble Into Bethlehem, and her anger on Play Around and Black Ladder. Suffice it to say if any two artists should ever do a "Double Fantasy" style album, their's should be a two CD set.
All in all, this is a terrific biography much more detailed than both of Dave Marsh's two books put together and far superior to the other fan-ravings long on opinions but short on facts. When you're finished it you will know the details of Springsteen's history. You will not know the specific details about how he taught himself to play guitar or any mention of early guitar instructors if there were any. That said, you do learn how he became the electrifying performer he is and that is certainly valuable information.
Bobby Cannavale does an excellent job reading and characterizing this book. It would be easy to go too far and he avoids this pitfall elegantly.
The afterwards is told by Carlin himself and in so doing the listener gets some insight into the books shortcomings.
In all, this is a valuable addition to the Bruce chronicles. I'm sure it will not be the last entry however.