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 took a long time listening to this because I didn't want it to end. I also wanted to listen to the music chronologically as Jonathan Gould worked his way through each album and single; so I kept taking breaks from the audiobook to catch up on the songs.
The Beatles are THE band for me and always have been, since my brother and I took the bus into Richmond in 1964 to see the first run of "Hard Day's Night." I won't go so far as to say this is THE book about the group, but it's a fine one, and is well narrated by Richard Aspel. To the standard question, would you read / listen to another book by this writer / narrator - yes, definitely, on both counts.
It's not the most gossipy book about the Beatles. Gould doesn't have any ground-breaking new research or exclusive interviews to offer. What he has, in abundance, are two things: a rich sense of the political and cultural context in which the Beatles' career took place; and a detailed analysis, musical and lyrical, of every released single and every track on every album. His discussions of the songs are what impelled me to go back and listen to them yet again, this time with a handful of specific things to listen for in each one. (I didn't always understand the terminology Gould uses: at one point, he refers to "the elemental subdominant cadent in A-major" - at least I think that's what he said - but his descriptions are more often concrete and illuminating than over-my-head baffling.)
Gould sets the Beatles firmly against the backdrop of Elvis, Les Paul, Brian Wilson, the Stones, Dylan, and the Goon Show on the one hand; and Vietnam, assassinations, student rebellions, the Prague Spring, the Chicago riots, the Profumo affair, and the political rivalry of Edward Heath and Harold Wilson on the other. If you didn't live through those times, the book will give you a better sense of the wider world than any other Beatles book I know. If you did live through those times, it will remind you of how glorious (and sometimes gloriously awful) they were. Woodstock makes an appearance, even though the Beatles didn't show up there: they were putting the finishing touches on the "Abbey Road" album. But Woodstock was an important part of the cultural background; it's impossible to understand the Beatles' place in popular culture without taking it into account.
I haven't listened to all the Beatles-related audiobooks on Audible. Of the ones I have listened to, the only one in the same league is the book by Bob Spitz - unfortunately only available here in abridged format. (The Hunter Davies account is on my list, but even though it has a 1996 update, it's mainly focused on the period ending in 1968.) Until someone offers Spitz unabridged, or Philip Norman's Shout!, or Hunter Davies writes a fuller account of the later years, this is the audiobook I would recommend to anyone wanting an introduction to the history of the band. Gould presents the story with admirable objectivity; it's obvious that the band, and the band's music, fascinate him; but he's willing to call baloney when he sees it, and some of the Beatles tracks, especially as he moves into the troubled territory of The White Album and the Let It Be sessions, come in for particularly harsh criticism. ("Shapeless" and "gormless" are two of the adjectives employed in Gould's discussion of one of the tracks on the White Album. "A parody of a travesty" is his verdict on another.)
The only thing that could make the audiobook better, in my opinion, would be an edition that integrates the songs themselves into the narrative. But you can always do that on your own, like I did.