Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood.
If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 48 wonderful lectures designed to make music accessible to everyone who yearns to know it, regardless of prior training or knowledge. It's a lecture series that will enable you to first grasp music's forms, techniques, and terms - the grammatical elements that make you fluent in its language - and then use that newfound fluency to finally hear and understand what the greatest composers in history are actually saying to us.
And as you learn the gifts given us by nearly every major composer, you'll come to know there is one we share with each of them - a common humanity that lets us finally understand that these were simply people speaking to us, sharing their passion and wanting desperately to be heard. Using digitally recorded musical passages to illustrate his points, Professor Greenberg will take you inside magnificent compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more. Even if you have listened to many of these illustrative pieces throughout your life - as so many of us have - you will never hear them the same way again after experiencing these lectures.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses
It is 36 hours and 34 minutes of pure enjoyment. I listened while exercising and found myself looking forward to each chapter. Even the 4 chapters on Opera !!!
I need to start this review with my background and motivation for my review to make sense in context. I would like to consider myself a fairly well-educated person holding multiple degrees from three different universities. Somehow, though, my education completely omitted anything involving music. Sure, I was required to take fine arts electives in high school and college, but I managed to miss music appreciation entirely. Needless to say, I have never picked-up an instrument, know next to nothing about music fundamentals, and have not one ounce of music talent or ability.
This deficiency in my education never caused a problem until I learned that my daughter is required to learn an instrument and take music during middle school. Thankfully, my wife played an instrument through high school and has at least some ability to help my daughter as she starts this part of her education. I do not, however, like being ignorant and do not want to be in the position of being utterly clueless about what my daughter is learning. Thus, I am motivated for the first time in my life to learn at least something about music.
I have experience with the Great Courses series and thought this would be the place to start my delinquent musical education. I am glad that I did. The professor uses a historical approach, which works well with the way that I think, and takes the student through Ancient Greek music all the way through the early part of the 20th Century. A complete list of the topics can be found on the Great Courses website.
The professor presents the thesis throughout the course that music is a mirror of the people who composed it and the time in which it was created. This is a long course and requires a lot of dedication, but the professor slowly builds a vocabulary for the student helping someone like me with zero background begin to understand the way that music is composed. I will freely admit that much of what the professor explained still went over my head, and I frequently turned to Wikipedia for more background information. I decided as my next class to listen to the professor's course on Understanding the Fundamentals of Music to continue building on my knowledge.
I bought many of the musical works he discussed in the class so I could listen to them in their entirety and see if I could pick-out some of the details learned from the course. I still feel like a near idiot, but I was proud of the progress I made. For instance, I can now listen to a traditional four movement symphony by Haydn or Mozart and understand why the second movement is typically slow and the fourth movement is typically fast. I can now provide a semi-intelligent answer to explain the stylistic differences between Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. If nothing else, I at least now know which came first. I still have a very long way to go, but I at least have a foundation on which to build. I can honestly say that I now have an interest in classical music (excuse me, to use the terminology from the course—"concert music") and appreciate listening to it, even if I am not yet picking up on all of the subtleties. The professor has not yet inspired me to go so far as listening to opera in my spare time, but I am now eager to learn more about music.
If I have any complaint, it is that I would like more guidance on where to go from here. There are more than a dozen courses in the Great Courses collection by this same professor. It would be nice to have a recommendation at tend end on which courses to take in which order to build a good, solid foundation of musical understanding. I assume the music fundamentals course that I just started is a good second stop on this journey, but I wonder what the professor would recommend in terms of taking courses on specific composers, the class on the symphony, the class on great orchestral works, etc….
As a closing note, I read criticisms of the professor in other reviews for his frequent, sometimes corny, jokes. I might be in the minority, but I actually liked most of his jokes because it made the material more relatable and kept the mood lighter, though, yes, the jokes can be corny at times. This is a course that could have very easily turned into a high-brow, hoity-toity snob-fest designed to intimidate the neophyte listener. The professor's casual, yet respectful, attitude kept that from happening. This was an excellent course for a complete beginner, and I imagine that someone with more background would get even more out of it.
This is one of the occasions where listening to the text is an unparalleled experience, because, after all, it is music which is the subject. This said, having a printed guide will help greatly . Amazon sells Greenberg's book by the same title.
Greenberg himself is the best character. And character he is. He is a brilliant lecturer who is thoroughly memorable. He is captivating, engaging and thoroughly entertaining. More importantly he is witty and often had me howling with laughter.
There were many famous composers who Greenberg discusses with great fervor, but the one which I enjoyed most was his depiction of Hector Berlioz.
The detailed analysis of Beethoven's fifth symphony was excellent and insightful, but nothing compared to listening to Schubert's Erlkönig for the first time.
Talk about moving.
This has become my most prized audiobook. Most important, I have learned so much about Western Music, and this course has managed to enrich my life in ways I could not have imagined.
You will not be disappointed.
I got SO much out of this. Highly recommend. Have since listened to two more courses. Prof. Greenberg has a certain style that can be off-putting at first but you will ultimately love him for the wealth of information that he presents so artfully.
This is why I downgraded the overall rating:
Contrary to the disclaimer posted at the bottom of Audible's description, the supplemental texts that are not included ARE essential!
At least for me, maybe others can do without...
I started classical piano at 5 and took lessons thru my junior year of college. I was not a music major and did not take any theory courses. What I know about music is through piano. So now decades later, I am VERY interested in the nuts and bolts of other types of classical music.
After listening to a few of these lectures, I had to stop. I couldn't mentally comprehend, much less organize and retain, the information coming at me. I needed the lesson outlines, the full technical names of the music excerpts, to see the sung words in both original language and English translation. And this is just speaking of the first six lectures. There is so much more!
How do I know what I was missing? I hit online sources for used books and finally found a cheap standalone copy of the guidebook. Now I see the course as one I will enjoy for years to come. Should I want to re-listen to his discussion of, say, 'Minuet and Trio Form', I can look in the table of contents for the lecture number(s) - this topic takes two lectures. But once I know they are #20 and #21, I can click forward 20 clicks (on a nano) to get to the lecture. (As others have brought up, a 36 hour file is horrible to try to skim through.) And I have additional material in the guidebook for reference as well. I am happy now.
Someone's review referred to 'The Modern Scholar' series which includes an Adobe file download of the course guide with the Audible version. I think it would be wonderful if Great Courses would do the same. However, the price of these courses would probably go up drastically if they did. The Mod. Sch. courses mostly run 6 - 12 hours, and the one I looked at specifically had an 80 page guidebook. In comparison, the guidebook for this Greenberg course is 320 pages.
So for now, given the HUGE discount from retail (and even from most sale and secondary market) prices for these music courses, I will most likely continue to purchase them here. They are wonderful! But only when I have located a guidebook from somewhere else. There is too much I want to get from these courses to approach them more casually.
This is has been a wonderful first step in that process. I will be getting more lectures.
Entertaining and educational, it left me wanting more! Despite having heard a few of Prof. Greenberg's courses, I learned a great deal from this one.
Amazing audiobook !
Comprehensive yet appropriately concise.
I will need to listen to it a couple more times to make sure I didn't miss anything.
It more then met my expectations . I am not a musician so I needed explanations that related to my capability to understand. Professor Greenberg made the course interesting and understandable. Thank you for the chance to listen to someone who obviously loves what he does.
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