From its humble beginnings in the 17th-century Italian opera overture and the Baroque ripieno concerto, the symphony has evolved into one of the longest lived, and perhaps the most expressively inclusive, genres of instrumental music. Along the way, it has embraced nearly every trend to be found in Western concert music.
In this series of twenty-four 45-minute lectures, Professor Greenberg guides you on a survey of the symphony. You'll listen to selections from the greatest symphonies by many of the greatest composers of the past 300 years. You'll also hear selections from some overlooked works that, undeservedly, have been forgotten by contemporary audiences.
Your tour of the symphony includes
The course concludes with an investigation of Dmitri Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony, which became, in Professor Greenberg's words, "a model for what the new, post-Stalin Soviet music might aspire to be-a more personally expressive, less explicitly programmatic work, one that both engaged and challenged its listeners."
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To listen or to read? To read or to listen? Or to read and listen?
Greenberg is a superb lecturer who presents the symphony across the centuries in an electrifying and edifying manner. He brings each composer and his work to life. There are composers of whom I had never heard and I am better off now. But for even the familiar ones I have a deeper appreciation.
I am stunned by the works I have listened to and enjoyed. Even more I am amazed that I have searched and found the Turangalila Symphony and plan to use Dr. G’s lecture to study it. I already like parts of it, but the other parts confuse me or irritate me (but in an interesting way). I think that’s what I appreciate most about this particular course—now I can listen to music and say “I like that” or “I’d like to hear that again” or “That one is still beyond me.” I have three options instead of just “I like it” or “No, no, no!”
I've always enjoyed listening to classical music. I honestly never knew the underlying meaning or intent on the composer. Although I still don't know much about the composer nor the world in which he lived in I certainly will listen differently. Thank you for the insights!
Professor Greenberg doesn't excellent job of surveying the symphony over a three century arc. At times, he is a bit over-the-top, but this also keeps it interesting.
This lecture sounds like it is being read to me instead of spoken to a live audience. Even the humor lacks spontaneity. Perhaps a laugh track would help. For this reason it is boring and not worth my time.
"Great way to grasp one of the finest art forms"
Superb narrative, appropriate humour, wonderful exerts of the music. Never too complicated or over simplified. All round a masterpiece.
"Great overview of the history of the symphony"
This course covers the symphony as a musical form - how it was formed, the composers who had a major impact on it's subsequent development and it's impact on music generally.
Starting with the early antecedents of the symphony, the overtures to operas, we see how the symphony developed alongside the orchestra, and how composers took up this new form to create some beautiful music. The baroque forms are moulded by Mozart, Haydn and other classical composers to create what is now called the 'classical structure' of the symphony. Then Beethoven comes along and changes everything. From this point onwards, the content of the lecture seems to become fairly repetitive - a discussion of a composer's life, how many symphonies they wrote and then an more in depth look at one of these.
The composers covered range in nationality and period and go right up to Shostokovich. If you are already into music history, I'm sure a lot of this will be known to you. If like me you are fairly new to this, then it is very interesting listening and I was introduced to many new composers I had never heard of.
Now for my criticism, which is that Beethoven is given just one lecture. The lecturer says at the outset of this lecture that he has done a 34 lecture course on Beethoven's symphonies, which is fine but in this course he essentially brushes over the most important development in the history of the symphony, whilst Haydn gets two lectures?! Very strange and seems like a bit of self-promotion. In fact, the lecturer advertises his own other great courses probably six or seven times throughout, which is fine but don't use that as an excuse not to discuss something!
Of course what kind of music you like is subjective, but Beethoven's symphonies are important well beyond just how nice they are, they completely changed the genre and this is clear from various references and quotes given in the course, so it feels like a waste of an opportunity to only discuss them for one lecture.
As a lecturer, Prof. Greenberg is very enthusiastic, funny and engaging. I will be listening to other courses by him for sure.
Overall, I certainly recommend this course and enjoyed listening to it immensely.
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