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Publisher's Summary

Though unappreciated in his own time, Johann Sebastian Bach has ascended to Olympian heights, the verdict of contemporary audiences long since overruled by succeeding generations of music lovers. But what makes his music great? In this series of 32 lectures, a working composer and musicologist brings his exceptional teaching skills to the task of helping you hear the extraordinary sweep of Bach's music. You'll understand the compositional language that enabled him to compose such extravagant, unbridled music while still maintaining precise control of every aspect - beat, melody, melodic repetition, interaction, and harmony. Whether devoted admirer or casual listener, you'll gain a new appreciation of the composer and a heightened skill at listening to his work.

You begin by learning the musical traditions and composers that inspired Bach, and how he absorbed those influences to become the transcendent composer of the High Baroque, more representative of the period and its aesthetic of emotional extravagance and technical control than any other. And you'll learn how both his German Lutheran heritage and family background - at least 42 relatives professionally involved with music - helped shape him as an artist.

Above all, though, you experience an abundance of music, with Professor Greenberg highlighting his discussions by playing major excerpts from several of Bach's most important works - including the Brandenburg Concerto no. 2, the Goldberg Variations, and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - and also showing you how to compare Bach with other composers both before and after his time.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1995 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1995 The Great Courses

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Bach Treasure Box Opened by a True Enthusiast

If you could sum up Bach and the High Baroque in three words, what would they be?

Apart from one or two Toccata and Fugues, I really could not "hear" Bach. Professor Robert Greenberg has enabled me hear Bach's music, and has turned me into a Bach enthusiast. Professor Greenberg is a gifted lecturer who imparts both knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject. He is also a charismatic lecturer. I am so glad the Great Courses have been added to Audible. They are not only educational, they make a refreshing change from current fiction of all genres, which for the most part has become predictable and mostly uninteresting.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Johann Sebastian Bach, because of his prodigious talent and productivity. Bach's life is a clear demonstration that genius can be applied to the demands of the workaday life.

Which character – as performed by Professor Robert Greenberg – was your favorite?

Professor Robert Greenberg himself as the lecturer. He combines depth of knowledge with enthusiasm and a polished presentation style. Always interesting.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but it is way to long, and the subject matter to meaty to be listened to in a single sitting. This is an audio product that I will listen to over and over again.

Any additional comments?

I plan to use my upcoming credits on more lectures by Dr. Greenberg. Fiction has become too boring.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Changed my life--better than my college courses

Would you listen to Bach and the High Baroque again? Why?

Absolutely. Not only do I get to enjoy my favorite Bach pieces, but I get to learn about Bach, his background, the baroque era and musical styles and theories. And: with the help of modern technology, I get to listen to this superb course while gardening or performing household chores. I listened first to this course over stereo bluetooth headphones or speakers and that inspired me to order cables to run the sound through my Bose systems so I can listen wherever I am. I have already repeated many sections just because I enjoy the music and the professor's discussion so much that I hate to move on and want the course to last as long as possible.

What other book might you compare Bach and the High Baroque to and why?

The obvious comparison would be other books in the The Great Courses series, either the broader survey courses or the specific genre courses (symphony, concert, jazz, etc). There are not that many books that offer both music samples as well as discussions about the music, composer, and the background of both.

What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His enthusiasm, sense of humor, examples, but most of all, his judicious selection of music samples and detailed discussed of the samples. He is very down to earth and has a very pleasant voice.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I thought I had died and gone to heaven within the first few minutes of listening. My favorite music, favorite composer, great sound, and a friendly, intelligent voice to discuss it all. This is the most worthwhile book credit I ever used.

Any additional comments?

I can't wait to proceed with the Great Courses series.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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The WordScore Study Guide is now available!

Any additional comments?

When Audible first listed The Teaching Company Great Courses, many reviewers lamented (or complained) that the Study Guides were not included. I was just grateful to at least have these wonderful college-level courses for audio download through Audible. <br/><br/>Now the Study Guides are included in PDF format, making a great deal even greater! Thanks Audible and The Teaching Company!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Depth and Entertainment

I am only 25% in and I have to write a short review. If you have even a passing interest in Bach, this will magnify your enjoyment of the music! I can tell this is going to be one of my favorite non fiction listens in 5 years of Audible.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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A brilliant course

Oh Bach! How have I been able to live without your music until now. Thanks to prof. Greenberg for his informative, passionate and moving explanations of Bach's work. Just like Bach's music itself, this course is a timeless performance.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Everything I was looking for, and more

What did you love best about Bach and the High Baroque?

Professor Greenberg's able, lucid explanations of the components of various Bach pieces and why they are so brilliant, actually allowing us to hear the brilliance for ourselves.Also, that I was able to hear so many wonderful pieces of the Baroque era (and some Renaissance pieces for contrast) with an expert to show me their beauty.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Bach and the High Baroque?

1. Hearing Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (the most famous piece he wrote--often played in movies, in an unfortunate stereotype, by a villain at a giant pipe organ) and understanding EXACTLY why it is SO thrilling to hear and will last for time immemorial. 2. Listening through the St. Matthew Passion with an expert's guidance--especially the turba choruses ("Let him be crucified!"). I've never had a piece of music--sans video--move me so much.3. Understanding the genius of the Goldberg variations. WOW. So much to learn there. Unending implications and aspects....

Which scene was your favorite?

Gotta be the whole section on the Toccata in D Minor as mentioned above. This was the first time I EVER felt like I understood an indescribably beautiful piece of music as it was meant to be understood. Priceless!!!!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Oh, boy, I would have loved to! But it took me three weeks, I think.

Any additional comments?

Greenberg is a tremendous professor. That's an understatement. He repeats things just enough times so you don't forget, but not to a discomforting level. He's got a great sense of humor. He's got an easy voice to listen to. He uses words carefully but easily. Awesome guy for this course. He's got 10 or so others in The Great Courses that I look forward to hearing eventually as well.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Love this series

While I enjoyed these Bach lectures, I didn't like them as much as the Stravinsky and Shostakovich lectures by Greenberg because of a surfeit of Music 101. There were times when I wish he would have said, "Anyone who ever took Music Theory and got a C+ or better can skip to the next lecture." But I guess when you're talking about Bach you can't assume everyone knows how a fugue works or what secondary dominants are or how many strings are on a violin. In spite of all that, Greenberg's presentation of the Goldberg Variations was fabulous, and I will listen to those four lectures again. Greenberg is a charming lecturer, and you want to invite him over for beers and small talk about Bartók.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Course Indeed!

The course is delivered in an excellent manner. It’s structured coherently and the occasional humor from the professor makes the content more palatable and interesting.

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Do not miss this!!

Robert Greenberg is amazing. This course will add considerable enjoyment to your life as you come to appreciate and treasure the amazing works by JS Bach. You will understand and appreciate them in context of his time and know why they are still relevant today.

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what a wonderful journey!

my understanding of Bach's music reached a whole new level. it's something I am going to treasure for a long long time.

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  • Fleurie
  • 04-26-17

Like listening to Woody Allen on Bach!

Fantastic, scintillating listen-such fun! Every lecture packed with treasures. Highly entertaining; favourite Audible purchase ever!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dirk Bertels
  • 09-02-17

Great analysis of Bach's music

Any additional comments?

Prof. Greenberg is a great performer himself - passionate and knowledgeable. He does an extensive analysis on a narrow but vital selection of Bach's music. Not being keen on opera and recitative, he managed to warm me to it in the St Mathew Passion, and not being keen on the harpsichord, I was relieved his extensive talk on the Goldberg Variations used the piano. <br/>However, I was dismayed at his lack of acknowledgement to the performers. His referring to the amazing performer of these Goldberg Variations for example, deserved more than 'the pianist...'!

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  • Karen
  • 04-27-14

Entertaining and informative

Where does Bach and the High Baroque rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I choose this as I have little music knowledge and wanted to understand more about Bach music. I was surprised about how much I enjoyed these lectures. They were basic enough for me to understand only loosing me a couple of times, they gave me great insight into now only Bach and his music, but the era in which he worked. The lecturer Robert Greenberg was passionate and knowledgeable, surprising funny and was able to convey some of the complex musical issues in a way I could understand and follow. I would recommend this to other listeners. Karen