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Publisher's Summary

In The Life & Times of Beethoven, celebrated composer and music historian Professor Robert Greenberg of San Francisco Performances gives you a unique perspective on a musical genius the likes of which the world had never seen before - or since. 

Blending biography, history, and music appreciation, these 10 lectures portray Beethoven’s extraordinary (and still modern-sounding) music as a direct outgrowth of his life, environment, and interior emotional landscape. What makes Beethoven’s anger so special is that he was the first composer to portray his own raw (sometimes even violent) emotions directly in his music. As a result, for more than 200 years, works like his later quartets, his Hammerklavier sonata, and his Symphony No. 9, have moved, touched, and sometimes even frightened listeners in a manner almost primal. 

Professor Greenberg lays bare the links between Beethoven’s life and his incredible output of music. Listeners will learn:

  • How the crisis involving Beethoven’s hearing became a catalyst for his musical creativity and originality, 
  • How Beethoven’s infatuation with Napoleon helped him change the language of Western music, 
  • How Beethoven’s “Heroic Music” helped the composer symbolically overcome his pain and unhappiness, 
  • How six factors contributed to Beethoven’s crushing fall from popular grace in 1815, 
  • How Beethoven revolutionized the genre of string quartets during the last two years of his compositional life, and much more!

These lectures give an unforgettable perspective of an angry, alienated composer, who, nevertheless, translated personal defeats into musical triumphs.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from The Life & Times of Beethoven

Lecture 2: A Difficult Childhood
  • Lecture 2: A Difficult Childhood
Beethoven’s misanthropic personality explained by a childhood marked with abuse, illness, and loss.
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Lecture 6: The Heroic Decade Begins
  • Lecture 6: The Heroic Decade Begins
A misunderstood Beethoven changes the course of music.
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Lecture 7: The Immortal Beloved
  • Lecture 7: The Immortal Beloved
Beethoven falls in love with unattainable women.
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  • Lecture 2: A Difficult Childhood
  • Beethoven’s misanthropic personality explained by a childhood marked with abuse, illness, and loss.
  • Lecture 6: The Heroic Decade Begins
  • A misunderstood Beethoven changes the course of music.
  • Lecture 7: The Immortal Beloved
  • Beethoven falls in love with unattainable women.

About the Professor

Dr. Robert Greenberg is a Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a PhD in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions—which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles—performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. He has served on the faculties of the University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Hayward; and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Chicago Symphony. For The Great Courses, he has recorded more than 500 lectures on a range of composers and classical music genres. Professor Greenberg is a Steinway Artist. His many other honors include three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress. He has been profiled in various major publications, including The Wall Street Journal; Inc. magazine; and the London Times.

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What listeners say about The Life & Times of Beethoven

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An excellent overview of Beethoven's life

The Life and Times of Beethoven is a biography compiled by Prof Robert Greenberg of The Great Courses-fame. As part of the Great Courses you are enticed with an academically well-researched and very interesting course. However, if you expect music examples, as with most of Prof Greenberg's courses, this course lacks it. It is history, moulded and made interesting. On the upside, while most Great Courses were created as video courses, this course focus on audio presentation. There is no workbook and you can drive and listen. I highly recommend the course. It is a splendid biography by a heavy weight in Musicology of probably the most famous composer.

6 people found this helpful

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Sensationalism

For the first 10 minutes or so, the author quoted polls to show how popular Beethoven is today to Classic Music fans. Later, he quotes an historian who believed a good biography of Beethoven needs to be objective and avoid "interpretation." Robert Greenberg goes on to disagree with this historian and lets you know that the next 4 1/2 of this "book" will be Robert's "interpretation." The author tries to use a "female" voice when stating the opinions or quotes of women. It comes across as comical. Within an hour of this "audible" event, I felt that the "center" of this event was not Beethoven; the center becomes, to me, Robert Greenberg. This event becomes, not history, entertainment.

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Just brilliant

I feel like I actually knew Beethoven, personally, and knew him well, even smelled him, after listening to this brilliant series. Great job, Professor Greenberg.

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Robert Greenberg is always great!

I've listened to nearly all of the Great Courses by Robert Greenberg and he has delivered once again. Audio clips of the music would have been a plus and I would have paid more to hear them. Otherwise everything was great and I would encourage everyone to listen to this course.

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Another Hit from Dr. Bob

I was excited to find Robert Greenberg on Audible; it did not disappoint. Thank you for another great course.

1 person found this helpful

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all talk no music

constantly pitching his other books the lecturer shouts, doesn't play any of Beethoven's music. awful

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WHAT no music????

The description implied that there would be analysis of the music. That is why I purchased this series. 10 minutes in he’s explaining how to buy his CD’s. I can’t express how disappointed I was.

5 people found this helpful

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enthralling

honestly, I finished this lecture series in one day. I learned things I'd never known and there was a bit about the letter and story behind Immortal Beloved. I even wished there were more lectures.

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Dr. Greenberg’s narration as entertaining as his well-researched work is informative.

What a paradox of humor, tragedy & tortured-genius! I’m not clear on why it’s sub-titled “the first angry man”, but after listening to Dr. Greenberg’s entertaining narration, I certainly understand better what the causation of Beethoven singular musical sound was. Music that can only be described as singular as it is both pensive & uplifting. Dr. Greenberg enlightens us as to the how & why Beethoven has made the eternal contribution to man that he most certainly has. By interweaving the historical times with Beethoven’s tragic personal life, Dr. Greenberg gives us as fun-to-listen-to as it is replete of an understanding of Beethoven’s immortal triumph over adversity.

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Poor, poor Beethoven and his friends and family.

All good but don't expect any music of Beethoven's. But a well communicated sad story.

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  • Criticaldad
  • 06-06-20

interesting but no music

I enjoyed this once I'd got over the disappointment that it was not accompanied by any illustrative music.