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The Music of Richard Wagner

Narrated by: Robert Greenberg
Length: 18 hrs and 50 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (202 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In these 24 lectures filled with musical excerpts, enjoy a rich and multifaceted exploration of the trailblazing works and outsized life of this historically pivotal composer.

Your immersion in Wagner's art includes the following:

  • The Flying Dutchman (which illustrates several of Wagner's key compositional innovations)
  • Tannhäuser (the saga of a medieval knight torn between two worlds)
  • Tristan and Isolde (Wagner's crowning masterpiece)
  • And, of course, The Ring of the Nibelung (arguably the single most ambitious theater work ever created)

The sheer outlandishness of Wagner's life makes for an endlessly intriguing story, from his desperate escapades outrunning creditors to his obsessive personal relationships to his utopian artistic schemes. In his writings, letters, and public actions, you investigate the often contradictory - and hypocritical - aspects of his personality. And, reflecting on the nationalist spirit of his time, you track his core desire to make "German Art in the service of a German national identity," even as he created a body of works whose communicative power transcends any national boundary.

With Professor Greenberg's passionate and razor-sharp commentary, you'll plumb the fabulous mystery of a man who gave the world something of deeply compelling and universal resonance: music of great genius and a poetry that reveals the depths of the human psyche.

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

©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

What members say

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Wonderful

Where does The Music of Richard Wagner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among the best.

What other book might you compare The Music of Richard Wagner to and why?

This is more extensive than most of Greenberg's introductions to great composers. I generally find that the longer the course, the better it is.

Have you listened to any of Professor Robert Greenberg’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to a great many. This is among the best. Not that it has no flaws (yes, there is a lot of recounting of plots; and Prof.Greenberg's pronunciation of German and French words leaves much to be desired), but Prof. Greenberg speaks with such verve and insight that his presentation of Wagner is both exhilarating and educational.

Any additional comments?

I am not exactly a novice in classical music or in opera (I have seen many of the Wagner operas in German opera houses as well as in Paris), but this audiobook extended and deepened my knowledge and understanding of both the music and the man, and it did so in a most enjoyable and stimulating manner.

I might add that those who are unfamiliar with Greenberg might be put off, as I initially was, by his brash way of speaking and his mispronunciation of foreign words (surprising considering his cultivation and his composer's musical ear). It would be a great shame however to let these keep one away! In time, I began to find his mannerisms more endearing than disturbing — to my own benefit for I have gained much through listening to his lectures.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Pablo
  • Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • 04-05-15

excellent, as usual

the courses taught by Prof. Greenberg are always extremely interesting, well paced, well researched and very entertaining.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Engaging and interesting storytelling!

Where does The Music of Richard Wagner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was really a great listen! Richard Wagner is a super interesting character that everyone should learn about.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Music of Richard Wagner?

When I realised that the opera "Der Ring Des Nibellung" has similar themes to the "the Lord of the Rings" novel by JRR Tolkien. I didn't know that such stories existed in German mythology. It was a revelation!

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

Robert Greenberg brings energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, humour and wit. It was a pleasure to listen to!

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

Mostly laugh!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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I Enjoyed the Subject and Presentation

My first foray into Wagner. I've listened to a lot of Greenberg already, and I can count on his enthusiasm.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Cynicism and Wagner

I’m not sure why Robert Greenberg , who obviously loves Wagner’s musical genius yet possesses such a cynical sarcastic opinion of this complicated , frustrating and yet exhilarating genius felt compelled to host this particular lecture series .
Greenberg’s incessant snarky and sarcastic asides might satisfy and delight a great many listener but this Wagnerite found them exhausting, tedious and ultimately unhelpful.
I do think Greenberg is well informed yet his populist sarcasm left me feeling impoverished and disappointed in this lecture series .

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fabulous balanced review of Wagner and his works

Excellent, detailed review of all of Richard Wagner’s works and his life with samples of his music, explanations of the music themes and leitmotifs, and a balanced, well thought-out discussion of his horrendous racism and anti-semitism. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding course of lectures

I once read a review of a course by Professor Greenberg indicating that he could make reading a grocery list interesting. This is especially true in the video version but is also true here in the purely audio version. Dr. Greenberg fully appreciates Wagner but does not shy away from finding fault in him. For example, Dr. Greenberg is highly critical of Parsifal, finding the opera to be an embodiment of racial views of Wagner, who was an antisemite and German nationalist. Wagner was a genuis composer but a bad person (he also had some sort of compulsive spending disorder). Each of Wagner's major operas is discussed, always with musical excerpts, the sound quality of which is variable because they are old and live recordings. This is one of my all time favourite courses by The Great Courses.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The Music of Richard Wagner

The lectures are very entertaining and informative. My only complaint is that the music excerpts did not play loud enough on my iPhone. Perhaps that would not be a problem if I could listen through a speaker. The spoken parts of the lectures were plenty loud, though.

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  • Euryleia
  • Fountain Valley, CA United States
  • 05-11-18

Must Be an Opera Fan

It turns out that I hate Opera so strongly that I was not able to get past the first 4 lectures, as each one includes musical examples. The Professor, as always, gives a great and lively performance and I will definitely get his other available lectures, provided that they aren't Opera related!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonatan
  • Linköping, Sweden
  • 08-14-13

Wagner for "dudes"

If you could sum up The Music of Richard Wagner in three words, what would they be?

Extensive but bantering.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Wagner, because he is one of the most interesting personalities in history of western art. Sometimes you can hardly believe that such a person was real. An extreme man in an extreme century.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Greenberg tries really hard to make this lengthy course interesting and fun by constant wisecrack comments. If I had a penny for every "dude"… While his motive is admirable, it is very unnecessary; the history of Wagner is interesting enough on it's own. Maybe it is more suited for American listeners.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The most moving parts are the operas themselves. They are such a contrast to the man behind them.

Any additional comments?

Greenberg leaves nothing open for interpretation. He offers one truth and one only. Every opera has one objective meaning as well as all Wagner's actions. On the other hand, Greenberg is a veritable quoting machine which gives him a lot of authority.I learnt so much from this audio book and finished it within a week but the populistic style (and language) will make seek other authors for similar topics.

12 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 01-31-14

Wagner, the man and the mythos

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, to anyone put off by the seeming intellectual / artistic /political heights of Wagner thsi course is brilliant in being both informative, engaging and does not place Wagner on a pedestal whilst still acknowledging his artistic greatness.

What other book might you compare The Music of Richard Wagner to, and why?

To any of the other insightful courses of Professor Greenberg

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

His always lively and engaging tone.

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

It made me have an incredibly conflicted view of Wagner - which I think is possibly the best way to view him.

Any additional comments?

I'd urge anyone daunted by Classical music or Opera to try one of Robert Greenberg's courses.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Olly Buxton
  • 02-03-19

Really well pitched and entertaining intro

Professor Greenberg is an entertaining and witty speaker, and balances musical and textual analysis with historical and cultural context. Just the right mix.

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  • S. Dunthorne
  • 07-20-15

Great course!

Would you listen to The Music of Richard Wagner again? Why?

Very informative and I'll revisit sections as I go to see the Operas.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favourite character was Wagner! (daft question!!!)

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

This is a course not a novel reading! He should lay off the jokes a bit though.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The Ring Cycle and Parsifal.

Any additional comments?

THese prompted reviews aren't a one-size fits all you know Amazon!!

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  • Kevin Viney
  • 06-24-15

Astonishing, larger than life - Wagnerian?

A tremendous introduction to the music and mythology that makes up the life and works of Richard Wagner.

Happy to recommend this as a way into Wagner and all he represents that is easy to listen to and very informative.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-17-18

Review

Poor insight into the operas. Poor introduction to Wagner. Not a serious introduction to Wagner and his works