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I am a big fan of Prof. Greenberg's courses. They aren't just entertainment - his enthusiasm, his knowledge, his ability to contextualise and to direct listening effectively have, simply, revealed to me a world of music that would have otherwise remained hidden. Spending many hours with him through these courses has made my life better. Anyway I have been absolutely busting to hear him do a 20th Century overview and here it is at last!
First off - there is very little actual music in these lectures; he explains at the start that the cost of licensing the work of not-long-dead composers means he can't play you the recorded excerpts as he goes along, as you will be used to in his other courses. However, he provides a wonderful coursebook in the PDF file with URLs to some brilliant videos - so the music (and more) is only a click away. I note that one reviewer above has declared that you don't get these with the course on Audible - this is incorrect; they are in the PDF file in your audible library alongside the course download link and it all works fine. So aside from some piano examples he plays himself (and a few snippets of his own music) - it is all Bob. That is why 'story' is only getting 4 stars up above; if the music had been in there it would have been incredible and, as it is, I found myself coming down on the side of Charles Ives - screw copyright, music belongs to everyone. Gimme!!! Anyway the links are there and they are great.
Prof. Greenberg's overview itself is, for my money, much better than Alex Ross 'The Rest is Noise' from the point of view of actually making the music accessible. There are a couple of reasons for this I think. Firstly, I love Greenberg's willingness to stick his neck out and tell you his opinion. He loves and he hates, and the ongoing drama of who or what will be celebrated, or, alternatively, given both barrels makes this worth the price of admission alone. Secondly, I think the music truly gets centre-stage here in a way that it does not in Alex Ross' very interesting book. There is cultural, historical, and biographical overview here as well but this course is principally about the music - which I think is borne out in what the course consciously omits (Shostakovitch for example) as well as what it devotes entire lectures to. It is selective. The selections for listening/watching in the links are obviously chosen with care and I was delighted to discover much of this music (most of it to be honest) for the first time. Thirdly, Greenberg's being a prolific contemporary composer himself feels more important in this course, than in any of his previous. This course brings us 'up to speed' and so there is more of a sense than ever that this stuff (from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring onwards) is what contemporary composers are still wrestling with as they try to figure out what it is that they do or should do next. I thought Prof. Greenberg's frank account of his career (nay, his life!) as a composer in one of the final lectures was great - very honest, very amusing, and quite moving.
Don't miss this course - it is special.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
As with all Dr Greenburg’s courses this is just superb.
Content delivery and indeed performance is just wonderful.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
I have listened to many of Prof Greenberg's audiobooks, some more than once. Outstanding courses, educational and entertaining. In my view, three elements are primary reason for such great materials that he put together:
- Prof Greenberg is very knowledgeable with hands on experience in a range of music and eras
- Excellent story teller, intertwining social & historical elements with music development
- Inclusion of key and relevant performances/pieces that made his points very clear to follow and fully appreciate details
Inclusion of these performances, created wonderful courses that I was enjoying during my long commutes (driving, train and flight).
During the first lecture of this course, the author indiciated that due to cost of licensing, he has decided not include actual pieces (while he is describing verbally every performance in such a detail). Instead, there is a constant mention of "a URL is included in the materials"
In order to fully benefit from this course, one needs to listen to audiobook, while sitting in front of computer, with constant back and forth, something like:
Play-Pause-go to PDF for URL-UTube-Pause-Play-PDF-...
Without the actual examples included in the audiobook, this is purely a reading of materials by the author and fails to deliver
Imagine listening to his outstanding course titled "How To Listen To And Understand Opera", without great samples included.
What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
Include actual pieces/performances (not necessarily the entire piece, just enough that makes the content useful, very similar to previous courses)
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
Yes, great professor and excellent topic
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
What would have made Great Music of the 20th Century better?
I have always enjoyed Robert Greenbergs lectures - they are witty and full of information. However this class has no music recordings in it (even ones such as DeBussy which is out of copywrite). In order to properly “enjoy” this I would need to listen to the lecture on my iPod find the non live YouTube url in the downloaded pdf and then type it in on another device. So unless you want to listen to the narrative on an iPod, find the URL on your kindle and the type the URL in your iPad to hear the music you will not fully enjoy these lectures
14 of 15 people found this review helpful