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
an examination of how the simultaneous development of the orchestra and the opera were crucial to the birth of the symphony as a genre;
a look at the earliest true symphonies that were exponents of the galant style that emerged in the period between the High Baroque and Viennese Classicism;
an exploration of Haydn and Mozart, the titans of the Classical age;
the sublime and iconoclastic Beethoven and his Fifth Symphony;
a study of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, which combined the extreme emotions and drama of the opera house with an explicit, intimately autobiographical narrative; and
national developments in France, Russia, Vienna, Bohemia, Scandinavia, America, and Great Britain.
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."
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Chris on 03-09-15
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Richard Gunter on 02-07-15
Super Survey of Symphonies
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.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By Tracy Rowan on 09-09-17
Another wonderful series from Robert Greenberg
I'm a big fan of Robert Greenberg's lectures on music. The Housemate and I are watching How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, and I've finished his series on J. S. Bach, and -- my personal favorite -- Music as a Mirror of History. As with the latter, this course on symphonies shows us that Professor Greenberg is not just astonishingly well-versed in music, but that he has a remarkable ability to contextualize that music, allowing the listener to understand the influences that helped to create, in this case, individual pieces of work, but in the case of the more general surveys, the entire oeuvre of the composers he covers. A good example, for me anyway, is how Shostakovich, who has never been a big favorite of mine, is put into the context of the composer's life in Soviet Russia, under Stalin (an unenviable position for any artist) and has now become both accessible to me, and someone I actively want to listen to.
I never listen to a Greenberg course without finding that there is some composer or piece of music that now speaks to me where before he/it felt like so much noise. In this survey I came to a greater understanding of Bruckner, a composer I'd sorta enjoyed, but never cared enough to explore more deeply, and discovered that I actually like the music of Charles Ives, Roy Harris, and Samuel Barber. Sadly, even Robert Greenberg hasn't been able to make Hector Berlioz remotely interesting to me. *yawn*
If there is a weakness it grows out of the limitations of the course. There are simply too many symphonies and too many symphonic composers to cover in-depth in any such course. So much has to be edited out, or reduced to a mere mention that it's frustrating to think about how much more we could be learning if there was simply more time. If I could offer a suggestion to the good professor, I would say, please give us a lecture series on more contemporary composers. I want to learn about (just off the top of my head) Henry Cowell, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Joseph Becker, and David Diamond, as well as William Grant Still, and yes, more Shostakovich please! More insight into their work and influences would be appreciated.
If you love classical music, but feel you want to understand more about it, and come to a deeper appreciation of the forces which shape it, you can't do much better than listen to Professor Greenberg.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful