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Publisher's Summary

Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood.
If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 48 wonderful lectures designed to make music accessible to everyone who yearns to know it, regardless of prior training or knowledge. It's a lecture series that will enable you to first grasp music's forms, techniques, and terms - the grammatical elements that make you fluent in its language - and then use that newfound fluency to finally hear and understand what the greatest composers in history are actually saying to us.
And as you learn the gifts given us by nearly every major composer, you'll come to know there is one we share with each of them - a common humanity that lets us finally understand that these were simply people speaking to us, sharing their passion and wanting desperately to be heard. Using digitally recorded musical passages to illustrate his points, Professor Greenberg will take you inside magnificent compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more. Even if you have listened to many of these illustrative pieces throughout your life - as so many of us have - you will never hear them the same way again after experiencing these lectures.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Ark1836 on 06-18-15

A Beginning to a Delinquent Education

I need to start this review with my background and motivation for my review to make sense in context. I would like to consider myself a fairly well-educated person holding multiple degrees from three different universities. Somehow, though, my education completely omitted anything involving music. Sure, I was required to take fine arts electives in high school and college, but I managed to miss music appreciation entirely. Needless to say, I have never picked-up an instrument, know next to nothing about music fundamentals, and have not one ounce of music talent or ability.

This deficiency in my education never caused a problem until I learned that my daughter is required to learn an instrument and take music during middle school. Thankfully, my wife played an instrument through high school and has at least some ability to help my daughter as she starts this part of her education. I do not, however, like being ignorant and do not want to be in the position of being utterly clueless about what my daughter is learning. Thus, I am motivated for the first time in my life to learn at least something about music.

I have experience with the Great Courses series and thought this would be the place to start my delinquent musical education. I am glad that I did. The professor uses a historical approach, which works well with the way that I think, and takes the student through Ancient Greek music all the way through the early part of the 20th Century. A complete list of the topics can be found on the Great Courses website.

The professor presents the thesis throughout the course that music is a mirror of the people who composed it and the time in which it was created. This is a long course and requires a lot of dedication, but the professor slowly builds a vocabulary for the student helping someone like me with zero background begin to understand the way that music is composed. I will freely admit that much of what the professor explained still went over my head, and I frequently turned to Wikipedia for more background information. I decided as my next class to listen to the professor's course on Understanding the Fundamentals of Music to continue building on my knowledge.

I bought many of the musical works he discussed in the class so I could listen to them in their entirety and see if I could pick-out some of the details learned from the course. I still feel like a near idiot, but I was proud of the progress I made. For instance, I can now listen to a traditional four movement symphony by Haydn or Mozart and understand why the second movement is typically slow and the fourth movement is typically fast. I can now provide a semi-intelligent answer to explain the stylistic differences between Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. If nothing else, I at least now know which came first. I still have a very long way to go, but I at least have a foundation on which to build. I can honestly say that I now have an interest in classical music (excuse me, to use the terminology from the course—"concert music") and appreciate listening to it, even if I am not yet picking up on all of the subtleties. The professor has not yet inspired me to go so far as listening to opera in my spare time, but I am now eager to learn more about music.

If I have any complaint, it is that I would like more guidance on where to go from here. There are more than a dozen courses in the Great Courses collection by this same professor. It would be nice to have a recommendation at tend end on which courses to take in which order to build a good, solid foundation of musical understanding. I assume the music fundamentals course that I just started is a good second stop on this journey, but I wonder what the professor would recommend in terms of taking courses on specific composers, the class on the symphony, the class on great orchestral works, etc….

As a closing note, I read criticisms of the professor in other reviews for his frequent, sometimes corny, jokes. I might be in the minority, but I actually liked most of his jokes because it made the material more relatable and kept the mood lighter, though, yes, the jokes can be corny at times. This is a course that could have very easily turned into a high-brow, hoity-toity snob-fest designed to intimidate the neophyte listener. The professor's casual, yet respectful, attitude kept that from happening. This was an excellent course for a complete beginner, and I imagine that someone with more background would get even more out of it.

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77 of 77 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Lee the reader on 10-11-13

Wonderful, I've wanted this for so long...but...

Would you consider the audio edition of How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition to be better than the print version?

There is no print version!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Shall I say Beethoven? or Bach? :)

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

I must have missed this.

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

Good music is always moving.

Any additional comments?

I've been wanting this for YEARS... but audible has made this affordable for me. MORE intellectual Teaching company! These Great Courses were the reason I signed up for audible initially, but have found so much more here.

This is a marvelous course, and I will definitely purchase more by this professor. I spent my college years pursuing practical courses in my scientific field, so this is an opportunity for me to finally take the "I wish I could" classes, in a way, that I never was able to before. Thank you so much for offering these.

However, I DO have one major problem....

Please, audible, can you have your software let people break things up into chapters, or lectures? I download these, and to have 36 lectures break up into 6 parts (For example; for the first section is: 1-Music as a Mirror; Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church; The Middle Ages; Introduction to the Renaissance; The Renaissance Mass; The Madrigal) - well, that's just impossible to search or list on my media player! When I want to go back and find an area, it's very difficult to find - the chapters are just very tiny increments apart on the "bar".

The sections should be listed by lecture I can easily find what I am looking for, or at least an option should be given. This is a course, after all. Could they not be:

1 - Music as a Mirror
2 - Sources - The Ancient World and Early Church
3 - The Middle Ages
4- Introduction to the Renaissance
5- The Renaissance Mass
6- The Madrigal

See how much nicer and cleaner? That would make me so much happier! I have the same problem with chapter books. I just listened to Anne of Green Gables (marvelous, by the way) and wanted to find the part where Anne dyed her hair green. It was so hard to do, as a 9 hour book is only in one piece! Please find a way to let us break the courses into smaller, more practical parts, such as by lecture and chapter.

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292 of 298 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By S. Mercer on 12-13-13

A treat for ears and heart

Would you consider the audio edition of How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition to be better than the print version?

Yes, although this is quite a loaded question. When talking about music the ability to listen to the actual pieces being discussed is infinitely better than reading about what the notes sound like.

What was one of the most memorable moments of How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition?

Hearing Guillaume de Machaut's "Quant en moy" from the 14th century - it captivated me almost instantly and Greenberg's wonderful way of explaining it made me realise there is so much to music from previous ages I have little or no knowledge about.

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

Not really applicable as this is no fictional "book". However, Professor Greenberg is the key to the whole course. His enthusiasm for the subject is embedded in every lecture and without him it would simply not work. Perfect mix between detail, humor and lecturing.

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

I might want to but at 48 lectures it is simply too long! Also, pauses are highly recommended to reflect on the various topics.

Any additional comments?

Even though 48 lectures might sound daunting at first, I would recommend this course to anyone interested in learning more about (concert) music. What makes this course work is not just the way it is structured - leading through the history of music from ancient times to the early 20th century - but most of all the enthusiastic lecturer, Robert Greenberg.

I found it a joy to listed to him and am now actively seeking out composers such as Josquin des Prez or Guillaume de Machaut. Before this course I had never heard of either of them. But also well known pieces become much more "understandable" (Beethoven's 5th, Hayden's symphonies, even Schoenberg!).

Greenberg follows the simple (sounding) principle that music is a mirror of its time; he uses this guideline to explain music throughout the ages.

It is not a cheap audiobook but this is where a credit becomes the payment of choice!

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By JOHN on 04-25-14

Entertaining and Informative

I was slightly apprehensive about downloading this course of 48 lectures. Would I be able to complete them all? Would they be too technical for a non-musician? I needn't have worried. Robert Greenberg is a wonderfully entertaining narrator whose enthusiasm for the music he is discussing is infectious and whose humorous asides and witty anecdotes often made me laugh out loud. The course is never boring. It helps one to hear the classics with new ears - for example, I will never be able to hear Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique again without being reminded of Erectile Dysfunction - as well as introducing the listener - well, this listener, at least - to music that would not exactly be top of the concert hall charts (I'm looking at you, Arnold Schoenberg). All in all, thoroughly enjoyable and very informative. I would recommend it to anyone keen to get a greater understanding of great music.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Phildo77 on 03-22-16

Outstanding in every way

This course is a truly unique insight into the structure and meaning of a variety of works over hundreds of years. Prof Greenburg, I feel I should call him Bob, is the knowledgeable, enthusiastic, unpretentiousness guide who explains the composer and works in the context of their time and personal life in language that is easy to understand. There are detailed notes that can be referred to as well. Cannot recommend this highly enough. I'm am about to start my Greenburg course, 30 orchestral works. Thank you Bob!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Annalie on 08-01-16


This course opened up the world of Western concert music to me. Brilliantly narrated! Recommended!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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