Rated 5 out of 5 by museumlover The genius who started it all
The genius who started it all refers to Bach, but in this case it could also refer to Prof Greenberg and this course in particular. He does an excellent job of bringing in the backstory and essential features of Baroque music, devoting lectures to definitions such as beat, rhythm, meter, and melody. He also includes a rather complete biography of Bach, considering how relatively little we know of him and his life. You feel as if you know Bach personally. And the musical excerpts are generous, with special focus on masterfully selected works such as the Bach violin concerto, orchestral suite #3, Goldberg Variations, St Matthew Passion, and partita #5 for harpsichord. Even if you know these works, you will hear them in a different light after this course. For good measure, he includes comparisons with important works by Vivaldi, Josquin des Prez, Handel, and Lully. He even draws comparisons with dance music from different cultures and eras, to beautiful effect. The guidebook is extremely helpful, with several wordscores and lists of musical examples and composers with dates. Bach's music is uplifting, spiritual, and transcendant, and alone would be worth the price of admission. Analyzed expertly and movingly, Greenberg makes this course truly worthy of being trapped with on a desert island. I know I would be fulfilled if I had to listen to this course many times over.
March 19, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 Great Course, Great Content, Great Presentation
I've taken several courses by Robert Greenberg ("How to listen to great music", "Beethoven's Symphonies", "30 greatest orchestral works"... All of them great! This one on Bach is a must if you want to learn not only about Sebastian Bach but about the baroque era. You don't really need images for these courses. So, go for the audio version! That's the one I have.
January 1, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by highstandards Extraordinary, Memorable
As a sometimes critic of certain features of Greenberg's more recent courses, I have nothing but accolades for this extraordinary, memorable vintage course of his. It belongs with other classics, including Concert Masterworks, the Symphonies of Beethoven, and his broad survey music course, as among the very best of all TGC offerings.
Greenberg does a splendid job of teaching two fundamental truths about this remarkable figure in the history of music: the world is never the same after Bach, yet so much in Bach comes from the world before.
The good professor spends considerable time teaching the Baroque style - how it evolved, its nature and elements, and how composers of the day, including Bach, manifested their creativity within its frame.
Beyond this most immediate context, we see the influences on Bach from the Protestant Reformation, especially within the Lutheran Church, as well as Italian opera, the French style, and other international musical developments.
One might become impatient with all this buildup, but the student is rewarded richly by the foundation Greenberg establishes. Bach had an inheritance that was crucial to his music, as were influences of his own time. Greenberg was wise in showing all this with care and was masterful in displaying its huge impact expressly in the music.
Yet, the course is mostly and importantly about the amazing and unique extensions Bach effected in what he inherited and drew upon. This is indeed what makes us so excited and curious about studying the master. And, here as well, Greenberg excels.
We get a lot of Bach's music, and we get a lot of the "early Greenberg" treatment of it. Somewhere along the way, early in the course, Greenberg apologizes for not going deeply enough into the music. My reaction was, wow, I must be in for a treat as the course goes on. The teaching of the music was fine from start to finish.
I particularly enjoyed Greenberg's teaching of the Toccata in D Minor for Organ, the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, and Cantata No. 140. Having said that, I want to stress that the four lesson experience of the "Goldberg Variations," was even better - just exceptional.
Greenberg does repeat a fair amount of basic material about musical terms and forms he has taught in other courses. This may be unnecessary for the more expert or experienced students. For me, it was very helpful to be refreshed on important matters that were vital to further learning and deeper appreciation of these lessons on Bach and the High Baroque.
There's no course that deserves the grade of "perfect" or "flawless." But I want to say it again: I almost always find and report on flaws and shortcomings in courses I review. This course was conceived, built, and executed as well as I could have ever hoped one could be. Kudos to Professor Greenberg for having created a true "must-have" course.
May 26, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by jamcar78 Greenberg At Top Of His Game
This review will cover the audio version, which I feel is quite adequate to the understanding of the material.
This course was produced in 1998, and has been a staple in TGC catalog for many years. I feel that it does show its' age, in several places. For example, the sound quality on many of the musical excerpts, is not what we have come to expect from TGC in the past decade or so. As other reviewers have mentioned, there are also several instances where the material at the end of a lecture just stops abruptly, and it seems as several words are lost, as the next lecture picks up, where the previous lecture left oft. If one is walking, or exercising, as I do, this can be quite surprising.
Notwithstanding, this is a minor quibble, in comparison to the many "gems" that this course offers.
For example, Dr. Greenberg is at his very best. His knowledge and command of the presentation is fantastic. I feel that the degree of humor used is about right. For those of you that are used to the liberal mix of humor in Greenberg's "Great Music" course, it is a refreshing change not to have quite so much humor. There is more "meat" here than "potatoes," and I feel the ratio of the two is perfect; at least for my taste, anyways.
Since I was a music major in college, I already had some knowledge of Bach's contributions to music. However, I had never appreciated the extent of them, until now. In my musical training, early on, I was exposed to Bach's chorales, which are used to teach how he handled musical chord progressions, harmony, modulations #movement from one tonal area to another# and the like. Here, perhaps for the first time, I have come to appreciate Bach for the art that he created, not just the function and framework of that art.
I really enjoyed when Dr. Greenberg was discussing the Brandenberg Concertos, and he was discussing how the clarino trumpet gave the music the particular high sound that we have become accustomed to. The particular trumpet that produced these high pitches, actually became "lost" for over a hundred years. During the mid 1960's, it was re-discovered, re-created, and has been used in many musical recordings, of the concertos, since then.
The explanations of the "Saint Matthew Passion," and the "Goldberg Variations," were the best that I have ever encountered, on those particular works. I was fortunate to hear a live performance of the Matthew Passion this Easter, and I enjoyed it even more, thanks to the background from this course.
There are a few occasions, in which I thought the professor gave too much material, without presenting the musical excerpts, first. Sometimes, the lecture was about 1/3 completed until any music, at all, was actually played for the first time.
The course guide book is excellent, and in my opinion, is much better that the current guidebooks that have been produced since about 2008. These older books present the material in outline form, which is so much easier to digest, than the newer formats, that only present the material, without any outline form, to tie the material together.
Since I can read music, I am not a big fan of the Word Scores that are used. However, I can appreciate how valuable this tool can be for someone that is unfamiliar with musical scores. It is a remarkable creation for the intended audience.
There is also a Chronology of key events, composers, philosophers, and events, #on pp. 18-19 of the book# from the Late Renaissance-Baroque-Early Classical period, that really helps one to put noteworthy persons/events into their historical context.
Although this is now an older course, there is still much to be learned, and gleaned from the material. Although the professor does repeat some material covered in the Great Music course, the review itself is well worth the effort put forth.
Thank you, Dr. Greenberg, and J. S. Bach, for a wonderful artistic experience.
April 25, 2014