Great Masters: Haydn-His Life and Music

Course No. 751
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
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Course No. 751
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Course Overview

The music of Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) is so technically superb, so widely imitated, and so rich in quality and quantity that almost since the moment of its creation it has exemplified the Classical style. More than any other single composer, it was Haydn who created the Classical-era symphony. And his 68 string quartets? They are the standard by which all other Classical string quartets were and are judged. No less an expert than Mozart wrote that it was from Haydn that he had learned how to write quartets.

And yet this gentle, creative dynamo, who penned more than 1,000 works over a 50-year career and remained musically vital well past middle age, is all too often thought of as an aged figure surpassed and overshadowed by Mozart and Beethoven.

A Father, Not a Fossil

Not so, as Professor Robert Greenberg shows. The musicians who worked for Haydn called him "Papa" not because he was a fossil, but because of his unfailing kindness to them in an age when professional musicians were often treated poorly.

In truth, Haydn is one of the most original and influential composers of all time. He was the only musical contemporary whom Mozart admired. You learn from Professor Greenberg about the artistically fruitful friendship that grew between Mozart and Haydn.

He taught Beethoven. You can learn about the more troubled dealings Haydn had with Beethoven—whose Ninth Symphony, nonetheless, would be unimaginable without the influence of Haydn's Creation, the towering 1798 oratorio in praise of God's generosity, that crowned Haydn's career.

The Beauty of The Creation

In the culminating lectures of the series, you'll learn how The Creation perfectly expresses Haydn's rich inner world and personality: His childlike wonder, purehearted sensual joy, and genial humor mix seamlessly with profound faith, great nobility of expression, and genuine religious devotion.

In Haydn's works, the demands of popular entertainment and lofty aesthetic theory blend smoothly. Each piece strikes a new and finely judged balance between limpid accessibility and the integrity of compositional craft.

To know the man behind such works is to see Haydn's extraordinary achievement not merely as a technical feat or a display of pure talent—though surely these are involved—but as the work of a whole person, a triumph of generosity and the human spirit.

Haydn: A Brief Biography

Haydn was born on March 31, 1732, in an ethnically diverse part of Austria, near the Hungarian border. His music expressed this ethnically diverse environment.

When he was almost six years old, Haydn's soprano voice attracted his first music teacher, Johann Franck, a school principal and choir director in the town of Hainburg.

Young Haydn was sent off to Franck's school at that tender age. He was subjected to a rigorous and harsh life (thrashings were common), but he was also exposed to an extraordinary amount of music. He was taught the rudiments of music theory, singing, and keyboard and string playing, for which he remained grateful to Franck for the rest of his life.

At age eight, Haydn's musical ability attracted the attention of Georg Reutter, choir master at the Cathedral of St. Stephen's in Vienna, the most important church in the most important city in German-speaking Europe. For the next nine years, as a choirboy at the cathedral, he was exposed to the best music in Europe at that time. He learned to compose slowly and painstakingly through practical experience and hard work.

After his voice broke, Haydn was turned out of St. Stephen's to fend for himself in the great city of Vienna. He eked out a living by teaching, accompanying, singing, playing the organ and violin, and composing dance music.

In 1758, Haydn hit professional and financial pay dirt. He was hired by Count Morzin to be court music director and composer. With an orchestra at his disposal, it was for Count Morzin that Haydn wrote his first symphonies, among many other works.

Unqualified Musical Success

Haydn's musical development was an unqualified success, but his marriage to Maria Anna Keller was not. Maria Anna was, we are told, an ugly, quarrelsome, bitter woman who could not have children. Haydn would regret his marriage for the rest of his life, and his ultimate estrangement from his wife led to discreet affairs with women.

Haydn worked hard for the Esterházy family, and the opportunities his position gave him were enormous. At the magnificent palace of Esterháza in the Hungarian countryside, Haydn had the time he needed to develop his craft. The court orchestra played virtually everything he wrote, and his employer, Prince Nicholas Esterházy ("the Magnificent"), who had succeeded his brother Paul Anton, encouraged Haydn to experiment in every genre.

Some critics disliked the mixture of the serious and the comic in Haydn's music. But as time went on, Haydn acquired an international celebrity that far outweighed any criticism. Among his admirers was the much younger Mozart, for whom Haydn had a mutual regard. The two became great friends. Haydn's six String Quartets, op. 33, inspired Mozart to write six quartets of his own, and he dedicated them to Haydn.

In 1790, Haydn's employer Prince Nicholas died, and Haydn found himself free to leave Esterháza. The impresario Johann Peter Salomon took him to London, where Haydn immediately became the toast of the town. For this visit and his subsequent visit in 1794, he wrote his greatest symphonies, the London symphonies.

When he returned to Vienna in 1795, it was a far more "Haydn-friendly" place. A new Esterházy prince, Nicholas II, came into Haydn's life, and he liked old-style church music. Haydn's great masterworks of these years are the oratorios The Creation and The Seasons.

After completing The Seasons in April 1801, Haydn's health began to fail. With characteristic generosity he wrote a will that included everybody from his closest relatives to a shoemaker.

The last great moment of Haydn's public life occurred on March 27, 1808, when The Creation was performed at the university in Vienna in honor of his 76th birthday. The illustrious audience included the composers Beethoven, Salieri, and Hummel, as well as the highest aristocracy.

Haydn's audience knew he was approaching his death, and the performance became an almost mystical event. In one touching moment, Princess Esterházy saw Haydn shiver and covered his shoulders with her shawl. Soon other ladies followed suit until he was completely covered.

Haydn never appeared in public again. He died "blissfully and gently" on May 31, 1809.

Works you'll hear in the lectures are excerpted from:

Symphony no. 45 in F-sharp Minor (Farewell) (1772)
String Quartet in C Major, op. 33, no. 3 (The Bird) (1781)
String Quartet in E-flat Major, op. 33, no. 2 (The Joke) (1781)
Symphony no. 92 in G Major (1789)
Symphony no. 94 in G Major (Surprise) (1792)
Symphony no. 102 in B-flat Major (London) (1794)
Symphony no. 104 in D Major (final London symphony) (1795)
Piano Trio in F-sharp Minor (1794)
Trumpet Concerto (1796)
String Quartet, op. 76, no. 3 in C Major (The Emperor) (1797)

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8 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction and Early Life
    Haydn's name is synonymous with the Classical style. No other single composer did as much to create and standardize the Classical symphony and quartet. This lecture describes his early years at school and as a choirboy at St. Stephen's Cathedral school in Vienna. In 1749, when his voice broke, he was expelled from St. Stephen's to begin a new life in Vienna at the age of 17. x
  • 2
    The Lean Years and the Pre-Classical Style
    Haydn eked out a living for years before his compositional career took off. He absorbed the musical traditions of his day: the high Baroque, and the new rococo music of the Enlightenment. This lecture discusses influences on Haydn: the Mannheim orchestra, Italian composer Sammartini as well as Viennese composers Reutter, Monn, and Wagenseil. In 1761, he got the opportunity of his life when he was hired by Prince Paul Anton Esterházy. x
  • 3
    Haydn’s Marriage and Esterháza
    Musically, Haydn's development was an unqualified success but marriage to Maria Anna Keller was not. Prince Paul Anton and his successor, Prince Nicholas Esterházy, were genuine music lovers. Haydn became the court music director with his own orchestra to conduct and write music for. Haydn was "forced to become original." x
  • 4
    Esterháza Continued
    Life at Prince Nicholas's court at Esterháza was exactly what Haydn wanted: predictable and calm. Ideas of the new Sturm und Drang cultural movement imbued his music with a greater emotional range. Haydn became famous and wealthy, and he developed a close friendship with Mozart. His music became the template by which we measure the Classical style, perfectly balancing head and heart, intellect and emotion. x
  • 5
    The Classical String Quartet and the Classical Symphony
    Haydn's string quartets and symphonies are models of the Classical style. He forged the notion of the string quartet as four individuals who collaborate to create a whole that is greater than its parts. As the years passed at Esterháza, Haydn's fame grew throughout Europe and England. When Prince Nicholas Esterházy died in 1790, he accepted the invitation of an English impresario to go to England, where his music was already worshiped. x
  • 6
    London
    Haydn went to London at the invitation of Johann Peter Salomon, a violinist and impresario. The symphonies Haydn wrote for his London audiences are among his finest. He returned to Vienna in 1792, but his reception there was mild. Moreover, he had lost his great friend Mozart and was soon to lose his old friend Marianne von Genzinger. It could not have been a worse time when the young Ludwig van Beethoven arrived to begin his lessons with Haydn. x
  • 7
    Beethoven, London Again, and Breakthrough
    Beethoven's composition lessons with Haydn were disastrous. Beethoven was discourteous and even duplicitous toward Haydn, although he would later forgive the young and rebellious Beethoven. At his second visit to London in 1794, he was as enthusiastically received as the first time. His 12 London Symphonies, written during both visits, are the crowning achievements of his symphonic output. After his return to Austria, he wrote a series of masses for his new employer, Prince Nicholas II. His oratorio, The Creation is the capstone of his career. x
  • 8
    The Creation, The Seasons, and the End
    As he grew old, Haydn's health began to fail, but he still kept a strict daily routine. He lived in the Viennese suburbs, continuing to receive a steady stream of medals, awards, and honors. He wrote The Seasons, his last major work, which was another extraordinary success. In March 1808, a performance of The Creation was given to a distinguished audience in honor of Haydn's 76th birthday; he died a little over a year later. x

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Your professor

Robert Greenberg

About Your Professor

Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions—which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles—performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles,...
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Reviews

Great Masters: Haydn-His Life and Music is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 55.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from delightful course Course was entertaining as well as informative: I learned a good deal about the composer and the context in which he lived. All in all, well worth the time!
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravo, Professor Greenburg We REALLY like Professor Greenburg, and again, he did a splendid job.
Date published: 2017-05-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Sparse content, meandering style After listening to the first five lectures, I actually felt like I knew LESS about Haydn than when I started. There's no direction to these lectures... I can't honestly say I remember a single intteresting fact about them.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the purchase Professor Greenberg is an excellent orator that entertains you while you learn.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Again! I cannot add much to what has already been said about this course and Professor Greenberg. He is both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The course is well structured and contains copious musical examples to make his points. The use of Haydn's letters really help to expose Haydn's character. All I can say is - keep them coming.
Date published: 2016-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Son is Loving This DVD. My son is a musician who has been teaching history through music and storytelling to junior high and high school students for years. He started when he was quite young, due to his pursuing his interests in both music and history on his own from a young age. We homeschooled so he got an early start. At the ripe old age of 19, he has completed the requirements for his music major in community college. He's taking this summer to play his violin, compose and enjoy some rest. I purchased several of Professor Greenberg DVDs for him for Chrismas a couple of years ago and he's just now finding time to watch them. He is absolutely loving them. He is so excited about Professor Greenberg's Haydn DVD, after having gone to bed, he lay there thinking about the lectures, jumped up, ran into my room and began excitedly lecturing me on what he's learned from it, along with related things about other composers he already knew. He's looking forward to learning even more from professor Greenberg's lectures on other composers. I think it says a lot about the professor when someone who teaches music through music and storytelling gets so excited about the information and way it's being taught. It sounds like he is as much storyteller as music historian... Which is the way it should be. I'm so glad I invested in professor Greenberg's DVDs. It's as though my son has found a kindred spirit, with the same enthusiasm for the subjects he's interested in, who is older and more knowledgable. Having these DVDs is the next best thing to being able to invite a wonderful mentor into one's own home. Thank you to Professor Greenberg and the Great Courses for making these DVDs available.
Date published: 2016-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg the Enthusiastic audio download version Along with other reviewers, I began the TC courses with professor Greenberg, in my case "How to Listen To and Understand Great Music". Aside from other fine courses presented well, I keep returning to Dr. Greenberg for a dose of his shtick and knowledge. To be sure there are reviewers who take exception to his style, called by one as "childish". A viewpoint with which it is hard to disagree, but perhaps I have never grown up, as his presentations find me smiling and occasionally laughing out loud. But in the end, style would be nothing without content and knowledge, and in this the good professor excels. While I have a set of complete recordings of Haydn's symphonies (Antal Dorati conducting the Detroit Symphony) I did not know much about Haydn's life. That omission is now corrected. I was also unaware of the influence Hayden had on Mozart, and most especially Mozart on Hayden. And now that I know and with Greenberg's help, I can actually hear some of Mozart's influence. The final lecture also inspired me to purchase a recording of "The Creation". Thank you Dr. Greenberg! Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg does it again! OK, I’m hooked. I have become a voracious listener and viewer of Robert Greenberg’s lectures. As usual, the Haydn lectures were both informative and amusing. Greenberg strikes a wonderful balance between the two. His enthusiasm on the subject has inspired me to learn as much as I can about Haydn. This course has heightened my appreciation of Haydn’s life and his compositions. I now have a better understanding of the contribution and leadership during the Classical Period. I listened to this series on my iPod while riding my bike on our local rail-trail. The miles went by quickly while I exercised my body and mind! I am grateful to the Teaching Company that they now allow us to download content for off-line listening. My iTunes play counts on Haydn’s Symphonies, Quartets, Trios, and Sonatas have risen sharply since listening to these lectures. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Haydn Unplugged Prior to watching this course, I had very little knowledge of Haydn or how he fit into the hierarchy of composers. Greenberg does his usual excellent job of alternating between biography and discussions of history, musical theory, and the relationships of the various composers of the time. Greenberg places Haydn in his time: what was music like before him and how Haydn changed it. We also learn how Mozart and others influenced Haydn. Haydn's music really is wonderful - I need to start listening to more of it! As in his other courses, Greenberg is incredibly enthusiastic; he clearly loves what he is doing. He tells lots of "jokes" which, on occasion, are amusing. He seems to do a lot more of that toward the beginning of this course than he did in the other courses he's done that I've watched. However, he seemed to settled down a bit after the first couple of lectures. But, even when his jokes miss, he's still a lot of fun to watch. And every time I watch one of his courses, I walk away having learned a lot of history as well. I definitely look forward to watching more Greenberg courses!
Date published: 2015-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A close look at a great composer In the interests of full disclosure, I will confess that I worship Robert Greenberg, from whom I have taken several courses with (fortunately) many others to go. So I may be biased to like this course. I am a huge fan of Haydn (along with many other composers), but I didn't know much about his life. Now I do. I found it fascinating that he had written a cello concerto that was lost for 200 years. I enjoy Greenberg's jokey comments, like useless being described as a screen door in a submarine and lean lines of classicism being likened to a 1958 Chevy. In other words, he is a special lecturer who tells you great heaps of neat stuff. If you like Haydn or any of the classic composers, don't miss this course.
Date published: 2015-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent insight into a great man of music Excellent, wide-ranging choice of material to reflect an extraordinary music man. The narrative is extensively bolstered with helpful quotes, both contemporary to Haydn's life and later. Professor Greenberg's enthusiasm and admiration for Haydn make the presentation interesting throughout. He clearly sets events in context and well explains pertinent musical terms. I don't always appreciate the good professor's humor, but he packs this course with a wealth of information and music excerpts that combine to give the participant a sense that they understand Haydn well. Definitely recommended to all who are interested in Joseph Haydn in particular or classical period music in general.
Date published: 2015-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from typical Greenberg - an excellent course I've taken five of six other courses by Prof. Greenberg, who truly is one of the Great Professors. I thoroughly enjoyed this course, learning a lot about Haydn as a person as well as his immense contribution to classical music. Of all of the Greenberg courses that I've thus far taken, this one makes the least reference to details of musical notation. All of Greenberg's courses are accessible and enjoyable by people who are not musicians and who do not know music theory; this course just strikes me as even more so. I very much like the music choices, both from Haydn and some of his predecessors, that Greenberg made for this course.
Date published: 2013-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An early Greeberg series shines brightly ! DVD REVIEW: Dr Greenberg is one of my favourite Great Courses lecturers; this was my fifth course with him; one of his early 8-lecture courses, recorded in 2000 when he sported a big moustache. It's a solid, powerful series that I recommend to you. Greenberg's highly-stylised, witty (slightly corny), entertaining presentation comes through strongly as he relates a fascinating detailed biographical study of Haydn, including the highs and lows of his life, his education, experiences, disastrous marriage, and his remarkable attributes as a very fine, admirable human being. There are many extracts of Haydn's music ~~ there could have been more, sure, but this relatively short course concentrates on his life. In lecture 2, there were also extracts from the works of other composers to highlight those who influenced Haydn in the Classical period. This course gives the homage which is overwhelmingly due to the great master Haydn... I was firmly inspired to listen to Haydn's works in full, have already bought a CD of Haydn's string quartets. My first introduction to Haydn was the Emperor Suite, developed into the German national anthem and the English hymn Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken. I'm looking forward next to Greenberg's short course on the life of Beethoven... and many more of his lecture series.
Date published: 2013-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Greenberg scored with this one! Great course about a great man... I took a risk on this course, after being so disappointed about Dr. Greenberg's presentation on Beethoven. So glad I did. I was inspired to purchase Haydn's complete string quartets and concertos on CD. Superb. Greenberg scored with this one! It is well worth your listen!
Date published: 2013-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Course by Greenberg In this course, Professor Greenberg reviews the life of Franz Haydn. Professor Greenberg is truly one of the stars of TTC's list of professors. His wit and lecture style are truly enjoyable. I enjoy his many humorous descriptions and enthusiasm about the subject. This course briefly reviews the life of Franz Haydn. It does tend to emphasize the biography more than the music, but that is not meant as a complaint -- only a description. All courses by Prof. Greenberg leave me wishing that I had more time to devote to listening to music. But, alas, in these busy days, I don't have much time at all. Fortunately, I can enjoy my forays into the world of great music by listening to these wonderful courses by TTC and Professor Greenberg. I highly recommend this course for those who wish to learn more about the life of Franz Haydn.
Date published: 2013-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Totally Enjoyable Course Dr. Greenberg's course is a masterpiece. I learned about the genre of classical music as well as contrasting it with other styles. The professor's presentation style is wonderful because he brings the listener into the time period being explored and relates those events to modern ones. There is never a dull moment in this course and I looked forward to every lecture. I immediately sought out more of Haydn's music to enjoy. I will be going to London shortly, at the same age as when Haydn went there for the first time. Dr. Greenberg's description of Haydn's adventures in London will provide a highlight to my trip. Anyone who wants to gain a better insight into classical music will appreciate this course.
Date published: 2012-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravo Profesor Greenberg This is an excellent course and are we ever glad we listened to it. Professor Greenberg gives a thorough, wonderful picture of the man and his music. We are not classical "experts," but we appreciate music. Although we have enjoyed Haydn's work, we had little familiarity with Haydn's life and he always seemed rather formal and distant, until Prof Greenberg made Haydn come alive. We now share the assessment many of his contemporaries gave him -- he has now become a decent and admirable human being (an assessment shared by many of his contemporaries in the competitive realm of professional composers) as well as a superb artist. Listening to a course like this is a major improvement over reading a bibliography or just listening to some of his works. Professor Greenberg's teaching style is also excellent. He gave a wonderful selection from Haydn's repertoire and his enthusiasm and curiosity about the composer was infectious. After listening to this course, we bought seven of the eight eight-lecture Great Masters courses and we also ordered two Haydn CD's based on the recommendations of the course..
Date published: 2012-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Forgotten Genius It seems as if Haydn has been overshadowed by Mozart and Beethoven. At least I know he has in my own musical background. But Prof. Greenberg makes the life story of Haydn come alive. Haydn's music speaks for itself. Greenberg very ably covers the various phases of Haydn's life and career and does so with great enthusiasm and respect. I found of special interest the firm friendship and mutual admiration between Haydn and Mozart. At only $19.95 (for audio download), this is a fantastic buy and well worth it both in terms of money and the wealth of information.
Date published: 2012-09-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not what I expected The language that this professor uses surprised me. I expected these DVDs to be of a high standard and free from bad words. The instruction on these DVDs may be fine, but his language completely turned me off. It may not be a deal breaker for everyone, but for me it is.
Date published: 2012-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Finest by Professor Greenberg Once in a while, you come across something which transports you to a very different world. Bob Greenberg's lectures on Haydn belong to that category. The struggles of Haydn, his immense talent, his extraordinary qualities as a leader , friend and critic, his life's high & low points - all come through amazingly well in this study of Haydn. To top it all, the way he presents one of the high points of Haydn's Opus Magnum - The Creation - ' let there be light' at the near end, brought tears into my eyes. A truly magnificent achievement.
Date published: 2012-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating Biographical Introduction This is my third course with Prof. Greenberg. I find his lecture style engaging and his love for the 'literature' contagious. He is a gifted and enthusiastic story-teller. At the start of this course, I wouldn't have been able to tell 'baroque' music from 'classical' era pieces. By the end, I think I developed an appreciation for the difference (I was concurrently watching Greenberg's Bach course, which also helped solidify my understanding of what is meant by 'baroque'). A number of the musical examples in this course inspired me to go listen to the compositions in their entirety. As the title suggests, this is very much a biographical sketch - there isn't a lot of music theory. In the Bach course I mentioned, sometimes one or two lectures are given to analyze a short musical sample in some depth. This course moves at a much faster pace, but still increased my appreciation for Haydn's work. I really had only one complaint: I'm a relative newcomer to Classical music, but I've been a connoisseur of the traditional folk music of Ireland and Scotland for a very long time. The Brilliant Classics collection of Haydn's surviving works spans 150 discs and 18 of those are given over to Haydn's arrangements of Irish, Scottish and Welsh folksongs, but there was no discussion in the course of this musical output or the circumstances that produced it. Since this is more than 1/10th of Haydn's surviving output, I would have liked at least a brief discussion of it. I can understand that this might not be the most interesting stuff to the classical historian, but 5 minutes of lecture (like the brief intro to the baryton works) would have been nice. In all, an enjoyable, informative course. I'm looking forward to others in this 'Life and Music' series.
Date published: 2011-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof Greenberg's courses are a sure bet If you want an entertaining, factual, fun and useful course on a musical genius, you'll like this course. I delved into Haydn after listening to Mozart, and I like Haydn just as much. Prof. Greenberg knows how to bring out the personalities and atmosphere. Prof Greenberg's courses are always good.
Date published: 2011-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from nice guys sometimes finish first as a newly-minted haydn fan i naturally enjoyed this course. and for a biography of a composer it has the rare distinction of being a genuine feel-good story in which an honestly nice guy works hard and becomes incredibly successful as a result. robert greenberg is in his usual form, and if the presentation may not be *quite* as polished as in “how to listen to & understand great music,” that’s presumably only because he got to redo the latter twice. highlights for me included the sampling of all three movements of haydn’s very first symphony, a rare experience which becomes all the more poignant when we listen to an excerpt from his last. another treat was the overview of those rarely-heard composers who straddled the baroque and the classical styles and who were thus formative influences on haydn. a similar overview of the precursors to the string quartet illustrated nicely how a baroque form became the classical. i found that haydn’s life fit nicely into eight lectures; however it might have been nice to have 2-4 additional ones so that we could linger over certain representative works. we do sample a fair bit of haydn’s music, but we rarely get to spend much time on any one piece. that said, i think i disagree with an earlier reviewer who complained that we don’t get enough music. i counted at least eleven musical excerpts in lecture two alone, and while of course one would always enjoy more music, presumably one buys a lecture series because one wants to hear the lectures. and if we expect this course to do no more than what can be done in a mere eight lectures, it will not disappoint.
Date published: 2011-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Review of all ten courses For a little over two years, nearly every week I have listened to one of Robert Greenberg’s 80 lectures on ten classical composers. For each composer in this Teaching Company course, Greenberg gave eight lectures weaving together a broad outline of the composer’s life, samples of their works, along with a discussion of the place and importance of the work. These composers are (in alphabetical order) Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Liszt, Mahler, Mozart, Clara and Robert Schumann, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. When I started, some composers I was familiar with, some I only knew their names, and others were new to me. I decided to begin with a composer I knew that I liked in order to establish some momentum in the course. I began with Tchaikovsky and worked through the composers in a fairly arbitrary order. In a course this size, roughly the length of two semesters of college, there are naturally going to be many highs and lows, areas that touch one person that leave another cold. I listened with great attention to the dynamics of the relationship between Brahms and Clara Schumann, chuckled at the subtle way Haydn convinced his benefactor to finally leave so that Haydn and his orchestra could go home, felt sorry for Tchaikovsky and his attempts to cover his homosexuality by entering a doomed marriage, and worried about Shostakovich who was always under the gun in post-revolutionary Russia. Through these courses, you come to see these composers as people, not marble busts against a wall who wrote sacred music. One of the great benefits of these years of musical study is that I have learned that I do not have to like everything. It is acceptable, as Brahms once said, to let the extra notes fall under the table. There are songs and composers that I won’t like. The goal is to try to find those that I do. Now that I am done, I have my own relative ranking from the composers that I enjoy to those that do nothing for me. For what it’s worth, here’s a rough ordering of my favorites: Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Brahms, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Stravinsky, Liszt, and Clara and Robert Schumann. For me, I’ve also learned that one needn’t go to their concerts and reverentially sit listening to their music as if one were in church. Much of this music was written in passion and should be heard and responded to that way as well. On this note, I do recommend going to hear the music you like. A symphony orchestra is a visual, aural, and, if close enough, can be a tactile experience as well. The music sweeps over you in a way I had neither expected nor prepared for. The next step for me is to figure out why I like the ones I do and why I don’t like the others. I hope to be able to turn my vague statements into something meaningful that I can use to find other music that I like. Right now, all I can say is that I tend to like composers whose pieces have a certain jaggedness to them, and I dislike composers whose pieces are more akin to an aural greased pole. In this regard, I must single out Mozart, considered by many the greatest composer of all time. His music is pretty, no doubt, but it does nothing for me. It has nothing in it that I can hold onto. As you listen to these composers, you will come up with your own list, and discover the reasons you like and hate what you do. In short, I highly recommend this series of courses. If you are like me, when you finish, you will discover that they are a starting point to a new music experience.
Date published: 2011-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Standout among Prof Greenberg's series Like most people, I didn't know a lot about Haydn, but knew he was big in Vienna, enjoyed his Rider string quartet, and knew that his Emperor quartet served as the basis for the German national anthem. After this course, my knowledge is deeply enriched, and am motivated to learn more about him, which is the best result of any course. He was the bridge between Bach and Mozart and later Beethoven, and it is interesting to hear about his interactions with Mozart and Beethoven. Greenberg has a style which may be too much for some, but for short courses it works well. It actually felt too short, as some lectures had too much talking and not enough music. Greenberg does a great job of bringing a long ago composer to life, and paints a picture of Haydn as a late bloomer, hard worker, and star in both his home country and London. Haydn lived a long and productive life, and enjoyed the fruits of his labor in every way. Haydn certainly deserves to be placed among the greats such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, and after this course one has a much better understanding of why.
Date published: 2011-05-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great composer and great guy, worth learning about Like some other reviewers, I came into this course with the vague impression that Haydn wasn't quite a first-tier composer. This course disabused me of this notion and helped me understand how Haydn, not Mozart, was really the pinnacle of the balanced Classical aesthetic and the father figure for genres like the string quartet and the symphony. As a result of this course I've purchased a number of Haydn recordings and I'm diligently listening to know them better. Greenberg also does a nice job of bringing to life other interesting elements of Haydn's story - how he was as extreme a late bloomer as Mozart was a prodigy; the evolution of his style, e.g. the expressive explosion of the Sturm und Drang period; and above all his good humor and humility throughout his life. I give this course 4 rather than 5 stars because I don't love Greenberg's corny style and gratuitous tangents (although it is sometimes more vivid than a dryer academic tone would be). Nevertheless, I enjoyed this course and recommend it without reservation. I've already listened to the Mozart course and will move on to Beethoven next, to round out the three Viennese masters.
Date published: 2011-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The accessible genius DVD review. For a long time, Mozart and Beethoven so dominated my classical music listening that Haydn, what little I had heard of him, seemed definitely second class. And since Mozart dedicated a series of string quartets to him, I decided one day to go through the Naxos Haydn Complete String Quartets. What a revelation! I have since added his piano sonatas (John McCabe) and his piano trios (Beaux Arts). This is definitely a composer I want to understand better. Dr Greenberg’s eight-lesson “Great Masters” on Haydn is an excellent introduction to his life. Joseph Haydn’s parents were not musical. Nor did he show obvious genius as a child, but he had the perseverance and luck to end up as a musician and then conductor for the wealthy Esterhazy family. At a time when musicians were little more than servants, his talent was recognized and rewarded as the fame of his many compositions grew. The man was a work horse and by all accounts a decent, well-loved man by everyone who worked with him. Greenberg, as usual, is very entertaining in his presentation. Another reason to pay attention to this course is that Haydn is an excellent introduction to the musical forms he pioneered: the symphony, string quartet and piano trios. Given my limited background in music theory, I can’t say anything clever about the nature of Haydn’s originality. All I can say is that I found his chamber music very accessible and moving. I hope to learn more. Greenberg is a good start.
Date published: 2011-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not enough music Prof Greenberg does an excellent job with the lectures. Better than his Mozart lectures, although still a bit too "humorous" at times for my taste. He does an excellent job of explaining what you're hearing, also better than his Mozart lectures. My only complaint about this course is that there are too few segments, only 10 or so across the 8 lectures. More music, fewer words, please, maestro.
Date published: 2010-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg finds his groove! I confess that I have not liked everything by Prof. Greenberg. Sometimes his theatrical style distracts me. But he really finds his groove with the "Great Masters of Classical Music" series!! This series is short, witty, and wonderfully cheap if obtained at sale prices! I came to this course with virtual ignorance of Haydn and his place in the classical pantheon. I came away with a true love and appreciation of Haydn and his music, and moreover, a better picture of the milieu out of which so many unparalleled composers have come to us(Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, etc.). The prof. expertly weaves musical information with biographical and historical detail to create a gripping musical drama, if you will. The course is studded with representative musical samples which illuminate the development of Haydn's style and consequently, the development of classical music itself! The prof is always engaging and radiates a love of his subject matter. Particularly interesting is the manner in which the Baroque style evolved through Recoco, only to be ultimately crystalized into the classical style by Haydn himself. I think this is important to understanding the development of music and art in general. I would recommend all the other courses in this series as well.
Date published: 2010-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Series and Course I purchased the entire "Great Masters" series, have listened to half of them, and every one has been a wonderful treat. "Haydn" was the first I listened to, and it certainly opened me up to the composer and led me to buy recordings of a dozen of his works. His life may not be the stuff of movies (although it was more interesting than I expected) but his development as a composer is fascinating, and Greenberg's discussions of his various works is enthusiastic and insightul. I highly recommend this course and the the entire series to anyone who loves classical music and/or wants to know more about it.
Date published: 2009-10-28
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