Symphonies of Beethoven

Course No. 730
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
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Course Overview

Why is Beethoven one of the most revered composers in the history of Western music? Professor Robert Greenberg answers: "Beethoven possessed a unique gift for communication. He radiated an absolute directness that makes his music totally accessible. The sheer emotional power of his music is readily understood. His revolutionary compositional ideas are easily appreciated.

"And his nine symphonies are among the greatest achievements of the human spirit.

"They were revolutionary on every level: harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, formal, dramatic, self-expressive, and emotional. Beethoven led the charge to a totally new era. He threw out the restraint of 18th-century classicism and ushered in romantic self-expression. His symphonic offspring were the first statesmen of this new, musical democracy."

Beethoven's artistic progress is historically measured in three periods:

    1. The Viennese period, 1792–1802. Symphonies nos. 1 and 2 are composed in this decade. In them, Beethoven innovates within the Classical style.
    2. The Heroic period, 1803–1815. Symphonies nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are composed during this time. With these symphonies, Beethoven makes revolutionary breaks away from the Classical style.
    3. The Late period, 1820–1826. This period is dominated by the most revolutionary and influential composition of Beethoven's career: Symphony no. 9. Here Beethoven fuses all art forms into one monumental work and heralds a new era of unfettered musical expression.

Over the course of these 32 lectures on the history and analysis of Beethoven's nine symphonies, we see how he revolutionized musical composition and created works of unique beauty, power, and depth.

Beethoven and the Heroic Style

The first four lectures introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to 1808. To put his achievements into perspective, we examine Beethoven's early life, his physical and spiritual development, and the historical circumstances and prevailing musical style that influenced his development.

We study his seemingly unique approach to the piano, and his arrival and celebrity in music and piano-crazed Vienna, as well as his ill-fated lessons with Haydn.

We learn the basic tenets of the Classical style and how Beethoven stretched those rules in his first two symphonies. We start to understand Beethoven as a man of his time, a man shaped by his emotional demons and physical ailments.

The Viennese Period

Symphony no. 1: Beethoven as Classicist—Tradition and Innovation. These lectures examine how Beethoven pushes the envelope in his very first symphony.

Symphony no. 2: Beethoven at the Edge. It is 1802. After six years of progressive hearing loss, a distraught Beethoven pours out his agony and rage in a never-mailed letter. "As the leaves of autumn wither and fall," he cries, "so has my own life become barren." Yet even as he battles despair, he vows to his friend Franz Wegeler that he "will take fate by the throat" and "embrace the whole world." He writes his brilliant, lighthearted Second Symphony.

Symphony no. 2 has an extraordinary expressive and compositional range that puts it at the outer edge of the Classical style, even as it approached Beethoven's new heroic aesthetic, which was fully realized in Symphony no. 3 of 1803.

The Heroic Period

Symphony no. 3: The "New Path"—Heroism and Self-Expression. Symphony no. 3 (Eroica) marked Beethoven's coming of age. He built the whole of his subsequent output on it. It is the key work in Beethoven's musical revolution, a revolution precipitated by the crisis of his hearing problem.

Symphony no. 3 is a metaphor for the eternal struggle of the hero against adversity, a struggle with which Beethoven personally identified. In creating such a symphony, Beethoven provided for his adopted Viennese community a heroic, patriotic self-identity in which, in the face of increasing humiliation by the French, they could find emotional support.

Symphony no. 4: Consolidation of the New Aesthetic. In these four lectures, we track the chronology of Beethoven's fourth, fifth, and sixth symphonies and study the Fourth Symphony.

The framework of the Fourth Symphony is traditional, but it is filled with iconoclastic rhythms and harmonies that clearly mark it as a product of the composer's post-Eroica period.

Though a masterwork of the first order, Beethoven's Fourth Symphony had the ill fortune to appear between the epochal Symphonies nos. 3 and 5. It was a bad break, but certainly not one that should doom this effervescent and joyful symphony to semi-obscurity.

Symphony no. 5: The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed. How did the iconoclastic Fifth Symphony crystallize Beethoven's mature compositional innovations? He subjects form to context. He establishes motivic development as a fundamental of his art. He introduces the concept of drama into the formal layout of movements. He introduces the concept of primal, almost rock 'n' roll-like rhythm as a narrative element. And he decrees that music must, above all, be self-expression.

Symphony no. 6: The Symphony as Program. In this symphony, Beethoven elevates program music to a genre of substance.

While Beethoven warns us against too literal an interpretation of the sixth, Lectures 20–22 observe the progress of the symphony as it unfolds over a 24-hour (or so) period spent in the country. Along the way, we witness music that is metaphorical, metaphysical, meteorological, and downright descriptive as Beethoven paints both a physical environment and the emotions that environment inspires.

Symphony no. 7: The Symphony as Dance. In 1812, Beethoven broke off his affair with his "immortal beloved," Antonie Brentano, with all the grief and despair that entailed. His hearing also underwent a precipitous decline.

Yet, and perhaps because of these personal disasters, he was able to write the exuberant, dance-inspired Seventh Symphony.

Moreover, in this period Beethoven's fame and fortune were revived by the (unmerited) popularity of his battle symphony, Wellington's Victory. This work was inspired by Wellington's defeat of Napoleon in Spain and premiered at the same concert as Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.

Symphony no. 8: Homage to Classicism. The Eighth Symphony is full of raucous humor and brilliant wit. It was born amid Beethoven's ongoing grief for the loss of his beloved and the sudden return of his public fortune during the Beethoven revival of 1813–1814. The Eighth Symphony premiered in February 1814.

We see it as a loving look backwards to the Classical era by the composer who did more to destroy it than any other. Despite its classical pretensions, Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 is a thoroughly "modern" work, exhibiting all sorts of melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and formal twists, turns, and puns that mark it as Beethoven's own.

The Late Period

Symphony no. 9: The Symphony as the World. In these lectures we learn about Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, the loss of his most loyal patrons, his worsening hearing loss, his disastrous possessiveness toward his nephew Karl, his consequent emotional decline, and finally his rebirth with the composition of his late-period works.

We see how the Ninth Symphony obliterated time-honored distinctions in its conception as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a work that embraces all art forms, including literature, song, and drama.

We pay special attention to the dual nature of the symphony: the "contemporary" struggle against darkness as described by movements 1, 2, and 3, and the vision of a utopian "future" described in the fourth movement.

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32 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    Beethoven and the Heroic Style, I
    Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of the new compositional path he will take. x
  • 2
    Beethoven and the Heroic Style, II
    Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of the new compositional path he will take. x
  • 3
    Beethoven and the Heroic Style, III
    Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of the new compositional path he will take. x
  • 4
    Beethoven and the Heroic Style, IV
    Lectures 1 through 4 introduce Beethoven the man and his musical development up to the premiere of Symphony no. 6 in 1808. We look at his early life, historical circumstances, and the musical style that influenced his development. We follow his move to Vienna, his studies with Haydn, his thoughts on Napoleon, and the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. His hearing loss is examined as the catalyst of the new compositional path he will take. x
  • 5
    Symphony No. 1—Beethoven as Classicist—Tradition and Innovation, I
    Lectures 5 and 6 examine the "new path" that Beethoven began with his first symphony. We see his innovations in the context of contemporary events. Symphony no. 1, Beethoven's great Classical symphony, is analyzed along with the musical style and the major musical forms of the Classical era. x
  • 6
    Symphony No. 1—Beethoven as Classicist—Tradition and Innovation, II
    Lectures 5 and 6 examine the "new path" that Beethoven began with his first symphony. We see his innovations in the context of contemporary events. Symphony no. 1, Beethoven's great Classical symphony, is analyzed along with the musical style and the major musical forms of the Classical era. x
  • 7
    Symphony No. 2—Beethoven at the Edge, I
    Lectures 7 and 8 analyze Symphony no. 2 of 1802. We see how this symphony heralded a heroic style that Beethoven fully realized in Symphony no. 3. Also discussed is the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter he wrote about his personal crisis as he realized he was going deaf. We consider how Beethoven's development as a composer was affected by his fight with deafness. x
  • 8
    Symphony No. 2—Beethoven at the Edge, II
    Lectures 7 and 8 analyze Symphony no. 2 of 1802. We see how this symphony heralded a heroic style that Beethoven fully realized in Symphony no. 3. Also discussed is the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter he wrote about his personal crisis as he realized he was going deaf. We consider how Beethoven's development as a composer was affected by his fight with deafness. x
  • 9
    Symphony No. 3—The "New Path"—Heroism and Self-Expression, I
    Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis. x
  • 10
    Symphony No. 3—The "New Path"—Heroism and Self-Expression, II
    Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis. x
  • 11
    Symphony No. 3—The "New Path"—Heroism and Self-Expression, III
    Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis. x
  • 12
    Symphony No. 3—The "New Path"—Heroism and Self-Expression, IV
    Lectures 9 through 12 focus on Symphony no. 3, the Eroica Symphony. This key work in Beethoven's compositional revolution resulted from his crisis of going deaf. Beethoven's struggle with his disability raised him to a new level of creativity. Symphony no. 3 parallels his heroic battle with and ultimate triumph over adversity. The symphony's debt to Napoleon is discussed before an analysis. x
  • 13
    Symphony No. 4—Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, I
    Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period. x
  • 14
    Symphony No. 4—Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, II
    Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period. x
  • 15
    Symphony No. 4—Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, III
    Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period. x
  • 16
    Symphony No. 4—Consolidation of the New Aesthetic, IV
    Lectures 13 through 16 examine Symphony no. 4 in historical context and in its relationship to opera buffa. Symphony no. 4 is the most infrequently heard of his symphonies. We see how it represents a return to a Classical structure. Its framework is filled with iconoclastic rhythms, harmonies, and characteristic motivic developments that mark it as a product of Beethoven's post-Eroica period. x
  • 17
    Symphony No. 5—The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, I
    Lectures 17 through 19 focus on Symphony no. 5 with references to its disastrous 1808 premiere and an in-depth analysis of the score. Beethoven is revealed as an extraordinary and unprecedented master of the art of developing entire movements from small, seemingly inconsequential motives. Symphony no. 5 also shows him to have a revolutionary concept of rhythm as a narrative element and a key factor in generating drama. x
  • 18
    Symphony No. 5—The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, II
    Lectures 17 through 19 focus on Symphony no. 5 with references to its disastrous 1808 premiere and an in-depth analysis of the score. Beethoven is revealed as an extraordinary and unprecedented master of the art of developing entire movements from small, seemingly inconsequential motives. Symphony no. 5 also shows him to have a revolutionary concept of rhythm as a narrative element and a key factor in generating drama. x
  • 19
    Symphony No. 5—The Expressive Ideal Fully Formed, III
    Lectures 17 through 19 focus on Symphony no. 5 with references to its disastrous 1808 premiere and an in-depth analysis of the score. Beethoven is revealed as an extraordinary and unprecedented master of the art of developing entire movements from small, seemingly inconsequential motives. Symphony no. 5 also shows him to have a revolutionary concept of rhythm as a narrative element and a key factor in generating drama. x
  • 20
    Symphony No. 6—The Symphony as Program, I
    Lectures 20 through 22 discuss Symphony no. 6 as an example of pure expression, representative of Beethoven's love of nature and the countryside. We see how Beethoven elevated program music to heights it had not previously enjoyed, presaging the Romantic era's love affair with the genre. We examine how Symphony no. 6 is as different from Symphonies no. 5 and 7 as night from day. x
  • 21
    Symphony No. 6—The Symphony as Program, II
    Lectures 20 through 22 discuss Symphony no. 6 as an example of pure expression, representative of Beethoven's love of nature and the countryside. We see how Beethoven elevated program music to heights it had not previously enjoyed, presaging the Romantic era's love affair with the genre. We examine how Symphony no. 6 is as different from Symphonies no. 5 and 7 as night from day. x
  • 22
    Symphony No. 6—The Symphony as Program, III
    Lectures 20 through 22 discuss Symphony no. 6 as an example of pure expression, representative of Beethoven's love of nature and the countryside. We see how Beethoven elevated program music to heights it had not previously enjoyed, presaging the Romantic era's love affair with the genre. We examine how Symphony no. 6 is as different from Symphonies no. 5 and 7 as night from day. x
  • 23
    Symphony No. 7—The Symphony as Dance, I
    Lectures 23 and 24 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 7 with references to the historical and personal events surrounding its composition. The essence of the symphony is seen to be the power of rhythm, and originality is seen to be an important artistic goal for Beethoven. x
  • 24
    Symphony No. 7—The Symphony as Dance, II
    Lectures 23 and 24 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 7 with references to the historical and personal events surrounding its composition. The essence of the symphony is seen to be the power of rhythm, and originality is seen to be an important artistic goal for Beethoven. x
  • 25
    Symphony No. 8—Homage to Classicism, I
    Lectures 25 through 27 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 of 1814, and refer to the personal and political events that affected Beethoven's life. We learn how Symphony no. 8, reminiscent of the Classical style, is a "modern" work, full of Beethoven's personality. Other topics discussed include the "Immortal Beloved" affair, Beethoven's deteriorating health, Napoleon's demise, Wellington's Victory, and the meteoric rise of Beethoven's popularity in 1814. x
  • 26
    Symphony No. 8—Homage to Classicism, II
    Lectures 25 through 27 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 of 1814, and refer to the personal and political events that affected Beethoven's life. We learn how Symphony no. 8, reminiscent of the Classical style, is a "modern" work, full of Beethoven's personality. Other topics discussed include the "Immortal Beloved" affair, Beethoven's deteriorating health, Napoleon's demise, Wellington's Victory, and the meteoric rise of Beethoven's popularity in 1814. x
  • 27
    Symphony No. 8—Homage to Classicism, III
    Lectures 25 through 27 discuss Beethoven's Symphony no. 8 of 1814, and refer to the personal and political events that affected Beethoven's life. We learn how Symphony no. 8, reminiscent of the Classical style, is a "modern" work, full of Beethoven's personality. Other topics discussed include the "Immortal Beloved" affair, Beethoven's deteriorating health, Napoleon's demise, Wellington's Victory, and the meteoric rise of Beethoven's popularity in 1814. x
  • 28
    Symphony No. 9—The Symphony as the World, I
    The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Karl, his artistic rebirth around 1820, his late compositions, and his death in 1827. x
  • 29
    Symphony No. 9—The Symphony as the World, II
    The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Karl, his artistic rebirth around 1820, his late compositions, and his death in 1827. x
  • 30
    Symphony No. 9—The Symphony as the World, III
    The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Karl, his artistic rebirth around 1820, his late compositions, and his death in 1827. x
  • 31
    Symphony No. 9—The Symphony as the World, IV
    The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Karl, his artistic rebirth around 1820, his late compositions, and his death in 1827. x
  • 32
    Symphony No. 9—The Symphony as the World, V
    The last five lectures are devoted to Symphony no. 9, the most influential Western musical composition of the 19th century and the most influential symphony ever written. We see how this work obliterated distinctions between the instrumental symphony and dramatic vocal works such as opera. Also discussed are Beethoven's fall from public favor in 1815, his disastrous relationship with his nephew Karl, his artistic rebirth around 1820, his late compositions, and his death in 1827. 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

Symphonies of Beethoven is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 71.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Greenberg hit! I now have studied Greenberg's series of lectures on Beethoven's sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies. Two semesters in a university school of music would not have been as instructive or enjoyable.He's a great teacher.
Date published: 2017-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Teacher of Music I'm posting the same review for the many courses offered by Robert Greenberg I have taken. He is superb at explaining music, how it works and why it feels the way it does when you hear it. His courses greatly enhance my appreciation of the music, not just soon after taking his course but over the years thereafter. This is the best gif many fine courses I've taken from the Teaching Company.
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Course, Depending on Audience I bought the audio CD version of this course. I enjoyed it, but I would have been lost if I hadn't taken the "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music" course first. I'm a casual listener, not a musician. The course seemed to be aimed at both, there was a lot of information that was too detailed for me but enough that I understood to keep me interested. The DVD version might be better in that the teacher refers to note and staff measures in the course booklet. It might be easier if that is on the TV screen.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved every minute of it. I was very sad when I got to the last symphony. Why oh why did Beethoven only get time to write 9! Professor Greenberg did not disappoint and while I walked as I listened to his lectures, I will indeed sit down with the word score and listen to each of the symphonies again.
Date published: 2017-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and exciting I have learned so much about Beethoven and music in general. Robert Greenberg packs so much information into his classes that I look forward to going through the course again, and maybe again after that.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great knowlege I bought this a month ago and enjoy it immensely.,,, when I get a chance to do so. all the Great Learning courses are really great and enjoyable. when I need to do is discipline myself in spending time to really take advantage.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spanning Beethoven's Greatest Achievements Any student of music, regardless of style, comes to Beethoven eventually. Most come to his symphonies first, making this course incredibly necessary. That it weaves the sad and intriguing details of Beethoven's life into the stories of his most inspiring works makes it not only a great study of Beethoven's compositional and conceptual evolution, but also reminds us that these beautiful works came from a very flawed, irascible and vain human being. One who struggled throughout his life. The study of music NEEDS biography just as learning biology needs a knowledge of chemistry. This is in response to other reviews of this course that complained there was too much biography in it. As an introduction to Beethoven, this course requires it and Professor Greenberg delivers it in his entertaining, sometimes frantic style. Just like Beethoven's music can itself be. Covering nine symphonies in only 32 lectures is an ambitious task, and I do wish there had been more time devoted to covering the 7th Symphony in more detail. Regardless, it became my personal favorite because of this course. There are too many course highlights to discuss, including Greenberg's telling of the "Immortal Beloved" story, his hearing loss, his Napoleon worship and subsequent disillusionment, and of course, the "Fate knocking at the door" lecture on the Fifth Symphony. You'll get all of that and much more. I'll tempt you with the story of the 4th Movement of Symphony #2. Among many other maladies, alas, Beethoven suffered from terrible gastrointestinal issues. And the story down the ages of the inspiration for the 4th Movement that Greenberg relates is hilarious and probably dead-on accurate. I'll leave you there... No single course can cover all of Beethoven's output, and I took the course on his Piano Sonatas shortly after completing this course. I commend that one to your attention as well. Yet it's through his symphonies that Beethoven lives most vividly in the minds of his fans, as the orchestra's power and dynamism was his most expressive canvas. Take this course. Enjoy the ride.
Date published: 2016-09-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Couldn't finish this I was not among those who loved this course; I'm glad there are those who enjoyed it. The professor gave less musicology and more filler and psychobable, which I just couldn't handle. In fact the delivery was so infused with the teacher's personality and the weird enthusiasm was so distracting that I could not even finish the course, though i love Beethoven.
Date published: 2015-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nine Great Reasons to Listen Beethoven's nine symphonies are amazing works of art, and this course helps bring them to life. My personal knowledge of orchestral music was incredibly limited until I began listening to Professor Greenberg's series of courses on music appreciation. This is the fourth of his courses that I've completed, and it is as outstanding as the others. As an initial comment, unless you are experienced with orchestral music, I recommend taking Professor Greenberg's How to Listen to and Understand Great Music before tackling this course. His introductory course provides a great deal of important contextual information that made this course easier to understand. My one caveat to this course is that there are several parts—perhaps too many—where Professor Greenberg gets very technical on musical theory. I have no ability to interpret pitches, harmonies, etc…, though the professor spends considerable time talking about how Beethoven used different musical elements like pitches in the symphonies. I will freely admit that the professor lost me almost completely when he began those discussions. A listener with a good understanding of musical theory would probably love those parts of the course, but for me it is something to endure. It is, however, worth enduring to get to the parts where the professor discusses elements of the works such as Beethoven's life experiences that influenced the music and the meaning that Beethoven was trying to express in certain passages. Professor Greenberg does a fantastic job opening up Beethoven's nine symphonies to an amateur such as myself. The course is both fun and enlightening.
Date published: 2015-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Symphony No.4 Thank you for introducing me to this marvelous symphony. I think I could spend weeks getting to know it. It is such a pleasure to really "get inside the music" and understand what is going on.
Date published: 2015-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This is an excellent course. Greenberg sets the symphonies in their historical context by discussing Beethoven's background and personality. Greenberg also relates this to the effects that French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars had on society. The expectations and knowledge of the typical audience are also discussed to show how revolutionary Beethoven's music was. Greenberg presents detailed discussions of each symphony. He provides word scores for each symphony, which allows the student to read along even for those parts of the symphonies that Greenberg was not able to discuss in detail. I found the word scores to be invaluable, especially for key changes. I have purchased several of Greenberg's lecture series. This one is tied as my favorite along with the series on Beethoven's String Quarters, which is also excellent.
Date published: 2015-04-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Good - with some MAJOR letdowns I'm not going to pull punches here. Plenty of positive things have been said about this series but I'm going to talk about the warts - and there are several of them. To begin with, Prof. Greenberg always talks about not having enough time to go into the material as deeply as he would like. Well then, why have a 32 lecture series on 36 symphonic movements? (I'm not counting the 4th movement of the 6th because it's too short). A 36 lecture series would have given him ample time to get into the music as he is always claiming he wants to do. So with 32 lectures, something has to be cut. And here is another problem I have with him. He gives three lectures to symphonies 1 & 2 (they don't deserve it) and then 4, I said FOUR, to symphony nr. 4 which again isn't worthy. Who pays for this excess? Well if you enjoy symphony nr. 7 as I do, or the third movement of the 9th, which is the most beautifully depressing music I have ever heard, then you pay for Greenberg's indulgences. Symphony nr. 7 has only 2 lectures...yes, I said TWO! That's it! And the first lecture focuses only on the first movement! So how can he put three movements into one 45 minute lecture? Well, he can't. So if you're a fan of movement 2 (which was revitalized after appearing in the film Knowing), I'm sorry but you get only 15 minutes. That's it. And if you enjoy the third movement of that symphony, you get 0 - nothing - ZILCH!!! Greenberg tells you to listen to it yourself and you'll figure it out. But isn't that what I'm paying him to do? Poor showing here Greenberg. Poor indeed. In fact I'd hang you by your thumbs if I could. And then we come to the 9th symphony. Personally I love the first three movements; hate the fourth. Greenberg devotes five lectures to these four movements. Everything is fine until he reaches the third. I was so looking forward to his analysis of this piece - and was again (like with the 2nd & 3rd movements of the 7th symphony) sadly disappointed. In his rush to get to the fourth movement he glosses over the third. I mean he spends as little time on it as possible, playing only 3 passages before dismissing it so that he could move on to his beloved fourth movement. I was so disgusted by this time that I turned off the DVD and never listened to his analysis of the fourth movement, - which I dislike intensely, and have since I first heard it as a child. All of this could have been avoided if he had simply put out a 36 part series instead of 32. I'm sure there must be some good reason why this was not done, but who knows? This course could have been great but it contains too many disappointments to be anything above good.
Date published: 2015-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thrilling Music, Thoroughly Engaging Teacher Professor Greenberg's knowledge of and passion for Beethoven's music is matched by his desire and ability to impart his knowledge and passion to us. He is somewhat boisterous and often jocular, but I think that is just who he is. I actually enjoy it, though I understand how some may be taken aback by it. Regardless, this course is a must have!
Date published: 2014-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A marvelous melding of Beethoven's humanity and musical genius. It is presented with charm and humor and informative knowledge of musical structures and how they resonate with the human spirit. It was a great pleasure.
Date published: 2014-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterful, brilliant ~~ a symphony of teaching! What can I add to all the well-deserved kudos given to the great Robert Greenberg? The gentleman is a master of his craft, a teacher non-pareil, truly a gem of a professor who is profoundly in love with his subject. Whatta guy! Here is a magical course of tremendous appeal to musicians and to those who deeply love music but who have not been favoured with musical talent, other than appreciation (including me). Dr Greenberg's presentation brings personalities as well as music up close and into fine focus so effortlessly. Sure, there are some corny jokes along the way but this is a feature of his inimitable style, offering light relief. This course on the towering figure of Beethoven and his symphonies has to be rated a classic, recommended whole-heartedly as a brilliant and compelling education, a pleasure to absorb. It is hard to imagine that these lectures could be improved upon by anyone.
Date published: 2014-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enthusiastic Analysis of Beethoven In grad school, I took a semester-long seminar on Beethoven, but didn't learn as much about the symphonies as I did in this audio course by Prof. Robert Greenberg. He provides a detailed analysis of themes and formal structure that is clear enough for beginners, but satisfying for long-time music students. He puts each symphony into historical context, and provides enough material about Beethoven’s life and other works to round out the scope of the course. I have taken several courses by the Prof (all audio-only; I’ve never bought a video version) and I have to confess that I needed a break about halfway through this one. Although I like Greenberg’s sense of humor, in this course I felt he almost became a caricature of himself, going over the top with his jokes and stylistic quirks. There was also a lot of repetition, which may benefit some listeners, but which bored me after awhile. The piano used for examples sounds awful, you can hear the Prof breathing and rattling papers during the music, and his pronunciation of foreign words remains largely atrocious. But in closing I must say that Greenberg succeeded in helping me enjoy some Beethoven works that I have always been “lukewarm” about. His enthusiasm is infectious, even if you take it, as I did, in small doses.
Date published: 2013-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent This course is a stunning success. It begins, of course, with the content - Beethoven's symphonies. What a pleasure it is to spend 24 hours listening to and studying this extraordinary music of the master. Next, kudos to Bob Greenberg, whose teaching is truly fine and remarkable. He knows the music thoroughly, is quite proficient in teaching it beautifully, and works quite hard to be prepared and use the limited time we have together to its fullest. As a lover of music for many years, but one who has mostly known melody, I always appreciate the way Greenberg takes all of us so much deeper - into motivic development, harmonic patterns, rhythm, etc. My appreciation of music I love is so much richer for having studied with Greenberg. I particularly appreciate the time and attention he gives to the First and Fourth symphonies. These are works I've not considered carefully enough. His four lectures on the Third are among the best teaching I've experienced with TGC. Here I'll go out on a limb: while it would be ludicrous to say any piece of music is the most significant in history, I'll say there's none more significant than the Third. All lovers of music should hear Greenberg's treatment of it. It's special. We know the Sixth is grounded in nature, but Greenberg does unique and superb work in teaching how. We know the Seventh is full of dance. Again Greenberg teaches how. I've heard Greenberg teach the amazing Fifth. He has new and wonderful insights here. And the Ninth - what can I say? Both the music and the teaching are spectacular. The course does have its shortcomings. I've grown accustomed to the corny jokes and will no longer complain about them. But Greenberg is excessive and often off base in the time and manner he teaches biography. Too much time is spent. Too little causality is shown between events in Beethoven's life and the music. Greenberg is at his best in the music itself. He weakens when he strays into biographical theories or subjects outside the music. And we pay a price for it. For example, I would have loved three lectures on the Seventh. But there was barely over one because of the extra diversion to the "immortal beloved" and the story of the mediocre composition, Wellington's Victory. All of these little nits notwithstanding, this course is magnificent. I was as satisfied upon its conclusion as I have ever been with a course from TGC.
Date published: 2013-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Better Appreciate The Genius of Beethoven I hesitated buying this course since I was concerned that my music background was too limited. However, Prof. Greenberg did his usual exceptional job in bringing the genius of Beethoven to life. I now appreciate this truly great composer in a newer and far broader way. I found it extremely helpful to have had Prof. Greenberg's other courses How to Listen to and Understand Great Music as well Great Masters: Beethoven-His Life and Music under my belt. I don't think anyone choosing this course will be disappointed.
Date published: 2013-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another fascinating Course from Mr. Greenberg Just one suggestion: don't listen to the CD version through headphones. Mr. Greenberg's microphone is open even when the music is playing, so you get to hear him turning pages, breathing, and making other noises.
Date published: 2013-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! Here's an analogy to sum up this series: if Prof. Greenberg's flagship course, "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music", is like eating at an incredibly filling and satisfying buffet, this course is like a fine dinner at the world's most exclusive bistro. The course start with a 3 hour introduction to the life of Beethoven, his musical upbringing, and a broad overview of the world he grew in (Revolutionary-era Europe). After that, each of the nine symphonies is explored in amazing detail, from the overall influences on any one movement, to Beethoven's shattering of Classical conventions to usher in the Romantic period, to note-by-note breakdowns of motifs. After this course, you will be able to listen to any of the 9 symphonies and recognize all of these nuances. The result is a totally new appreciation for these works. As a bonus, you'll be able to find contrasts with Mozart or Haydn that showcase how Beethoven broke new musical ground time and again. This is an older course of Prof. Greenberg's, and his delivery is perfect. Some reviewers (myself included) have noted that his hyper-enthusiasm and humor in other courses can get tedious at times. There is none of that here...just an engaging, enlightening, passionate teacher at the top of his game.
Date published: 2012-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from stellar - AGAIN !!!! Professor Greenberg (I have listened to so many of his courses, I almost want to say "Bob") does it again. Great insight, humor, clarity and for those of us with very little musical background, he makes this "stuff" pathologically interesting and UNDERSTANDABLE
Date published: 2012-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gorging on Beethoven For anyone with even a passing interest in Beethoven (which is just about anybody), this is the ultimate Beethoven supercourse. It is akin to training for and then running a marathon. It starts out a bit slow, but once you pick up steam, it goes by pretty quickly. Prof Greenberg goes into the background of Beethoven's life in great detail, covering all of his major life milestones including the immortal beloved, his hearing loss, and the Napoleonic era. Each of the symphonies is a masterwork in its own way, and taken together are a canon unto themselves. One is amazed that someone could create such memorable melodies with little to no hearing. The only quibble I have is the quality of the audio recordings, which are on tape and often have the teacher rustling papers or saying something. His style can also be a bit over the top for some, but his enthusiasm is amazing considering how many times he has gone through the material. But the course is well worth the time spent, just as training for a marathon would be. I learned so much about not only the famous symphonies, but also the lesser known ones and movements of the famous ones.
Date published: 2012-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Need more stars...5 is not enough! WOW! Admittedly, ending a lecture series with the Ninth Symphony is an unfair advantage to any lecturer (have already listened again to the last 2 lectures!) but Prof. Greenberg has no need to rely on such serendipity. The discussion of the synphonies covers many layers, each with great depth. From positioning each synphony in its time in history, both world and musical development and its place in Beethoven's personal history, Prof. Greenberg then aspires to help the listener understand the how and why the music works. This course provides challenges for the novice and the musician. As my personal background only extends to high school band there were sections I found difficult but the rewards were listening to the symphonies afterwards and discovering how much of Prof. Greenberg's instruction actually took hold and added new excitement to the pleasure of this music. An added bonus is the incite into the world of the composer. Prof. Greenberg's own background cracks open the door to this magical place from which great things are created. I used to think they did it by just deciding it sounded right. Ha! This lecture series is as good as all the reviewers say. Entertaining, enlightening, it delivers.
Date published: 2012-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Course What can I say that the other reviewers haven't said? It's basically a given the Prof. Greenberg is one of the best if not the best instructor that TTC has. He has a tremendous lecture style, is well organized, and possesses a terrific sense of humor. It's also basically a given that Beethoven wrote some of the best music EVER written. Even I can appreciate his symphonies. I CAN add that someone with a minimal knowledge of Beethoven's music can still enjoy and benefit greatly from this course. I will also add the obvious fact that the more the student puts into this course (by listening to the music and paying attention to Prof. Greenberg's notes), the more one will get out of it. So, please, listen to the music. Thanks to Prof. Greenberg and TTC for another Great Course.
Date published: 2012-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You bought this course - now buy the MUSIC, too! This course is FANTASTIC. It has unbelievable depth and richness. I offer TWO suggestions for maximizing your investment of time (at least 24 hours). FIRST: Prof. Greenberg exhorts his learners to purchase their own copies of the music and to listen to them. Buy the music and then buy the course. This is an essential step. I will pause while you make the purchase online... Good. Now that you have the music, read on. SECOND: Refer to the wordscores (in the course books) often as you listen to the music on your own. Prof. Greenberg teaches you how to read them (I have zero musical training) and he mentions them frequently. So use them to learn about these masterpieces! Full disclosure: I hated classical music. I thought it was for old people (like my dad). I attended a Beethoven Symphony concert on a whim and then I found these lectures. Great source materials have a way of compelling us to love them - and Beethoven's nine symphonies are great source materials.
Date published: 2012-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg's Heroic Series This might just be Greenberg's best. One caveat: he constantly exhorts you to get off your butt, buy recordings of all nine symphonies, and listen to them. Having finished his course and followed his instructions, I can say my appreciation of the maestro has soared. A million details Greenberg points out come across on this fresh listening, adding a left-brain dimension to the inherent right-brain enjoyment of the works. Example.: When the horn solo comes in the scherzo of the third movement of the Eroica, you now know there's no dynamic marking--Beethoven just wanted the players to hit the darn notes! When the gastric blurps of the finale of the Second burst out, you feel it in your stomach. At the climax of the development of the Eroica, you get how he did it: hemiola, dissonance, ambiguous tonality. Ah, Greenberg. Now, sir, let's get on to a series on the symphonies and chamber music of Brahms. Also, would you please, pretty please, for the holidays, do a series on modern music? Please?
Date published: 2011-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg great as usual Another enjoyable and brilliant course from prof Greenberg. His love of the music comes through in many ways, and I like that he does not try to deify Beethoven in the process. I sometimes wished the prof would talk slightly less and play slightly more music. But a wonderful course, especially for people who have a bit of knowledge already about classical music.
Date published: 2011-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great lecturer, great topic other than wishing there was even more about Beethoven's life and character, which I find more approachable than the actual detail of the music, this and its companion on his piano sonatas is great stuff.
Date published: 2011-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even Better than You May Expect! This is my first course with Professor Greenberg on such a specific topic and it turns out to be even better than the others. As usual, Professor Greenberg is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, generous and energetic. He draws imaginative comparisons, for instance between the main theme of the 5th Symphony and the Empire State Building under construction. Of course, his endeavours to cultivate New York (or is it Brooklyn) colloquialisms are sometimes more than you would ask for but this is just part of the persona he has created. The course is very substantial. It starts off with a biography of Beethoven that draws parallels between his life events and his nine symphonies. Then, each symphony is analysed in detail with frequent references to the 375 page course book. Be aware that, a composer himself, Professor Greenberg does get quite technical at times when discussing composition. For me, at least one more listening will be required to fully appreciate all the material provided. By the way, if you listen to the course on an Ipod, you may find it useful to insert into your playlist the appropriate symphony (from another source) after the appropriate lectures. As usual, only excerpts are provided by Teach12. In any case, do acquire this course, you will not be sorry.
Date published: 2011-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb and moving I love Beethoven's music and know his symphonies well. Thanks to this course I understand them more deeply and appreciate them even more. (I found this especially true of #6 and #8, which I had always listened to a lot less often than the others). Prof. Greenberg makes the genius of Beethoven, the beauty of his symphonic music, and its structure come to life in this course. I really liked the in-depth treatment of each symphony, mixed with important and relevant vignettes from Beethoven's life and how those experiences are reflected in the music. I found, having already taken another Greenberg Beethoven course (the String Quartets), that there's not a lot of repetition in the stories about Beethoven. What little that is repeated is worth hearing again. I don't play an instrument and don't understand musical terminology. Greenberg uses proper terminology, and if you understand it you'll get even more out of this course. But you'll get a lot from this course even if you don't. Greenberg takes great care to help you understand the themes and their flow into the sturcture of the symphonic movement. One simple example was quite telling for me: Greenberg plays on piano the theme of Beethoven's 5th in C minor, then plays it again in, I recall, C major. The difference is very striking -- you get a very clear sense of why Beethoven chose C minor and why it works. Prof. Greenberg is one of my TC favorites; this is the 4th of his courses I've taken (all on CD). In my three previous reviews (of courses that totalled about 48 hours of lecture) I didn't hear a single "um", "ah", or other misplaced syllable. In this Beethoven course, there are just a few. Proof, perhaps, that Prof. Greenberg really is human :-)
Date published: 2011-05-31
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