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 Greenberg does it again Having listened to many of Professor Greenberg's courses, I have developed a simple rule. If I am at all interested in the music that he talks about, then sooner or later I am going to have to purchase the course. Buy this course and increase your enjoyment of Beethoven's magnificent symphonies.
Date published: 2011-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Two Suggestions I agree with all excellent reviews on this and many other courses by Prof. Greenberg. I just have two suggestions, perhaps TC together with Prof. Greenberg could consider them. One of them is perhaps obvious: I'm wondering if Professor Greenberg is planning to prepare a course on Mahler's symphonies? Perhaps that would require very long course, or it could be even split into two? I was also thinking, if it would be possible to create a web site where Professor Greenberg's wordscores could accompany corresponding live performance - that would make following the wordscore much easier. I know it's a lot of work, perhaps it could operate on subscription basis - I hope there will be sufficient interest.
Date published: 2010-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I had always enjoyed listening to the symphonies of Beethoven. I have music on at work all the time with stuff from Classical to Rock. After listening to the course I now know why I enjoyed listening to the symphones. This was the first Greenberg course that I listened to and I enjoyed the background explanations to the music that the course provided. I found the Word Scores in the guide very helpful. Recently I had the chance to see two of the symphonies (#8 and #1) performed by different orchestras on successive nights. The week before going to the concert I relistened to the lectures on these symphonies at least a couple of times. I took the guide with the Word Scores with me and it really enhanced the listening experience. I look forward to listening and learning about more music.
Date published: 2010-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from His Passion Matches His Subject If only all teachers were this passionate and exciting! Professor Greenberg could make reading the phone book exciting. Since his subject is Beethoven, it's even more engaging. He dissects each symphony clearly and with a level of enthusiasm and passion that carries you along with him. Most important for our enjoyment was how he places each symphony in its historical and cultural context. By understanding that and understanding what Beethoven's situation was at each time, we gained a much deeper understanding of each symphony, its historical period and how to listen in general (and we were already experienced listeners to classical music). Are we fans of his? We have 11 more of his courses to watch.
Date published: 2010-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life-Changing This course made me appreciate Beethoven more than I ever had before, and opened up a whole new world to me. Dr Greenberg is remarkable, as is this course.
Date published: 2010-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Dr. Greenberg does it again. As he does so well in many of his other courses, he helps you understand not only the music but the world in which the composer lived. Add to that the additional detail he provides about Beethoven's personal life, and you have a truly compelling course.
Date published: 2010-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great on CD; listen while you drive. I have been working through Professor Greenberg's series course by course. Having a good amateur musical background, I started with my favorite composer -- Bach. That series was beyond outstanding and I already wrote my review. I next went to Beethoven, starting with the symphonies. Professor G. blends humor, musicology, biography, context, history, general culture, together with the music itself. The place of Beethoven in relation to Bach, Mozart, and Haydn will surprise and enlighten. The details of Beethoven's deafness and its influence on his compositional techniques is fascinating and different from what is usually understood. Each of Beethoven's symphonies was written to achieve a new breakthrough from the old classical style while also serving as an artistic autobiography for the composer. Subtle similarities among the different symphonies are presented along side the main thrust of Beethoven's compositional style -- contrast. I had not known about the long interval between the eighth and ninth symphonies, though I did know about the relationship between the ninth and the Missa Solemnis. It was very useful to listen to this course first in my Beethoven journey, as the background helped when I went to the Piano Sonata and the String Quartet courses. I consider myself somewhere between an intermediate and an early advanced non-professional musical amateur and listener. This course worked beautifully for me. But I also believe it would work for any beginner who also wanted to learn about Beethoven and his symphonies. A couple of notes about the format. I chose the CD version so I could listen in my car. The cueing of the CD's comes every 5 minutes or so, enabling me to refresh the previous few minutes at the start of each time I listened. I have a pretty good musical ear and memory so this was not a problem. Professor G. seemed more spontaneous in the symphony course than in the piano or string quartet courses. It felt as though he had a live audience and that he was teaching from an outline rather than from a script. This added greatly to my enjoyment. I only wish that I had been in the audience, as he inspired many creative thoughts and questions. Failing that, I wish TTC would offer us a way to email the professors so that we could deepen our understanding with that exchange. I very highly recommend all of Professor G's courses and suggest that those unfamiliar with Beethoven start with his 8 lecture introduction and then go to the symphonies, then the piano sonatas, and finally to the string quartets. If after that you don't agree that Beethoven was one of the greatest giants in the history of Western Culture, I will be very surprised.
Date published: 2010-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beyond Highest Expectations I've listened to many of Prof. Greenberg's courses and was absolutely delighted and enriched by them. But I'm gaining the most from this course on Beethoven Symphonies. Greenberg has prepared word scores to help the listener negotiate the music and they are treasures! Although I commuted or cooked my way through previous courses, I devote my attention to each lecture of this one, and it pays off. I make myself comfortable at a table so I can spread out the word scores and follow along. The prof.'s explanations make it easy to do so. The music comes alive in levels of complexity that I hadn't been able to recognize before. When the lecture is over I then play a recording of the symphony under consideration to hear it in its entirety. Again, the word score helps me follow what is happening. Between Greenberg's teaching--and he teaches and explains at a level appropriate for anyone with a modicum of music appreciation background-- and the word scores I feel that Beethoven's symphonies are much deeper, much more complex, much more alive than I'd ever dreamed. I have developed a passion for it! I was an instrumental music major in college, so this isn't my first exposure to Beethoven's marvelous music. I'd also like to praise the efficiency and quality of the course. The sound quality is excellent. The technical aspect of playing clips, replaying them, or using piano to illustrate a point are all employed flawlessly. I can't imagine the amount of time it must have taken to prepare each class, considering the word scores, all the musical passages, the detailed outline, and of course the clear and enjoyable teaching. Don't get the course for a busy commute, although no doubt there would still be benefit and enjoyment in doing so. But do take the time to immerse yourself in the music with the aid of the word scores. I feel as if I got much more than my money's worth with this course!
Date published: 2010-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg at His Best This is yet another high-quality course by Professor Greenberg. The good professor employs his trademark teaching style as he immerses us in the life and times of Beethoven. The nine symphonies mean so much more to us when we learn how much each one meant to Beethoven. Professor Greenberg has one minor quirk: he sometimes spends the least amount of time on the greatest music. For example, he devotes 4 lectures to praising the relatively lackluster Fourth Symphony, while the marvelous Seventh Symphony feels neglected with a mere 2 lectures. This quirk might be due differences in musical taste (his good; my bad), but more likely it is due to the Professor's genuine desire to teach us something we don't already know. This is a 5-Star course, highly recommended for anyone who has even the slightest interest in classical music.
Date published: 2010-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revolutionary Music Another great Greenberg course. While some reviewers find Prof. Greenberg's lecture style annoying, I think he is absolutely wonderful - I love the jokes, the anecdotes, the whole "New Jersey schtick" (as the professor would say). There is a good deal of technical information presented here, so if you are not familiar with basic music theory (i.e. have no idea what a key is, or the difference between major and minor) I recommend listening to Greenberg's courses on Fundamentals of Music and How to listen to Great Music before tackling this one (although he does explain what a "hemiola" is). If you have already heard Greenberg's Life of Beethoven , the first four lectures of this course cover the same biographical material (including a reading of most of the Heiligenstadt Testament), before we get to the symphonies. If you haven't, then you will discover that Michael Jackson wasn't the only musician to suffer at the hands of an abusive father ... You will also learn that Beethoven's deafness, however horrible it may have been in terms of the suffering it caused him, it also stimulated him to create extraordinary works. What is particularly good about this course is that it makes us listen to what was, in its time, truly avant garde music with fresh ears. Beethoven's symphonies 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9 are now so familiar to us that we do not appreciate how revolutionary they were to contemporary audiences - strange, quirky, LOUD and so long - as Prof. Greenberg points out, his Symphony No. 1 was the one which was most popular during Beethoven's lifetime because it was in the style of Haydn and did not require Viennese audiences to leave the classical comfort zone.
Date published: 2010-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg does it again I have listened to all of Prof. Greenberg’s courses and found them all exceptional and well worth the money at even 5 times the cost (I bought them all when they were on sale). This review is based on the downloaded version. Many have already commented on how great Prof. Greenberg is and how enjoyable it is to listen to his lectures. I fully agree. After listening to more than 60 Teaching Company courses, I consider him to be one of the best, if not the best professor. If, like me, you are not a musician, you may want to listen to some basic courses first, especially How to Listen and Understand Great Music and the Life and Music of Beethoven. This will give you a basic introduction to classical music, its structure, function, and procedures and also make you more familiar with Beethoven’s biography. A few reviewers objected to the detailed “play by play” dissection of the music, but I think that this is the most important and valuable part of the course. I listened to Beethoven’s symphonies before taking this course. I liked the Eroica, #5 and #6. I enjoyed the sound of the music, but I had no idea what was going on until Prof. Greenberg explained it. It is sort of like a person who is almost blind and can see only some fleeting gray images suddenly gets his sight and can see everything in vibrant colors. Or a person who only understands a few words of a foreign language suddenly understands every word, including all the subtle nuances. It is truly a transformational experience that gave me many hours of pure joy and still does every time I listen to one of the symphonies. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2010-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Another outstanding course by Professor Greenberg. Given that even a 32 lecture course has to be limited in content, I don't know how Professor Greenberg could have selected the material to cover better. A previous reviewer criticized the level of detail - I couldn't disagree more. Clearly, the purpose of the course IS to describe Beethoven's symphonies and that's exactly what Professor Greenberg does. His manner is engaging, enjoyable and clearly authoritative. And of course, he's describing the most amazing achievements the human mind has ever produced. It doesn't get any better than that.
Date published: 2010-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg hits a home run in the nine! Only Bob Greenberg can tie a dissection of Beethoven's Symphonies together with a baseball analogy and leave you laughing and crying at the same time. I have enjoyed all of his courses to date and each has been more educational than the last. With Bach's Passacaglia we stood on our heads for Dr. Greenberg to hear it in its many mutations. But his treatment of the Beethoven Symphonies is a work of art and a musical home run. My only regret is that we don't have access to his musical library to hear all of the works that he uses to tease out his lectures and to torture us aesthetically. Everyone in our family is enjoying a second listening and we recommend these lectures to everyone of any age. Thank you.
Date published: 2009-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course and great professor This is one of my favorite Teaching Company professors, even though music is not one of my favorite subjects. This is the 4th music course I've listened to. (The others are “Bach”, "Great music" and the "Fundamentals of music". This course was as good as the others, although I would recommend you do some of the others first. Both "Great music" and "Fundamentals" would be helpful before attempting this one. Besides increasing my appreciation for the music discussed, these music courses have even inspired me to learn to play piano (at least a little).
Date published: 2009-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing, but . . . I'm torn. Robert Greenberg is one of my favorite Teaching Company teachers; in fact, he may be the best of all. And I cannot begin to describe how much I've learned from his courses, including this one on Beethoven's symphonies. His delivery is amazing. The information he gives is amazing. The amount anyone can and will learn is amazing. That said, even the great ones make some choices that can be open to debate. With this particular course, I felt overwhelmed by way too much detail on what the music was doing. After a while, I noticed that most of what I was able to retain came from the beginning of the discussion of each symphony or in some cases, movement. The rest wound up spinning my head all too often. I wonder if it might have been preferable for Greenberg to devote one lecture per symphony, or two if need be, simply to giving all the background information, and separated the word-score material and the detailed musical narration into separate self-contained lectures. That way, those who are apt to get flummoxed by too much detail could have digested the course easily and efficiently, while those who appreciate the detail would still have had everything they wanted. Heck, after doing an entire digested course, I'd probably go back here and there into the detail later on. I'd really have loved an opportunity to build the material up in my mind in a more gradual and efficient manner.
Date published: 2009-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Triumph is Beethoven's. We all know and love Beethoven's Symphonies. It must be very difficult to improve the experience of listening to this sublime collection of music. Saying that, our teacher has done it, in these lectures. Robert Greenburg is his usual over exuberant, quirky self (although I think slightly more subdued than normal). Some (like me) may find that, they have to be in a right mood for a Greenburg lecture. But he knows his Beethoven, he loves his Beethoven. He guides us through the troubles and tribulations of the mans life that lead him to produce such phenomenal music. That being said the beauty of these lectures is the music itself - the triumph is Beethoven's.
Date published: 2009-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A master on the master From "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" onward I have been a Robert Greenberg fan. This deep-dive into Beethoven's symphonies continues the good professor's excellent offerings from the Teaching Company. While it can feel over-the-top to give so many great ratings, such ratings are only fair. This course took my initial learnings about the history of western music, and about symphonic music, and drove into fabulous detail. The professor's storytelling is fun and informative, both showing links between Beethoven's experiences and his music, and debunking simplistic pap regarding the master. I found it fascinating to follow the evolution of Beethoven's music, and the impact it had on the path of musical development. There is a great balance between instruction, narrative, and actual listening. Another great course!
Date published: 2009-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterful All Around These lectures on Beethoven's symphonies are in a word, spectacular! Professor Greenberg is a master orator, the music is out of this world and the insight into the molecular structure of the compositions, priceless. My only wish is that Professor Greenberg would follow up this great work with a similar dissection of Beethoven's quartets. If you love classical music and especially if you like Beethoven don't waste a single minute. Do yourself and your family a favor and spend some quality time learning about the compositions and life of a true master.
Date published: 2009-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best of Beethoven Do you recall hearing Beethoven's 4th? You know the 3rd, the 5th, the 6th, the 7th, and the 9th. The great thing about this course is that Prof. Greenberg single-handedly resurrects Beethoven's 4th symphony as one of the greats. He illuminates how it is intimately connected to the 5th (which was actually written before the 4th). Prof. Greenberg is one of the great TTC professors, and this is one of his great courses. Not to be missed by Beethoven fans.
Date published: 2009-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In awe of Beethovan! Dr. Greenberg so effectively conveyed his passion for Beethovan that I find myself humming selections from the symphonies throughout the day. The genius of Beethovan clearly is revealed by this course. And for the first time I really like the fourth movement of the 9th symphony. Until I viewed the DVD I had thought of the choral movement as one to skip. My lack of a music background was not a hinderance to appreciating the course.
Date published: 2009-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yet another hit This is what a course should be- multiple in depth lectures on a concentrated subject matter that permits true analysis and apprecaition for the topic. Well thought out, clear, well explained, witty, engaging, and enjoyable. Greenberg's enthiusiasm is infectious and makes you want to come back for more
Date published: 2009-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful! His knowledge of Beethoven Symphonies is only outshined by his enthusiam for what music means to him. What a professor! My only wish is that he keeps doing MORE lectures!!!
Date published: 2008-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Greenberg makes me wish Id have studied music instead of engineering. What a great course!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have gone through several of Prof. Greenberg's courses - Concert Masterworks, Bach & the High Baroque, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven - found all to be comprehensive, detailed & throughly enjoyable. They have all helped me immensely as a professional musician
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Greenberg is no joke!! He has the unique ability to infuse his lectures wiht delightful/stylistic comedic take-offs which induces a sens of relaxation. This has the capability to asorb and digest better the lecture presentation. He is truly a maestro.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stimulating, engaging and informative at a high level. Even with a MA in music, I learned a ton!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Greenberg's word scores are a brilliant creation. We can listen again & again to the symphonies with these aides, so meticulously constructed to help see what Beethoven was doing. Also his ability to use the piano in illustrations teaches more than
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Listening to the Greenberg lectures is a life-changing experiences. you will no longer be able to tolerate listening to talk-radio, or indeed much of any radio, in your free time.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg's lectures are great. His enthusiasm for his subjects in infectious. I have ordered several of his courses and hope to order more.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding survey of all 9 Beethoven Symphonies, his life, and the musical and cultural context of the thing. I give this course my highest recommendations.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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