Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

The Great Courses – Page 2

The Great Courses as a Curriculum

September is “Fine Arts Celebration” month for The Great Courses. To that end, I have been asked to write up a music curriculum that TGC can post on its social media channels. I preview it below: Among the questions I am most frequently asked (along with “what’s that aftershave you’re wearing?”) is a curricular one. That is, if my 27 in-print courses should constitute a curriculum, in what order should they be consumed? An excellent question: in fact, I do not wear aftershave. As for a curriculum, this is what I would recommend: Category One: Pre-requisites “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, third edition.” This remains The Great Courses’ “Music 101”, the entry-level pre-requisite for all my other courses. FYI: this course is an intensified version of the full-year music history sequence I used to teach at the San Francisco Conservatory. “How to Listen to and Understand Great Opera”. If “Great Music” (above) is Music 101, then this is Music 102: a broad survey of the single most important genre in Western music: opera. “The Fundamentals of Music”. This course expands on the vocabulary and listening skills first introduced in “Great Music” and “Great Opera.” From here on […]

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Shostakovich — His Life and Music Playlist

Enjoy five excerpts from the “Great Masters: Shostakovich — His Life and Music” course in a new playlist on the Robert Greenberg YouTube Channel. Lecture highlights in the playlist: Shostakovich — His Life and Music: An Introduction Lady Macbeth The Fifth Symphony The Tenth Symphony The Eighth String Quartet Buy the Course More Great Courses Discover the extraordinary life, times, and art of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975), great musical master and flawed but faithful witness to the survival of the human spirit under totalitarianism. He is without a doubt one of the absolutely central composers of the 20th century. His symphonies and string quartets are mainstays of the repertoire. But Shostakovich is also a figure whose story raises challenging and exciting issues that go far beyond music: They touch on questions of conscience, of the moral role of the artist, of the plight of humanity in the face of total war and mass oppression, and of the inner life of history’s bloodiest century.

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Great Masters: Shostakovich — His Life and Music: Let the Controversy Begin

I am often asked which of the 30 some-odd courses I’ve created for the Teaching Company/Great Courses is my personal favorite. My typical response is to name my most recent course, which presumes that it represents my best, most recent work. But in truth, it is an impossible question to answer for a number of reasons. I’ve been writing and recording these courses for over twenty years; they are my babies, and no matter how rotten, awful and delinquent they may be, they are mine and I love them. Each course represents a different time of my life and reflects what I knew and felt at that time (in this way, my courses are no different from my musical compositions). Each course represents the best of what I was when I made it. As such, it’s impossible for me to play favorites. However, if I was asked for which of my courses did I fight hardest to make, and which one tells the single most compelling, amazing, and heart-breaking story, the answers are easy: my Great Masters biography of Dmitri Shostakovich. In the earliest days of the Teaching Company I was given carte blanche to write and record pretty much […]

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The New York Times Features The Great Courses

A most interesting article on The Great Courses (TGC) appeared in the New York Times on Saturday. TGC has been featured in newspaper articles before: scads of articles, in fact, over the last 20-plus years. But those articles (at least the ones I’m aware of and I am aware of most of them) have always focused on the content of TGC offerings: that they are academic courses offered up on audio/video media. This article, written by the Times’ TV critic Neil Genzlinger, is different. It focuses on TGC as a video production company and on TGC courses as slick, professional, high-end television programs. My goodness, how times have changed. Long-time readers of this blog will recall my descriptions of TGC in its early days. I would rehash a bit of that if only to highlight the incredible evolution of the company from a startup to the polished gem it is today. I made my first course back in May of 1993: the first edition of “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music”. We had no “set”; I worked in front of a blue screen (or a “traveling matte”). The halogen lighting created an unbelievable amount of heat and glare. […]

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“The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works” Wins a TELLY Award

. . . and finally [small tear running down cheek] . . . I’d like to thank the Academy [*choke*] . . . I’d like to thank the Academy . . . for . . . for . . .FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! WHAT A BUNCH OF LOSERS! YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A PACK OF GROVELING, PEA-BRAINED WEASELS: BLOOD-SUCKING PARASITES ON THE BODY OF ART; OPEN, OOZING CARBUNCLES ON THE ASS OF PROGRESS! Yes, YES: PUT THAT ON YOUR PIZZA AND EAT IT! One day, before we all pass on to the great unknown, one day – perhaps – we’ll be lucky enough to hear an award acceptance speech end just that way. It would become an instant classic, among the most quoted, listened to and viewed bits of spontaneous media since Sally Field’s “You like me!” speech at the Academy Awards and Ed Ames’ tomahawk-to-the groin on the Johnny Carson show. Given my own occasional proclivity towards ingratitude, it is just as well that when I received a “Telly Award” back in May, I was standing in a nearly empty corner of an office building in Chantilly, Virginia, accompanied only by my great pal Ed Leon of The Great Courses (with […]

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Great Courses Spring Warehouse Clearance Sale

Over FOURTEEN of my courses on sale during The Great Courses Spring Warehouse Clearance. Take advantage of courses up to 70% Off Today! On Sale Courses include: The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works How to Listen to and Understand Opera Bach and the High Baroque Concert Masterworks Music of Richard Wagner Life and Operas of Verdi Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Chamber Music of Mozart String Quartets of Beethoven Operas of Mozart Great Masters: Tchaikovsky — His Life and Music Great Masters: Haydn — His Life and Music Great Masters: Shostakovich — His Life and Music Great Masters: Liszt — His Life and Music And more!

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Ordering The Great Courses Surveys

I receive all sorts of (usually lovely) mail and email from all sorts of folks asking all sorts of questions, mostly about music but not infrequently about other things as well. You will – I’m sure – be relieved to hear that for now I will focus on the former, reserving my advice on dating, brands of gin, and whether the martini should be shaken or stirred for another time. For now, it’s on to one of my most frequently-asked-questions, and that is: if my Great Courses surveys were a curricula, in what order would I suggest they be consumed? It’s a good question (at least I think so). Courses numbers one, two and three as identified below might be considered the basic prerequisites to the remainder of my catalog. Course number one: “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music”, 3rd edition (2006). I know, this is pretty much a no-brainer; it’s The Great Courses’ equivalent to Music 101, “tunes for goons”. Please, please, please, the 3rd edition only. The second edition (from 1998) is flawed, and the first edition (1993) was made during the Stone Age. Course numbers two and three: “How to Listen to and Understand Opera” […]

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“The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works” Series to be shown for FREE in Chatham, NJ

Every now and then a friend sends along a link like this one, indicating that one of my The Teaching Company/Great Courses surveys is being publicly screened. According to the article, from the Chatham (New Jersey) Courier, my DVD series “The 23 Greatest Piano Solo Works” is being shown (free of charge) at the Senior Center of the Chathams starting on Monday, January 6. Now that’s what I’m talking about! And much as I’d wish that each-and-every-one of the fine folks who watch the series had paid full retail for it, I am, in truth, thrilled by this sort of thing. Dissemination, dispersion, and diffusion: we cannot glory in and celebrate our wonderful musical heritage too much and that is what I’d like to believe my courses are all about. Besides, should I ever find myself in Chatham, N.J. without a date, this should improve my chances of linking up with someone exponentially, provided that she is okay with hanging out with a younger guy.

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Great Courses Professor Web-Chat Recap

Be it ever so humble . . . We returned home late in the day on Tuesday, October 29. Typical of extended trips, we needed a vacation following our vacation. (Admittedly, mine was a “working vacation”, a phrase as oxymoronic as “vacations with children”. In truth, hanging out in Italy with your wife and 40 great people, eating like a pig and attending operas all over the map cannot possibly be construed as REAL work. So a “working vacation” it was.) Anyway, given the physical consequences of intercontinental travel, a day or two of time zone reacclimation would have been sweet. But this was not to be, so on Wednesday, my new wife Nanci (who is a pediatrician) headed off to her office to see patients and then to the hospital to check on the newborns while I steeled myself for The Great Courses’ first professor web-chat, which occurred from 4PM-6PM Pacific time on Wednesday afternoon. I was given a tutorial earlier in the day when a young woman from The Great Courses named Michelle walked me through the process over the phone and on the computer. I presume she is a young woman because only the young can explain […]

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Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Falstaff

I trust we all raised a glass last Thursday on the 10th of October in honor of Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday. Now, I am aware that with the exception of “belated birthday cards” (“I really crapped up, I’m embarrassed to say; but I had better things to do than remember your day”), we generally do not continue to celebrate birthdays after the date has passed. But 200th birthdays should – rightly – be considered an exception, and thus October of this year has been unofficially designated as “Giuseppe Verdi Appreciation Month”. In Italy in particular, the celebration goes on, with Verdi festivals and opera performances up and down the peninsula. With this in mind, I will be on my way to Italy in just a few hours where I will lead an opera tour organized by Arte & Travel in and around Verdi’s home province of Parma. Among other treats, we will attend performances of “Don Carlo” at La Scala (in Milan); “Nabucco” in Bologna, and “I Masnadieri” (“The Bandits”) at the Teatro Reggio in Parma. This, my friends, is pretty much as good as it gets, and I am most aware of how fabulously lucky I am to be […]

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