Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Great Masters: Brahms — His Life and Music


In both his life and his music, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) was a man of contrasts. He composed serious Teutonic music and joyful dance music. He was miserly with himself and exceedingly generous with family and associates. He was kind to working people and known for his biting, malicious wit in artistic and aristocratic social circles.

This course links the complexities of the man with the electrifying music of the composer through biographical information and musical commentary.

The Details

In this course, you will discover that Brahms, with a perfectionist’s fanatical zeal, wrote, rewrote, and ultimately destroyed more than 20 string quartets before publishing a pair of exceptionally exquisite pieces at the age of 40, breathing new life into the old bones of an exacting chamber music form.

You explore why Brahms took 21 years to complete his first symphony—immediately hailed as “Beethoven’s Tenth” — and then produced three more in less than a decade.

You find that Brahms single-handedly started a second “golden symphonic age” by inspiring younger composers such as Mahler, Bruckner, Sibelius, Elgar, and Dvorák.

Brahms found unique ways of combining rigor and formal complexity of older Classical and even Baroque genres and forms (sonata, theme and variations, rondo) with melodic inventiveness, harmonic sophistication, and expressive richness prized in the Romantic Age.

“His legacy to us is a lifetime of extraordinary craft and artistic beauty without an inferior piece in the collection,” notes Professor Greenberg.

Great Masters: Brahms — His Life and Music Lectures

  1. J.B., We Hardly Knew You!
  2. The Brothels of Hamburg
  3. The Schumanns
  4. The Vagabond Years
  5. Maturity
  6. Mastery
  7. The Tramp of Giants
  8. Farewells