Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Great Music of the 20th Century

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Experience the genius and stunning originality of masterworks by the 20th century’s greatest composers. Follow the game-changing break with musical tradition that gave birth to a vast range of new musical languages, and immerse yourself in the glorious concert music of a turbulent century.

The Details

Great Courses favorite Professor Robert Greenberg of San Francisco Performances returns with one of his most provocative, most compelling, and most rewarding courses ever. In Great Music of the 20th Century, Professor Greenberg unfurls a huge spectrum of new works and material that have not been covered in depth in previous courses. Ranging across the 20th century in its entirety, these 24 lectures present a musical cornucopia of astonishing dimensions—a major presentation and exploration of the incredible brilliance and diversity of musical art across a turbulent century.

Taking a chronological approach, the course explores the fascinating gamut of 20th-century musical “isms,” from impressionism and fauvism to serialism, stochasticism, ultraserialism, neo-classicism, neo-tonalism, and minimalism, as well as the inclusivity and synthesis within concert music that embraced Western historical styles, folk and popular music, jazz, rock, Asian, Latin American, and other influences in the service of heightened expression. Through the panoramic view of the course, you’ll discover the genius of composers such as Webern, Antheil, Stockhausen, Bernstein, Takamitsu, and many others.

From the very first lecture, Professor Greenberg tackles the bugbear of 20th-century concert music directly, showing with remarkable clarity what these composers were up to, how to understand their compositional processes and visions, and how to appreciate and enjoy the sublime music this century produced.

For those familiar with Professor Greenberg’s previous courses, these lectures present a new approach to the musical excerpts themselves, and one that is aligned with the way people access music in the 21st century. Instead of playing musical excerpts within the lectures, Professor Greenberg provides easily accessible online resources to complete performances of all the works discussed, allowing you to explore them in their entirety, either while listening to the lectures, separately, or both. This approach offers the benefits of easy access to full performances of the works, plus a full 45 minutes of Professor Greenberg’s celebrated teaching and commentary in each lecture.

An important note about the videos in the lecture listings below

We (The Great Courses and I) could never have made the course had we been required to license recordings of all the music discussed within. (Most of the music, still under original copyright, would have been prohibitively expensive to license.) Instead, we decided to experiment and use links to music available for free online. We were all quite excited about the prospect: if successful, it would allow me up to make jazz and rock ‘n’ roll courses, once again repertoire that The Great Courses cannot afford to license.

Alas, the experiment was not successful: what appeared to be stable links went dead with dispiriting frequency. At first I tried to keep up by finding new links and publicizing them, but like Lucy and Ethel and that chocolate factory conveyer belt, it has been impossible for me to keep up. So, viewer/listener beware: if a link doesn’t work please find another. For what it’s worth, all the links in Lecture 24 continue to work just fine, thanks to the ongoing cooperation of the composer featured therein!

Great Music of the 20th Century Lectures

    1. 20th-Century Music: Be Afraid No Longer!
Explore the works and music
Igor Stravinsky, Agon
YouTube
Pierre Boulez, Structures II for Two Pianos
YouTube
Terry Riley, In C
YouTube
Walter Piston, Symphony No. 6, fourth movement
YouTube
    1. Setting the Table and Parsing Out Blame
Explore the works and music
Claude Debussy, L’enfant prodigue
YouTube
    1. Debussy and le français in Musical Action
Explore the works and music
Claude Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
YouTube
Claude Debussy, Prelude X, Book 1, The Sunken Cathedral
Part 1: 00:00–01:24
Part 2: 01:25–02:11
Part 3: 02:12–03:15
Part 4: 03:16–04:24
Part 5: 04:25–05:38
YouTube
Javanese Gamelan example
YouTube
Parallel Organum
YouTube
    1. Russia and Igor Stravinsky
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Claude Debussy, Nocturnes, “Fêtes”
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Petrushka
“Russian Dance”: 08:35–10:59
“Chez Petrushka”: 11:14–15:59
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Scherzo fantastique
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird
“Infernal Dance of the Ogre Kashchey”: 32:12–37:18
“Khorovode”: 20:17–24:32
“Finale”: 42:56–46:30
YouTube
    1. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
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Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring
“Introduction”: 00:00–03:11
“Dance of the Adolescents,” first half: 03:13–04:32 “Procession of the Sage”: 13:08–13:50
“Dance of the Earth”: 14:21–15:27
“Game of the Rival Tribes”: 06:22–07:17
“Grand Sacred Dance”: 28:48–33:20
YouTube
The Search for Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring
YouTube
    1. The Paradox of Arnold Schoenberg
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Arnold Schoenberg, Pelleas und Melisande
“Waltz”: 11:25–12:40
YouTube
Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire
“O alter Duft”: 35:02–36:58
YouTube
Arnold Schoenberg, Transfigured Night
“Opening Theme”: 00:50–02:10
“Transfigured Conclusion”: 28:30–29:44
YouTube
    1. The Emancipation of Melody!
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Arnold Schoenberg, Six Little Pieces for Piano
(from 02:00 to 03:10 in the below-linked performance)
YouTube
Arnold Schoenberg, String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor
Part 1, “Nicht zu rasch” (“Not too fast”): 00:00–11:58
Part 2, “Kräftig” ( “Powerfully”): 11:59–22:21
Part 3, “Mäßig” ( “Moderately”): 22:22–34:28
Part 4, “Mäßig-heiter” ( “Moderately bright”): 34:29–41:58
YouTube
    1. The Second Viennese School
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Alban Berg, Piano Sonata
YouTube
Anton Webern, Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 10, No. 4
YouTube
Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire
“Moondrunk”: 00:56–02:38
“Night”: 13:16–15:45
“Theft”: 16:41–17:43
“Red Mass”: 17:43–19:42
“Gallows Song”: 19:43–20:08
“Vulgarity”: 26:56–28:18
YouTube
    1. The “New” Classicism
Explore the works and music
George Antheil, Ballet Méchanique
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Octet
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Pulcinella
“Sinfonia” opening: 00:00–00:12
“Sinfonia”: 00:27–00:33
“Sinfonia” conclusion: 01:44–01:56
“Tarantella”: 24:29–25:42
“Vivo”: 33:03–34:32
“Finale”: 36:51–38:52
YouTube
John Williams, “Bicycle Chase”
YouTube
    1. Schoenberg and the 12-Tone Method
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Arnold Schoenberg, Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
YouTube
    1. Synthesis and Nationalism: Béla Bartók
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Béla Bartók, Allegro Barbaro
YouTube
Béla Bartók, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste
Part 1: 00:00–07:01
Part 2: 07:03–14:29
Part 3: 14:34–21:06
Part 4: 21:09
YouTube
Béla Bartók, Piano Concerto No. 1
YouTube
Béla Bartók, Piano Concerto No. 2
YouTube
Béla Bartók, Piano Concerto No. 3
YouTube
Béla Bartók, Piano Sonata
YouTube
Béla Bartók, Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
YouTube
Béla Bartók, String Quartet No. 2
YouTube
Béla Bartók, String Quartet No. 5
YouTube
Berber Drumming
YouTube
Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131
YouTube
The Shining, “Room 237”
YouTube
    1. America’s Musical Gift
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Aaron Copland, “Dance” from Music for the Theater
YouTube
Babatunde Olatunji and friends, “Fanga”
YouTube
Claude Debussy, “Golliwog’s Cakewalk”
YouTube
George Gershwin, An American in Paris
UNCTV
George Gershwin, Prelude No. 2 in C-sharp Minor
YouTube
George Gershwin and Irving Caesar, “Swanee”
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, “Ragtime for Eleven Instruments”
YouTube
Jessye Norman, “Great Day”
YouTube
John Philip Sousa, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”
YouTube
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “Tailgate Ramble”
YouTube
Robert Johnson, “Cross Road Blues”
YouTube
Scott Joplin, “Maple Leaf Rag”
YouTube
    1. American Iconoclasts
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Charles Ives, Three Places in New England
Part 1, “The ‘St. Gaudens’ in Boston Common”
YouTube
Part 2, “Putnam’s Camp”
YouTube
Part 3, “The Housatonic at Stockbridge”
YouTube
Conlon Nancarrow, Study for Player Piano No. 25
YouTube
Conlon Nancarrow, Study No. 3c
YouTube
Conlon Nancarrow, Study No. 7
YouTube
Elliott Carter, String Quartet No. 2
YouTube
Harry Partch, Barstow
Text
YouTube
Harry Partch, Music Studio (music demonstration)
Part 1
YouTube
Part 2
YouTube
    1. The World Turned Upside Down
Explore the works and music
Milton Babbitt, All Set
YouTube
Milton Babbitt, Three Compositions for Piano
Part 1: 00:00–01:25
Part 2: 01:27–05:26
Part 3: 05:28–07:34
YouTube
Olivier Messiaen, Quartet for the End of Time
YouTube
    1. Electronic Music and European Ultraserialism
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Edgard Varèse, Poème électronique
YouTube
Milton Babbitt, Philomel
Text, written by John Hollander
YouTube
Olivier Messiaen, Mode de valeurs et d’intensités
YouTube
Pierre Boulez, Structures I for Two Pianos
YouTube
    1. Schoenberg in Exile
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Arnold Schoenberg, A Survivor from Warsaw
Text
Program note, written by Dave Kopplin
YouTube
Arnold Schoenberg, Kol Nidre
YouTube
Arnold Schoenberg, Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte
Part 1: 00:00–04:47
Part 4 (conclusion): 13:08–14:58
YouTube
Lord Byron, Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte
Explore
    1. Stravinsky in America
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Igor Stravinsky, Agon
Episode 1, “Fanfare”: 00:00–01:46
Episode 13, “Pas-de-Deux”: 16:29–20:14
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments
Part 1: 00:45–08:40
Part 2: 09:07–18:05
Part 3: 18:07–23:17
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Piano Sonata
Part 1: 00:00–02:27
Part 2: 02:30–06:16
Part 3: 06:17–08:32
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Requiem Canticles
YouTube
Igor Stravinsky, Symphony in Three Movements
Part 1: 00:00–10:14
Part 2: 10:19–19:13
Part 3: 16:14–22:17
YouTube
    1. For Every Action an Equal Reaction
Explore the works and music
György Ligeti, Atmosphères
YouTube
György Ligeti, Piano Concerto
YouTube
György Ligeti, Trio for Violin, French Horn, and Piano
“Andante con tenerezza”: 00:00–05:38
“Vivacissimo molto Ritmico”: 05:58–10:56
“Alla Marcia”: 10:59–15:05
“Lamento Adagio”: 15:13–20:30
YouTube
Hans Werner Henze, Sinfonia No. 8
YouTube
Iannis Xenakis, Pithoprakta
YouTube
Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima
YouTube
Luigi Nono, Prometheus Suite
YouTube
Stanley Kubrick, 2001 “Star Gate” Sequence (music composed by György Ligeti)
YouTube
    1. The California Avant-Garde
Explore the works and music
Henry Cowell, Aeolian Harp
YouTube
Henry Cowell, Ostinato Pianissimo
YouTube
Henry Cowell, The Banshee
YouTube
Henry Cowell, The Tides of Manaunaun
YouTube
Javanese Gamelan example
YouTube
John Cage, Bacchanale
YouTube
John Cage, Sonata V for prepared piano
YouTube
Lou Harrison, Double Concerto
Part 1, “Grandly, but Moderate (Ladrang Epikuros)”: 00:00–08:08
Part 2, “Stampede”: 08:13–15:49
Part 3, “Allegro moderato (Gendhing Hephaestus)”: 15:51–22:54
YouTube
Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel
YouTube
    1. Rock around the Clock
Explore the works and music
Buddy Holly and His Crickets, “Peggy Sue”
YouTube
Chuck Berry, “School Days”
YouTube
Elvis Presley’s Ed Sullivan Show performance on September 9, 1956
DailyMotion
Garner Eckler, “Money, Marbles, and Chalk”
YouTube
Jerry Lee Louis, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
YouTube
John Adams, Harmonielehre
Harmonielehre Für Orchester: Satz 4
YouTube
Little Richard, “Lucille”
YouTube
Philip Glass, Violin Concerto
YouTube
Steve Reich, Different Trains
YouTube
Steve Reich, “It’s Gonna Rain”
YouTube
Terry Riley, In C
YouTube
    1. East Meets West; South Meets North
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Carlos Chávez, Symphony No. 2
YouTube
Chinary Ung, Spiral I
YouTube
Ginastera, Danzas Argentinas no. 1
YouTube
Ginastera, Danzas Argentinas no. 2
YouTube
Ginastera, Danzas Argentinas no. 3
YouTube
Ginastera, “Malambo” from the Estancia Ballet
YouTube
Heitor Villa-Lobos, Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5, “Aria”
YouTube
Heitor Villa-Lobos, Prelude No. 1 for Guitar
YouTube
Isang Yun, Violin Concerto No. 3
YouTube
Lucienne Boyer, Parlez-Moi D’Amour
YouTube
Tan Dun, opening sequence of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
YouTube
Tōru Takemitsu, A Flock Descends Into the Pentagonal Garden
YouTube
Tōru Takemitsu, November Steps
Part 1
YouTube
Part 2
YouTube
    1. Postmodernism: New Tonality and Eclecticism
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David Del Tredici, Child Alice (In Memory of a Summer’s Day)
YouTube
George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children
Part 5: 13:28–16:04
YouTube
George Rochberg, String Quartet No. 3
Movement 1: : 00:00–06:51
Movement 2: 06:52–09:56
YouTube
Movement 3
YouTube
Movement 4: 00:00–04:19
Movement 5: 04:20–21:32
Mahler quote: 06:29–07:30
YouTube
John Corigliano, The Red Violin Concerto
Part 1,“Chaconne”: 00:00–14:34
Part 2, “Pianissimo Scherzo”: 14:35–22:24
Part 3, “Andante Flautando”: 22:30–28:56
Part 4, “Accelerando Finale”: 28:57–38:34
YouTube
Luciano Berio, Sinfonia, movement 3
YouTube
Peter Maxwell Davies, Eight Songs for a Mad King
YouTube
    1. The New Pluralism
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Aaron Jay Kernis, 100 Greatest Dance Hits
Part 1, “Introduction to the Dance Party”: 00:00–01:50
Part 2, “Salsa Pasada”: 01:52–05:17
Part 3, “MOR* Easy Listening Slow Dance”: 05:18–12:31
Part 4, “Dance Party on the Disco Motorboat”: 12:32–15:59
YouTube
Aaron Jay Kernis, Double Concerto for Violin & Guitar
“Fast and Jazzy”
YouTube
“Adagio Molto”
YouTube
“Presto, sempre ritmico”
YouTube
Christopher Rouse, Concerto for Trombone
YouTube
Christopher Rouse, Gorgon
YouTube
Christopher Rouse, Ku-Ka-Ilimoku
YouTube
Christopher Rouse, The Infernal Machine
YouTube
Jennifer Higdon, Blue Cathedral
YouTube
Jennifer Higdon, Fanfare Ritmico for Orchestra
YouTube
Joseph Schwantner, Aftertones of Infinity
YouTube
Joseph Schwantner, Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra
YouTube
Joseph Schwantner, Velocities
YouTube
Martin Bresnick, Bird As Prophet
YouTube
Martin Bresnick, String Quartet No. 2, Bucephalus
YouTube
“Bucephalus”
YouTube
“Around the Sun”
YouTube
“Alexandrine”
YouTube
“At Jhelum”
YouTube
“The New Advocate”
YouTube
Thomas Adès, Asyla
Part 1
YouTube
Part 2
YouTube
Part 3
YouTube
Part 4
YouTube
    1. Among Friends
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Cole Porter, “I Get a Kick Out of You”
YouTube
Dana Seusse, “You Oughta Be In Pictures”
YouTube
Dave Brubeck, “Blue Rondo à la Turk”
YouTube
Oscar Peterson, “Boogie Blues Etude”
YouTube
Robert Greenberg, Among Friends
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Robert Greenberg, And Goodness Lay Over the High Snow
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Robert Greenberg, By Various Means
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Robert Greenberg, Child’s Play
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Robert Greenberg, Crazy Levi
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Robert Greenberg, Dude ‘Tudes
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Robert Greenberg, Fantasy Variations
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Robert Greenberg, In Shape
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Robert Greenberg, Iron Balconies and Lilies
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Robert Greenberg, On Trial
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Robert Greenberg, Piano Concerto No. 2
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Robert Greenberg, Quasi un Madrigale
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Robert Greenberg, The Passing Years
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The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show performance on February 9, 1964
Vimeo
Tower of Power and Carlos Santana, “What is Hip?”
YouTube