Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Ordering The Great Courses Surveys

HT-Listen-Understand-Great-Music-3eI 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” and “Fundamentals of Music.” The former is repertoire driven; the latter is technical; they both serve the purpose of stretching the ears and mind via a wide array of music. To my mind they can they can be listened to in either order.

From this point, I would suggest course decisions be driven by interest. Basically, the remainder of my stuff can be divided into opera courses (“The Operas of Mozart”; “The Operas of Verdi”; “The Life and Music of Richard Wagner”), biographies (the “Great Masters” series), or repertoire-centered courses (everything else).


  1. As a non-musician (like to listen, can take in the technical side up to a point) I prefer the short “Great Misters” courses, the level suits me and I love the interweaving of music and biography. I’d really love to see a few more composers’ lives and work covered in that series.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I first listened to “30 Greatest Orchestral Works” and am currently working my way through “HLUGM 3rd Ed.” I now see that I could have gotten much more from “30 GOW” by listening to HLUGM first.

    Thank you for all your effort on these courses. My interest in music has grown tremendously since finding them.