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How to Listen to Great Music: A Guide to Its History, Culture, and Heart

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From one of the most trusted names in continuing education-the knowledge you need to unlock "the most abstract and sublime of all the arts." Whether you're listening in a concert hall or on your iPod, concert music has the power to move you. The right knowledge can deepen the ability of this music to edify, enlighten, and stir the soul. In How to Listen to Great Music, Pro From one of the most trusted names in continuing education-the knowledge you need to unlock "the most abstract and sublime of all the arts." Whether you're listening in a concert hall or on your iPod, concert music has the power to move you. The right knowledge can deepen the ability of this music to edify, enlighten, and stir the soul. In How to Listen to Great Music, Professor Robert Greenberg, a composer and music historian, presents a comprehensive, accessible guide to how music has mirrored Western history, that will transform the experience of listening for novice and long-time listeners alike. You will learn how to listen for key elements in different genres of music - from madrigals to minuets and from sonatas to symphonies-along with the enthralling history of great music from ancient Greece to the 20th century. You'll get answers to such questions as Why was Beethoven so important? How did the Enlightenment change music? And what's so great about opera anyway? How to Listen to Great Music will let you finally hear what you've been missing.


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From one of the most trusted names in continuing education-the knowledge you need to unlock "the most abstract and sublime of all the arts." Whether you're listening in a concert hall or on your iPod, concert music has the power to move you. The right knowledge can deepen the ability of this music to edify, enlighten, and stir the soul. In How to Listen to Great Music, Pro From one of the most trusted names in continuing education-the knowledge you need to unlock "the most abstract and sublime of all the arts." Whether you're listening in a concert hall or on your iPod, concert music has the power to move you. The right knowledge can deepen the ability of this music to edify, enlighten, and stir the soul. In How to Listen to Great Music, Professor Robert Greenberg, a composer and music historian, presents a comprehensive, accessible guide to how music has mirrored Western history, that will transform the experience of listening for novice and long-time listeners alike. You will learn how to listen for key elements in different genres of music - from madrigals to minuets and from sonatas to symphonies-along with the enthralling history of great music from ancient Greece to the 20th century. You'll get answers to such questions as Why was Beethoven so important? How did the Enlightenment change music? And what's so great about opera anyway? How to Listen to Great Music will let you finally hear what you've been missing.

30 review for How to Listen to Great Music: A Guide to Its History, Culture, and Heart

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I really enjoyed this brief history of music, highlighted by funny and insightful commentary into the lives and times of the composers and their music. The author was occasionally too emphatic or dogmatic for my taste (pretty sure the entire musical universe does not agree on the single best opera buffa of all time) but I just took those frequent proclamations with a grain of salt, filled them mentally as hyperbole, and kept on reading. This is one I'd recommend to anyone interested in classical I really enjoyed this brief history of music, highlighted by funny and insightful commentary into the lives and times of the composers and their music. The author was occasionally too emphatic or dogmatic for my taste (pretty sure the entire musical universe does not agree on the single best opera buffa of all time) but I just took those frequent proclamations with a grain of salt, filled them mentally as hyperbole, and kept on reading. This is one I'd recommend to anyone interested in classical music.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    Finished the book and as long as the author kept to the point it was interesting, however, as soon as he brought his own personal voice to it the whole thing was marred. I don't know if it is a singular quirk of the author to add personable elements to his work or it is not a usual feature of other authors with similar work experience. However, I found his own personal side remarks to be infantile and ridiculous. I mean there is nothing too wrong in trying to give what is called a human touch to Finished the book and as long as the author kept to the point it was interesting, however, as soon as he brought his own personal voice to it the whole thing was marred. I don't know if it is a singular quirk of the author to add personable elements to his work or it is not a usual feature of other authors with similar work experience. However, I found his own personal side remarks to be infantile and ridiculous. I mean there is nothing too wrong in trying to give what is called a human touch to instructive books. In this case of Robert Greenberg it failed miserably. This could be seen as overly critical, but I don't know by what authority he claims to say that Romani music is not genuine Hungarian music? There are Romani Hungarians and their music can added to the overall nationality of Hungary as a whole. Oddly enough Puccini did not get a mention nor Gustav Holst nor many of the 20th century composers nor Richard Strauss's opera Salome. The physical description of Beethoven seemed pointless for the understanding of great music especially, to say he was short, ugly and smallpox scarred is very short sighted. There is also something incredibly childish in "sweet mother of marmalade!" for a critic in Germany in the 19th century. From my point of view this book would have got another star if he had kept it to professional study without the side comments which only served to make it mindless twaddle. The bright side is if a reader has never read anything on the history and study of music then have a look at this book and draw your own conclusions. Who knows you could get a snicker from his side comments or are used to this idea of thing in other books in which case you may be blissfully unaware of them.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Book Him Danno

    If you enjoy music you will enjoy this book. It is a series of lectures on music and how it is made. I have a few musicians in the family and the knowledge they have far exceeds mine, but with this book I can sort of hold my own in a musical conversation. Great information for anyone interested in music. It took me a long time to read being a lecture series and not a mystery, but it was worth the time. The authors approach is multi-faceted in the fact that he talks about the history, the structu If you enjoy music you will enjoy this book. It is a series of lectures on music and how it is made. I have a few musicians in the family and the knowledge they have far exceeds mine, but with this book I can sort of hold my own in a musical conversation. Great information for anyone interested in music. It took me a long time to read being a lecture series and not a mystery, but it was worth the time. The authors approach is multi-faceted in the fact that he talks about the history, the structure of music and some of the instruments. Also some interesting stories are thrown in along the way. This author knows his stuff and that enthusiasm comes out in this writing. My musical knowledge was small, but this book has really opened my eyes to what is out there. I had no idea what many of the pieces he mentioned were so I Googled a few and was fascinated. I think the CD is the way to go, the book can get a bit dry at times. But, I enjoyed this book and think I have a much better grasp on music than I ever did before.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim Razinha

    I listen to The Teaching Company's Great Courses on my commutes and with the exception of one on Native American Peoples to start this year, the rest have been concert music oriented. Greenberg has a ten artist series on the lives and music of great masters and the one I am finishing now, of the same title as this. It's a 48 lecture companion course and I highly recommend listening to it in parallel to reading this. Greenberg is energetic, entertaining and eminently knowledgeable. I can't begin I listen to The Teaching Company's Great Courses on my commutes and with the exception of one on Native American Peoples to start this year, the rest have been concert music oriented. Greenberg has a ten artist series on the lives and music of great masters and the one I am finishing now, of the same title as this. It's a 48 lecture companion course and I highly recommend listening to it in parallel to reading this. Greenberg is energetic, entertaining and eminently knowledgeable. I can't begin to capture here even a fraction of the breadth he covers. There is depth, to be sure, but Greenberg masterfully surveys the monumental repertoire of modern western music from ancient Greece (yes! they've managed to reconstruct a couple of pieces from stele and pottery!) through medieval times through Baroque, Classical, Beethoven (per Greenberg, he sort of is in his own category), Romanticism and early 20th century modern composition. He describes the language necessary to understand the music of the different periods in their context and he frames those periods with histories of the times and the composers he illustrates. Art does not shape its time; rather, the times shape the artist, who then gives voice to his time in his own special way. To understand an artist’s world and something of the artist herself are the first requisite steps to understanding the artist’s work, its style, and its meaning.I know somethings of music theory, but I'll need to visit this book and the lectures again to absorb the language further. Tonality, motivity, timbre, phrasing, melody, themes, recitative, aria...this book describes the concepts well, but the reader also needs to be a listener. At the least, find the music selections Greenberg uses. A few highlights:We would do well to avoid the notion that art is linear, and that , somehow, it just keeps getting better as we go along. Certainly, art— and for us, music— gets different as it goes along. Just as, certainly , the musical language itself—that is, the actual materials available to composers —has grown as we’ve moved toward the present day.This is important. As Surrealism is no better than Expressionism is no better than Impressionism is no better than purely representational art, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler are no better than Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt which are no better than Beethoven, Mozart, Bach. They are all great in their own ways and Greenberg tells us why. Greenberg says that instrumental music is the ultimate abstract art. Plays or literature are bounded by the words in a language we understand. Painting is framed by two dimensions. Sculpture must occupy the three-dimensional space that contains it. The only dimension that instrumental music is contained by is time. And the Baroque era was when these concepts were developed: An essential step in the emergence of instrumental music during the Baroque era was the development of instrumental musical forms. [...] One might think that when it comes to instrumental music, anything is possible; that a composer can sit down and just go with the inspirational flow and write whatever comes to mind. In actuality, the opposite is true: the abstract nature of instrumental music demands tremendous compositional discipline and rigor to create musical and expressive clarity and coherence in the absence of words. "When we read a book or a poem, when we watch a play, we understand, at the very least, the language the author is using, and unless it’s Pynchon, Joyce, Gödel, or the lyrics to 'I Am the Walrus,' we usually understand what the writer is trying to say." When we hear instrumental music, we don't have the explicit language from the composer to describe what he/she is doing, or trying to convey. There might be a consensus, but it is still interpretation. Greenberg says "In vocal music, it’s the poetic structure of the words being set that almost invariably determines the form, the structure, of the piece of music that results." And "But instrumental music has no a priori literary structure on which to base its form; in instrumental music, form is the result of compositional processes: repetition, variation, contrast, and development." To illustrate nuance in music, Greenberg gives an entertaining lengthy and exhilarating (intended) step by step, play by play, Harry Caray style accounting of a baseball double play, to which a foreign person unfamiliar with baseball asks, “What is double play?” Greenberg describes the structure (nine innings, two halves per inning, three outs per half) and intimates at the nuance (me: pitch, ball, hit, walk, strike, flyball, ball, hit by pitch, single, triple, fielder’s choice, ground rule double, etc...) Without a context, nuance cannot possibly be understood or appreciated. Without a sense of the large scale structure, we can’t understand the detail which makes things so interesting. How many times have we heard a baseball announcer say, “I’ve been around this game for 40 years and I’ve never seen that happen!”? So, despite the formula nature of the structure, an infinity of nuance and detail can take place, but we can only understand it if we first understand the large scale context, the process, the form of the piece.Well, Greenberg talks about form in all the eras. And so much more....music—the most abstract of all of the arts—is capable of transmitting an unbelievable amount of expressive, historical, allegorical, metaphorical, metaphysical, and even philosophical information to us, provided that our antennae are up and pointed in the right direction. That is why we listen, constantly, to music. Yes, to be entertained and amused, but even more, to be thrilled: to be enlightened, edified, reminded of our humanity, and to experience that white hot jolt of wordless inner truth that is the special province of musical expression.Read this and go have a listen.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Great intro to western composed music and its relevant history. The author did a good job of putting social and historical context to some well known pieces of music which makes for much more enjoyable and interesting listening. Short and interesting bios of some of the more well known composers adds to the listening pleasure too. I wish the musical glossary was a little more extensive. Well written, short and to the point. A lot of fun.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    As someone who has enjoyed several of the author's Great Courses on classical music [1], there is obviously much to enjoy here.  While I do not agree with everything in this course (more on that shortly), the author is obviously both knowledgeable and passionate about concert music and seeks to inspire in the reader the same degree of passion for the repertoire of the Western music tradition.  It should be noted that this course is a condensed version of the author's 48-lesson course on how to l As someone who has enjoyed several of the author's Great Courses on classical music [1], there is obviously much to enjoy here.  While I do not agree with everything in this course (more on that shortly), the author is obviously both knowledgeable and passionate about concert music and seeks to inspire in the reader the same degree of passion for the repertoire of the Western music tradition.  It should be noted that this course is a condensed version of the author's 48-lesson course on how to listen to and enjoy great music, which is itself an abbreviated and abridged form of the author's usual music appreciation courses, which are likely a great deal more extensive in terms of the music they cover in both breadth and depth.  By and large I find much to agree with concerning the author's broad appreciation, but I must admit that I have a hard time appreciating the atonal music that the author closes with, and find that the demented culture of the West in the period after World War I has created a crisis of legitimacy in the Western music tradition that has cut off contemporary composers from an appreciative mass audience as was the case for hundreds of years. The 300 pages of this book are divided into 33 short chapters that cover western music from its beginnings to the early part of the 20th century.  Beginning with a discussion on the importance of understanding and listening to music (1), the author talks about his mad dash through the roots of Western music (2) and the music of the Medieval church (3) as well as some music theory and terminology (4).  The author discusses the Baroque paradox of exuberance and intellectual control (5), the rise of instrumental music (6), national styles (7), fugues (8), and Baroque opera seria (9) as well as oratorios and cantatas (10).  The author talks about baroque genres (11, 12), the enlightenment (13), classical era form and genre (14, 15, 16, 17, 18), and opera (19).  There are discussions of Beethoven (20, 21), the Romantic movement (22), structural issues (23) and program symphonies (24), and the rise of Italian opera (25, 26), as well as nationalism in Germany, Central Europe, and Russia (27, 28, 29).  Finally, the author concludes this book with a discussion of modern music (30), the rise of new music (31) in the early 20th century, as well as Stravinsky (32) and Schoenberg (33) before closing with some suggestions for the reader to listen to from the classical repertoire. So long as the reader recognizes that this is a very superficial and brief discussion of the Western classical music tradition, this book can be greatly enjoyed for the author's obvious erudition and enthusiasm.  To be sure, there are plenty of areas where the author could and should have expanded his discussion--the American classical tradition, as well as that of Scandinavia and the Czechs, and even some discussion of the classical traditions outside of the West would have been fertile areas for discussion.  That said, this is a book that is honest about the fact that it is very incomplete and partial in its scope, and one that should be supplemented by other volumes for those who want a deeper look into classical music.  Those readers who want a generally tolerant view of the wide scope of Western opera, instrumental, and religious music will find much to appreciate here, though, and are recommended to listen to the author's Great Course on the same subject as well, which is helpfully advertised at the end of this volume.  To be sure, there is a lot that is left out, but what is included will whet an appetite for more than the author has time or space to discuss here. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jimf

    I became acquainted with Greenberg years ago, when a colleague of mine loaned me his course from the Teaching Company. I've since been a subscriber to that service and have taken countless courses from them. Almost without exception the courses are wonderful, but I would go as far as saying that Greenberg's course was in a class of it's own. It is easily my favorite course from them, and that's saying something. This book is more or less that course in book form. It is a terrific music primer, an I became acquainted with Greenberg years ago, when a colleague of mine loaned me his course from the Teaching Company. I've since been a subscriber to that service and have taken countless courses from them. Almost without exception the courses are wonderful, but I would go as far as saying that Greenberg's course was in a class of it's own. It is easily my favorite course from them, and that's saying something. This book is more or less that course in book form. It is a terrific music primer, and suitable for just about anyone below "professional" or someone with a degree in Music. Greenberg has a way of educating in a fun and unpretentious manner. His true love of music comes through loud and clear, and makes you reexamine some of your own tastes. While completely appropriate for a novice, the sweet spot might be for those that have had some formal musical education. I consider myself reasonably well educated musically, already listened to his course, yet still found plenty of nuggets of knowledge in this book. It's difficult to write a book in such a way that you can hit such a wide audience, but Greenberg did it. The book wasn't as good as the movie however. Listening to the music he references is important to getting the most out of the book, and every 10 pages or so it was necessary to fire up Idagio and hunt for the music. Through no fault of the author, the book format is just a bit clunkier than the online course All in all, a terrific book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    R Z

    Read it for class and absolutely loved it! Concise, and understandable for people who don't have experience in Common Practice era music. The music boxes are really helpful and fun to listen to; my suggestion is that if a piece is mentioned (especially if it's explained in the text), even if it doesn't have a music box, you should find a recording of it and listen. I wasn't unfamiliar with a lot of concepts, but my appreciation for some of the 'genres' I didn't much listen to had increased in my Read it for class and absolutely loved it! Concise, and understandable for people who don't have experience in Common Practice era music. The music boxes are really helpful and fun to listen to; my suggestion is that if a piece is mentioned (especially if it's explained in the text), even if it doesn't have a music box, you should find a recording of it and listen. I wasn't unfamiliar with a lot of concepts, but my appreciation for some of the 'genres' I didn't much listen to had increased in my new understanding of the social and historical influences.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sungeun Jin

    This book provides easy-to-follow guides to understand and appreciate classical music for classical fans with no formal musical education like myself. I am glad to be able to build some framework for my future musical apprehension as well as pick up some quintessential vocabulary in music: things that I didn't know that I was seeking as I grew more interested in my musical journey as a fan. I am sure that I will often come back to this book as a good reference. Recommend to people like me who ar This book provides easy-to-follow guides to understand and appreciate classical music for classical fans with no formal musical education like myself. I am glad to be able to build some framework for my future musical apprehension as well as pick up some quintessential vocabulary in music: things that I didn't know that I was seeking as I grew more interested in my musical journey as a fan. I am sure that I will often come back to this book as a good reference. Recommend to people like me who are looking for a kind and unassuming guide to the world of classical music.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    This really is great, but since it’s a book there is one major flaw — you can’t hear the music he discusses. He includes sheet music, but if you could hear the music in your head just by looking at the sheet music, then you probably wouldn’t need to read this book. I strongly recommend using this book as a companion with Greenberg’s excellent Great Courses audiobook, “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” (which includes the actual music!). Well worth just a single credit on Audible.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gracie

    This books is a brief introduction to western music. It covers all the main musical periods: Baroque, classical, romantic etc. But sometimes the book gets quite technical and I find it hard to understand. Nevertheless, the author offers several very important ideas regarding western music and I find them to be very insightful.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Xinyu Wu

    I was hoping more time could have been spent on analyzing the music, not the context and background story. Anyway, the chapter on Beethoven's symphony No.5 is very good. It helps you understand how this piece is being written.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bernard

    It goes together with the TTC Course, without of Course the Vibrant personality of Robert Greenberg

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nina Braden

    I read a library copy of this book, but I found it so valuable that I am going to buy a copy to keep for reference and review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nick Mclean

    Robert Greenberg's How to Listen to Great Music is a fascinating guide to and history of what is commonly known as "classical music". More correctly known as "music of the common practice" or "Composed music", Greenberg offers an overview of the development of great music. The book is clearly written for average readers, and he clearly explains terminology necessary to understand music. Greenberg convincingly demonstrates that an understanding of the context and meaning of great compositions hel Robert Greenberg's How to Listen to Great Music is a fascinating guide to and history of what is commonly known as "classical music". More correctly known as "music of the common practice" or "Composed music", Greenberg offers an overview of the development of great music. The book is clearly written for average readers, and he clearly explains terminology necessary to understand music. Greenberg convincingly demonstrates that an understanding of the context and meaning of great compositions helps listeners have a greater love for pieces of music. Greenberg's tour begins with religious chants of the middle ages known as plainchants. As the late middle ages gave way to the renaissance, individual composers within churches began to play a bigger role in crafting unique chants. It was in the late middle ages that individual composers were first recognised. In the late middle ages churches specifically searched for talented chant composers. From here, Greenberg provides the reader a tour through renaissance era baroque music, with its complicated and intricate patterns, into the beautiful symmetry and simplicity of enlightenment music. From there he takes us through the growing individualism of composers and the romantic era. Greenberg explains how the intense focus on individuality and unique music, led to a celebration of regional and national difference and tied into 19th-century nationalism. He finishes his tour by taking us through impressionism, modernism and the end of the "common practice." Greenberg lucidly demonstrates that music is intimately connected to history. Baroque fascination with intricacy, rooted very much in 16th and early 17th-century European culture, directly influenced the music of the era. The enlightenment championing of cosmopolitanism, humanism and the universality of human experience produced music that emphasized beauty, simplicity and human universality. The increased focused on individualism took route in musical culture as well as romantic-era composers infused their own personalities and cultures into their music. Eventually, this move towards individual focus led composers to question common assumptions and produced ever more esoteric music, attempting to capture specific feelings or moments in time. This tied into the impressionistic art movement and produced a unique musical form. Finally in the modern era musicians eventually abandoned the common practice as technology rendered much of the tradition unnecessary to the creation of music. Greenberg demonstrates that musical development was intimately connected to technological development. Music was a response to the technology that existed at the time, and musicians have always been creative and interested in harnessing new technologies. Fascinatingly Greenberg demonstrates is the way that music ties into culture and language. The Germanic language allowed for a very different type of opera than the Italian language. French music had a different characteristic from Germanic music. Language fundamentally shaped music, and music helped influence the development of language and culture. Whatever one thinks of Wagner, his music powerfully shaped modern Germany and Europe. There is so much that readers can learn about music history in this book. Composers of the common practice were superstars of their day. The staid and classy atmosphere of modern orchestral concerts bears no resemblance to the raucous nature of concerts in the 18th and 19th century. Many of the most famous composers were every bit as arrogant and troubled as today's popular music divas. Greenberg convincingly argues that opera is probably the most important musical form ever developed, or certainly the most influential musical form. Modern day popular music was shaped by opera. And the development of operas was key to all other developments in composed music. It is fascinating to read how much of our culture of music listening stemmed from popular Italian opera culture. Reading the book helps us understand how Johann Sebastien Bach is a great exemplar of Baroque intricacy, how the symphonies of Joseph Haydn and works of Mozart typify the grace of the Enlightenment era "classical" music, how Beethoven's music was a bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras and how the pieces of Schoenberg and Liszt exemplify the impressionistic culture of late 19th and early 20th century. The book is based on Greenberg's popular "Great Courses" program about music. Every chapter of the book offers at least one in-depth study of a particular piece of music. I can't help but wish that I had listened to the course instead, and that is probably a better way to grasp this material. Still, the book is lucidly written, and a great way for lovers of music to develop a greater appreciation for great music and its importance to our lives.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rene Saller

    This is a very good primer for the novice, but music majors and serious musicians might find it a bit patronizing or dumbed down. Being neither a music major nor a serious musician (or even a reasonably competent one), I found it helpful, and I liked Greenberg's obvious passion for his subject and his deep knowledge of the material. Although he's certainly engaging, sometimes his tone is a bit annoying; he has a penchant for dorky jokes, but those probably come across a lot better in a classroom This is a very good primer for the novice, but music majors and serious musicians might find it a bit patronizing or dumbed down. Being neither a music major nor a serious musician (or even a reasonably competent one), I found it helpful, and I liked Greenberg's obvious passion for his subject and his deep knowledge of the material. Although he's certainly engaging, sometimes his tone is a bit annoying; he has a penchant for dorky jokes, but those probably come across a lot better in a classroom than on the printed page. (They seem to in the few DVD lectures of his that I've watched, in any case.) Nevertheless, I learned a lot of useful things, and I didn't feel intimidated by the examples from the sheet music, even though my sight-reading is halting at best. He puts the music in a historical context without getting bogged down in too much specialized minutiae. A few chapters are considerably more detailed, however, such as his careful exegesis of a Beethoven symphony and an entire chapter on Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. I'd certainly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of concert music in its proper context. At the very least, it struck me as a fine foundation for a more in-depth study, especially if you've never taken a college music class.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    this was a beast that took me nearly forever to read, but i'm thrilled i stuck with it. greenberg does his damnedest to highlight the pertinent socio-political events occurring during the time that "classical" music was composed and why composers created the masterworks they did. all music was intertwined, stemming from roots laid by previous generations and constantly evolving. understanding the context in which it was originally performed lends the modern listener to feel the awe that the firs this was a beast that took me nearly forever to read, but i'm thrilled i stuck with it. greenberg does his damnedest to highlight the pertinent socio-political events occurring during the time that "classical" music was composed and why composers created the masterworks they did. all music was intertwined, stemming from roots laid by previous generations and constantly evolving. understanding the context in which it was originally performed lends the modern listener to feel the awe that the first audiences heard listening to these classic. the author holds a passionate understanding for this and conveys it to the reader.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    At first I didn't know Bach from Beethoven. But this book provided a basic understanding of the history of concert music. There are a few suggestions I would make: A) do the music boxes. I didn't and I think it would have improved the experience. B) either play the music or have someone do it for you. Just reading the book is like reading a screenplay without watching the actual movie. Looking at you Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. C) never fry chicken shirtless. It's just not cool. However, At first I didn't know Bach from Beethoven. But this book provided a basic understanding of the history of concert music. There are a few suggestions I would make: A) do the music boxes. I didn't and I think it would have improved the experience. B) either play the music or have someone do it for you. Just reading the book is like reading a screenplay without watching the actual movie. Looking at you Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. C) never fry chicken shirtless. It's just not cool. However, the author really seemed knowledgeable and it's well worth the time.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I appreciated the inclusion of music as I wasn't familiar with a lot of the pieces he talked about. One of my favorite parts: "In their own lifetimes, Johann Sebastian Bach's music was criticized for being impenetrably complex; Haydn's for being too facile; Mozart's for being overly long and complicated; Beethoven's for being virtually unfathomable and without melody; and hey, Johannes Brahms was called a 'giftless bastard,' by the composer Peter Tchaikovsky no less!" (272)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    In preparing for a trip to Europe that includes Salzburg and a night listening to Mozart and Strauss, I found this book provided a lovely foundation for my already growing love of classical music. The reading might have been easier if I had had the CDs that accompany the book but I was able to make do with my library's downloadable music collection. I recommend this one for anyone with a desire to learn about classical music and the musicians who created the classics.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jaroslav Tuček

    This is a decent introduction to the history of classical music and as long as you approach it as such it will not disappoint. Whether the book can teach anyone how to listen to that kind of music or how to better appreciate the experience is doubtful - it didn't for me anyway. Ultimately, reading about music is probably as good an idea as listening to talks about canvas paintings. I'd recommend buying a selection of classical CDs instead.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hiser

    An excellent book introducing the Western Common Practice (1600-1900) which includes the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods. I have listened to several courses Dr. Greenberg teaches for The Great Courses; they are excellent. This book, a companion to one of those courses, is full of information that, for the most part, is accessible to non-music people like me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Summer Hurst

    Listening to great music Could have been better with out the somewhat pompous attitude did not make me want to listen to great music more though some facts about some great composers were neat

  24. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    Pretty good but very brief overview of Western classical music. Most enjoyable were the deeper studies of specific classical works. The author's sense of humor doesn't always work in places, but it's not too distracting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Jenkins

    bought this for my grandson who is a musician, as am I. Not bad intro to the concept that music is created in a context and it is that context that helps us understand it better.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    A wonderful book. It never claims to be THE definitive guide but reads like a friend who is happily answering all your questions and pointing out some fun and, er, noteworthy stories.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    It's a good book, but I should have bought the print copy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alanko Antti

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rico McCahon

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

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