Music as a Mirror of History by Prof. Robert Greenberg (The Great Courses)

If you take a long, hard look at the worlds of art, music, and literature, they all run parallel to one another.  They often reflect similar ideas from similar regions at the same times.  This is not coincidence.  As the old adage goes, “art reflects life reflects art.”  This means that while we can appreciate such artistic expressions free from all historical and social relevance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.  Quite the reverse, to get the most appreciation and understanding out of any work of art, one must know about the history that brought it about.

This particular series from The Great Courses is all about that very idea as it relates to music.  Rather than focusing on musical works that define a bygone age (such as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture), this series focuses upon works that were of their time and place, inspired and created directly in the fires of history, for example, Beethoven’s “Eroica,” Symphony No. 3.  The pieces in question range across the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, across continents, across cultures, and across two world wars.  The result is some in-depth exploration of some of music’s greatest masterpieces.  Know the history, know the composer… feel the music.

Professor Robert Greenberg is one of TGC’s leading musical instructors.  He’s the natural choice for a series of this magnitude.  I’ve listened to several of his lecture series before and have reviewed a handful of them.  His presentation style takes some getting used to, but his knowledge and enthusiasm seems to know no bounds.  And he hasn’t let me down yet.  This series reflects my own attitudes towards how I approach my continued education, so it was a no-brainer that I’d jump on it as soon as I discovered it.

One of the best uses of the audiobook format, TGC allows copyright free performances of the musical selections, which Dr. Greenberg makes full use of.  He doesn’t play the full piece, but he will play enough to get the points across.  The rest is up to you.  If you take advantage of something like this, it will completely change the way you approach music, assuming you don’t already have similar listening habits in place.  If you do, this will reinforce your habits, and either way, it’ll make you better appreciate the pieces chosen for this particular course, regardless of your musical inclinations.

5 stars