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Publisher's Summary

In his 16 quartets for two violins, viola, and cello, Beethoven created a Mount Everest for string players and some of the most sublime, unforgettable music ever written. In this musically rich 24-lecture series, Professor Greenberg guides you in a deep encounter with these majestic works of art, offering you the rare opportunity to grasp the musical riches and spiritual greatness of the quartets in a clear and accessible way.

You'll uncover the musical underpinnings of the luminous beauty, emotional depth, and dramatic scope that make these quartets legendary; examine the inner workings of one of history's most innovative minds; learn the "ritual template" of the Classical string quartet; and probe the seminal innovations of Haydn and Mozart within the template, as they set the stage for the explosive arrival of Beethoven.

The heart of this series is a movement-by-movement exploration of the individual Beethoven quartets, revealing the arc of the composer's fierce independence and imagination as he brings to the string quartet an expressive, formal, and narrative range undreamed of by earlier musicians. You'll delve deeply into the musical innovations that underlie Beethoven's creativity in these works, including "motivic" development, originality, and contextual use of form.

Each of these lectures is a rare and life-enriching opportunity to know the scope of Beethoven's genius, his most unforgettable music, and the profound humanity and beauty that live through them.

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The String Quartets of Beethoven

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  • David
  • 17-08-17

Detailed; semi-technical; historical context

Greenberg sprinkles his usual silly jokes throughout, and of course follows the constricting Great Courses format with its fake applause, etc., but *unlike* other Greenberg courses this one is supported by excellent performances and sound reproduction -- and there is a lot of music.

(From the accompanying PDF download:
All of the musical examples from the Beethoven and Mozart string quartets incorporated in this lecture series are performed by the Alexander String Quartet. Many are drawn from the quartet’s recordings for the FoghornClassics label.)

My Audible purchase includes a helpful 157-page PDF download, dated 2009, including a good bibliography.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Sean
  • 15-05-15

Another excellent series

Professor Greenberg once again guides you through a difficult subject with sharp insights and great wit.

Like his symphonies, Beethoven's string quartets span his entire career and offer great diversity in terms of composition and expression. Having an authority like Dr Greenberg walk you through them and provide context makes them that much more enjoyable.

BONUS: The Alexander String Quartets' recording is available for free in Amazon Prime Music.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. Johnson
  • 21-10-20

Sifting through jokes for insights

Greenberg's jokey asides are well-known, but he lays them on particularly thickly here, though I cannot imagine what it is about the Quartets that inspires this choice. Were his jokes insightful or in any way pertinent to the music it would be one thing, but they invariably serve only to lower the tenor of his discourse and to distract. My theory is that this is the American mass cultural way of apologizing for loving high art; it is deemed necessary to throw in some irrelevant baseball analogies, some cringy puns, and slang quotations from uncle so-and-so to relieve us of the embarrassment of being high-brow. The reality, I hope, for most people listening this is that we don't care whether it's high- low-brow - this is profound, life-changing music produced by a singular genius, and we want to study it because we already love it and we wish to deepen our understanding and enjoyment. It is an expression of the divine, and muddying it with near-constant goofiness and demotic drivel is frankly insulting to both listener and composer.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Eric Foss
  • 20-01-21

Great material if you can stand the presentation

This is the third of Dr. Greenberg's courses that I have listened to. ("How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" and "The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works" were the others.) It is a shame that Greenberg seems to feel compelled to continuously show us how clever and funny he is rather than simply sharing his considerable understanding of the music. I have learned a lot from each of his courses, and they have added tremendously to my enjoyment of "classical" music. But the endless use of modern "hip" phrases, shortening composers' first names to folksy nicknames (e.g. "Yo, Freddy" in relation to Chopin), constant changing of his voice to put on a French accent or feign outrage, etc. interferes with my ability to learn the truly valuable information that he has to share. And the "look at me, see how funny and clever I am!" act is liberally mixed with pretentious phrases, like the use of the royal "we". (Every time I hear him say "we quote" to preface a quotation, I think, "We? You and who else?".) From the other reviews, it is clear that some people appreciate Greenberg's speaking style, and I have learned so much from his courses that I will probably purchase at least one or two more. But I wish that listening to them could be an enjoyable experience - as it should be, since Greenberg's knowledge is deep and his analyses are interesting. Instead, when I am continually cringing in anticipation of his next attempt to show us how funny he is, these courses end up being things that I'm very glad to have listened to, but also very glad when they're over.

To conclude on a more positive note: One thing that is particularly nice about the Beethoven quartets course is the musical contributions of the Alexander Quartet, made specifically for the course. It was both interesting and revealing to hear individual parts of quartets played separately and then combined again into the whole.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 28-04-17

Again and again!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The Great Courses are great--but Dr. Greenberg is the greatest! I find myself returning to my favorite lectures and listening with more insigh and enjoyment to the piano sonatas, the violin quartets, to all the works that are now open to me because of Dr. G!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Vic
  • 26-04-17

Great Read

I did not know there'd was so much detail about music study and Beethoven. I recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • LIZ G.
  • 30-12-18

Addictive and Annoying!

These podcasts are addictively interesting, I listen to them everywhere, they are such an easy way to gain a passing understanding of a whole subject. The performance of Robert Greenberg is at times annoying and occasionally excruciatingly cringeworthy, however, to the point of trivialisation of an interesting issue. Overall very good, despite the ‘Americanness’ in places.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 23-09-20

Lively introduction to the quartets

Analysis and examples with quite a lot on Beethoven's life and times thrown in. Deft explanations of theory are given where necessary.

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  • Nicholas
  • 16-11-19

Amazing

Learnt so much in this journey. Highly recommended.

Robert Greenberg is highly talented at delivering these lectures and the interweaving of biographic and contextual material interlaced with each quarter - broken down and played part by part - means this complex subject is digestible for those even without music theory knowledge.

Thanks!