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The Music of Richard Wagner  By  cover art

The Music of Richard Wagner

By: Robert Greenberg,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Robert Greenberg
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Publisher's Summary

In these 24 lectures filled with musical excerpts, enjoy a rich and multifaceted exploration of the trailblazing works and outsized life of this historically pivotal composer.

Your immersion in Wagner's art includes the following:

  • The Flying Dutchman (which illustrates several of Wagner's key compositional innovations)
  • Tannhäuser (the saga of a medieval knight torn between two worlds)
  • Tristan and Isolde (Wagner's crowning masterpiece)
  • And, of course, The Ring of the Nibelung (arguably the single most ambitious theater work ever created)

The sheer outlandishness of Wagner's life makes for an endlessly intriguing story, from his desperate escapades outrunning creditors to his obsessive personal relationships to his utopian artistic schemes. In his writings, letters, and public actions, you investigate the often contradictory - and hypocritical - aspects of his personality. And, reflecting on the nationalist spirit of his time, you track his core desire to make "German Art in the service of a German national identity," even as he created a body of works whose communicative power transcends any national boundary.

With Professor Greenberg's passionate and razor-sharp commentary, you'll plumb the fabulous mystery of a man who gave the world something of deeply compelling and universal resonance: music of great genius and a poetry that reveals the depths of the human psyche.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Music of Richard Wagner

Average Customer Ratings
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Wonderful

Where does The Music of Richard Wagner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among the best.

What other book might you compare The Music of Richard Wagner to and why?

This is more extensive than most of Greenberg's introductions to great composers. I generally find that the longer the course, the better it is.

Have you listened to any of Professor Robert Greenberg’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to a great many. This is among the best. Not that it has no flaws (yes, there is a lot of recounting of plots; and Prof.Greenberg's pronunciation of German and French words leaves much to be desired), but Prof. Greenberg speaks with such verve and insight that his presentation of Wagner is both exhilarating and educational.

Any additional comments?

I am not exactly a novice in classical music or in opera (I have seen many of the Wagner operas in German opera houses as well as in Paris), but this audiobook extended and deepened my knowledge and understanding of both the music and the man, and it did so in a most enjoyable and stimulating manner.

I might add that those who are unfamiliar with Greenberg might be put off, as I initially was, by his brash way of speaking and his mispronunciation of foreign words (surprising considering his cultivation and his composer's musical ear). It would be a great shame however to let these keep one away! In time, I began to find his mannerisms more endearing than disturbing — to my own benefit for I have gained much through listening to his lectures.

24 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Missed Opportunity

I have purchased other courses presented by Herr Professor Greenberg and enjoyed them very much. Years ago I actually became very interested in opera through his course on opera appreciation. Having become particularly interested in Wagner's operas I was thrilled to see this course appear in Audible. Disappointment followed.

In his basic introduction to opera course, Greenberg makes periodic corny jokes but they do not detract from the content. This course, however, could be sold by the bushel for the amount of corn. Does he want us to take the subject seriously? Then why the juvenile jokes every 90 seconds? The music excerpts are a pleasant break from Greenberg's stand-up comedy.

Okay, Wagner is a big, tough subject and a little levity can break things up. Agreed. But this constant wisecracking really detracts from the depth of the subject. The girls singing while they spin in a scene from The Flying Dutchman reminds Greenberg of a Nike sweatshop? Please.

A little study of Wagner will lead you to a very complex man and a great artist. His themes are not cut and dry. Pure love doesn't always trump lust. Greed isn't always defeated by altruism. Even the gods are flawed in Wagner's great Ring Cycle. Wagner goes beyond what we would call the predictable plots of today. Bad guy gets killed, Good guy dies by some ironic error. No, Wagner twists around the plots with deep complexity---his characters are torn between choices of heaven and hell with neither choice being clear.

It's a shame to dilute this great art with silly jokes.

2 stars because there is a lot of content of value if you can ignore the childish cracks.

Finally, every one of these stand-up sessions begins and ends with canned applause. Why? If there is a "live" audience, why aren't they laughing at every joke? Maybe they didn't find it funny either? Why not add a laugh track? If we are to yuck it up for 19 hours, give us a laugh track.

If you want to learn about Wagner, get the operas on DVD and enjoy them. Pick up a biography and read it. For a much lighter experience, grab a six pack and settle in to this audio series. Greenberg will bring the corn. I cannot recommend it.

22 people found this helpful

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Wagner for "dudes"

If you could sum up The Music of Richard Wagner in three words, what would they be?

Extensive but bantering.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Wagner, because he is one of the most interesting personalities in history of western art. Sometimes you can hardly believe that such a person was real. An extreme man in an extreme century.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Greenberg tries really hard to make this lengthy course interesting and fun by constant wisecrack comments. If I had a penny for every "dude"… While his motive is admirable, it is very unnecessary; the history of Wagner is interesting enough on it's own. Maybe it is more suited for American listeners.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The most moving parts are the operas themselves. They are such a contrast to the man behind them.

Any additional comments?

Greenberg leaves nothing open for interpretation. He offers one truth and one only. Every opera has one objective meaning as well as all Wagner's actions. On the other hand, Greenberg is a veritable quoting machine which gives him a lot of authority.I learnt so much from this audio book and finished it within a week but the populistic style (and language) will make seek other authors for similar topics.

13 people found this helpful

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Cynicism and Wagner

I’m not sure why Robert Greenberg , who obviously loves Wagner’s musical genius yet possesses such a cynical sarcastic opinion of this complicated , frustrating and yet exhilarating genius felt compelled to host this particular lecture series .
Greenberg’s incessant snarky and sarcastic asides might satisfy and delight a great many listener but this Wagnerite found them exhausting, tedious and ultimately unhelpful.
I do think Greenberg is well informed yet his populist sarcasm left me feeling impoverished and disappointed in this lecture series .

12 people found this helpful

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  • JW
  • 05-01-19

Nibelung revenge against Wagner

This Nibelung, aka failed composer and professor Greenberg, cannot hide his contempt and jealousy for the greatest artist of all time. Not a minute goes by without a snarky, whining, slimy attack on Wagner’s personality, motivations, or creative works. The author endeavors to bring any honorable or noble expression of Wagner down into the gutter. It must be hard for Greenberg and his people to understand that true artists are motivated by more than selfishly collecting as many gold coins as possible. One can easily imagine that Greenberg’s main motivation for this series, other than increasing his gold pile, is to undermine the greatness of Wagner to avenge something Wagner must have said. Maybe Wagner wrote some essay about incapable musicians like Greenberg that hit a raw nerve?

8 people found this helpful

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Greenberg clearly hates Wagner

Greenberg seems to take a great deal of pleasure and running down, insulting and making fun of Wagner and his music. He seems to pretend to admire the composer's artistic genius just enough to give him permission to spread bile and hate throughout Wagner's works and legacy. Repulsive.

7 people found this helpful

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Hard to believe

All just played as a joke. Surprising and disappointing. And not well stated. His Bach course was v good so I expected similar serious analysis.

7 people found this helpful

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excellent, as usual

the courses taught by Prof. Greenberg are always extremely interesting, well paced, well researched and very entertaining.

5 people found this helpful

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Wagner As Accessible

Though Wagner’s music has always moved me greatly, I have avoided immersing myself in his story and have never been to a performance of his work. For me, as a Jew, he has always been anathema. But having come to trust and admire the Western music repertoire as analyzed and taught by Robert Greenberg, I relented recently. Gently, with perspective, realism and humor, he took me into the Wagner story. The Music of Richard Wagner is an immersion in artistic splendor and an unvarnished look at a man who gave himself over to the worst of racist instincts. I cannot reconcile Wagner’s music genius and his evil, anti-Semitic blather. But now, thanks to Professor Greenberg, I don’t have to. Yes, Wagner was a putz of the most awful sort. But I embrace his music and to spite his memory — give the finger to his racist dramatic claptrap.

4 people found this helpful

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Engaging and interesting storytelling!

Where does The Music of Richard Wagner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was really a great listen! Richard Wagner is a super interesting character that everyone should learn about.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Music of Richard Wagner?

When I realised that the opera "Der Ring Des Nibellung" has similar themes to the "the Lord of the Rings" novel by JRR Tolkien. I didn't know that such stories existed in German mythology. It was a revelation!

What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Robert Greenberg brings energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, humour and wit. It was a pleasure to listen to!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Mostly laugh!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 01-31-14

Wagner, the man and the mythos

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

Yes, to anyone put off by the seeming intellectual / artistic /political heights of Wagner thsi course is brilliant in being both informative, engaging and does not place Wagner on a pedestal whilst still acknowledging his artistic greatness.

What other book might you compare The Music of Richard Wagner to, and why?

To any of the other insightful courses of Professor Greenberg

What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

His always lively and engaging tone.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me have an incredibly conflicted view of Wagner - which I think is possibly the best way to view him.

Any additional comments?

I'd urge anyone daunted by Classical music or Opera to try one of Robert Greenberg's courses.

3 people found this helpful

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  • StevenCF
  • 08-21-22

Lectures on Wagner by someone who hates Wagner

These lectures combine a superficial plot summary and even more superficial musical analysis with tired and exaggerated allegations of white supremacism in the operas.

I can't recommend this audiobook to anyone. if you are already woke, you won't be interested in Wagner anyway. if you have an open mind, you will be misled. if you already love the music dramas, you will be annoyed and disappointed.

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  • Thomas H.
  • 07-11-22

Great overview

The integration of explanation and music samples was great. It's no scientific work though, with limited traceable references, and specifically the strong reference to Wagner's (documented) antisemitism might profit from some stronger support. Nevertheless, an extremely enjoyable audiobook

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  • Kindle Customer 007
  • 02-28-22

Succinct.

Well presented and generally enthusiastic about the music. The man himself, Wagner was loathsome. Apart from Die Feen and Rienzi all his other opera stories were pure rubbish. If opera was your forte stick with Verdi, Mozart and Monterverdi. Wagner output is twaddle unfortunately.

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  • emrys
  • 10-16-19

A Wonderful Course

An intricate and deeply enjoyable perusal of the music of Wagner. We study the works of Wagner, perhaps spending too much time on the story aspect, rather than the musical side, which, to me , rather spoiled the lectures.
Whilst I can only give high credit to the lectures as a whole, I did get rather fed up with the emphasis on Wagner's anti -semitism. There is no doubt that this element of Wagner's character, to a modern audience at least, is pretty reprehensible, but there were times I found it rather took over the lectures. I particularly found this in PARSIFAL - my favourite opera.

In spite of the above comments, I thought the whole series of lecture were excellent.

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  • Olly Buxton
  • 02-03-19

Really well pitched and entertaining intro

Professor Greenberg is an entertaining and witty speaker, and balances musical and textual analysis with historical and cultural context. Just the right mix.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S. Dunthorne
  • 07-20-15

Great course!

Would you listen to The Music of Richard Wagner again? Why?

Very informative and I'll revisit sections as I go to see the Operas.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favourite character was Wagner! (daft question!!!)

Which character – as performed by Professor Robert Greenberg – was your favourite?

This is a course not a novel reading! He should lay off the jokes a bit though.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The Ring Cycle and Parsifal.

Any additional comments?

THese prompted reviews aren't a one-size fits all you know Amazon!!

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  • Kevin Viney
  • 06-24-15

Astonishing, larger than life - Wagnerian?

A tremendous introduction to the music and mythology that makes up the life and works of Richard Wagner.

Happy to recommend this as a way into Wagner and all he represents that is easy to listen to and very informative.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-17-18

Review

Poor insight into the operas. Poor introduction to Wagner. Not a serious introduction to Wagner and his works