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Great Masters: Tchaikovsky—His Life and Music

Join celebrated Music Historian Dr. Robert Greenberg to dig into the complicated life of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and examine how it was a fundamental component to his renowned compositions.
Great Masters: Tchaikovsky—His Life and Music is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 68.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg's biographies can't be beat! He takes his audience on a musical tour-de-force that not only penetrates the intricacies of the score, but also the psychology of the musicians who composed these pieces.
Date published: 2022-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good material, but lecturer is tiresome It's good to learn about Tchaikovsky's life. Unfortunately, this lecturer is annoying. His speech is clear; I'll give him that. But he uses the same grandiose hand gestures over and over again *ad nauseum*, and acts like he is lecturing a crowd in an auditorium of 500 people instead of talking in a small intimate classroom. Hand gestures are best used moderately and only when they help to emphasize a point. Constantly, incessantly using the same ones, and rather defensively at that, ultimately makes all the gesturing seem pompous and meaningless and pushes people off instead of drawing them in.
Date published: 2022-08-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not enough music! More than enough info about his homosexuality and female relations, way short on music. One lesson has only one short song. Well done if you don't care much about the music itself.
Date published: 2022-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic lecturer Another amazing Professor Greenburgh course, really informative and enjoyable as ever with this lecturer
Date published: 2022-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation Dr. Robert Greenburg never calls it in. The consummate professional, he puts his entire being into sharing the music and biographies of great composers. Tchaikovsky was indeed a masterful composer. We all have heard his music whether we sought it out or not. I danced to "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" from "The Nutcracker" along with the rest of my kindergarten class. My mom said I was great, and no doubt she was correct, even if I had no formal dance training. The music was memorable the rest of my life. "1812 Overture" was one of the first concerts I attended at the Hollywood Bowl back when I could jump in my convertible, pick up a bottle of wine, French bread and cheese, and make a big impression on my girlfriend with a picnic on the lawn for a buck a ticket. That was back when the LA Freeways were only crowded at rush hour, and then only in one direction. Those traffic jams would not even count as anything more than minor congestion these days, but I digress. Most everyone is like me, having been exposed to Tchaikovsky. Unfortunately, it seems some underaged boys were exposed to Tchaikovsky in a different way while he was alive, a shame which resulted to his tragic death far too young for anyone, much less a composer at the peak of his abilities.. Dr. Greenburg revealed lots of stories around other works by Tchaikovsky, most of which he would rate as better than "1812 Overture," although as a troglodyte, I still like the cannons and action. If you listen to a classical channel like Symphony Hall on Sirius/XM on any Sunday drive, you are likely to hear Tchaikovsy's music, and hopefully next time I do, I will remember some of surrounding circumstances. I know I recently shared "Marche Slav" with good wishes for Ukrainians defending their homes not from Ottoman's but from Russia.
Date published: 2022-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg brings him to life! You will listen to the music differently after hearing about his life. We learned so much & enjoy the music more. Can't wait for our community orchestra to start up again after the pandemic years. Highly recommend for anyone wanting a historical & biographical take on this composer.
Date published: 2022-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tchaikovsky’s Anguish … For All The World To Hear With tickets purchased to see “Nutcracker Ballet” I elected to view this course ahead of time as a matter of preparing for the event. Tchaikovsky has always been a favorite of mine, and I was familiar with his works and some of his personal history. That said, I learned a great deal more from taking this course about this musical giant … including his challenges and personal miseries, without which his music (in which he expressed the depth of his feelings) may not have risen to the heights of popularity achieved. We would like to think our heroes are extraordinary in every respect, but that is often not the case. Tchaikovsky was badly flawed, plagued with neuroses, and prone to certain activities that threatened his very life and well being. He lived the drama that we feel in his music. Through this course, we have the opportunity to understand more fully the man who penned his glorious musical masterpieces while also being treated to hearing and learning more about some of those works. Dr Greenberg shines, as always, through his material and presentation. Excellent, most enjoyable course!
Date published: 2021-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Musical Master Presented by A Great Master! Dr. Robert Greenberg is a pure pleasure to learn from. I have been a member of the Great Courses, now Wondrium since 2002, and viewed over 500 lecture sets. Until recently I had no interest in the music courses, then thought I needed to expand away from the sciences, math, philosophy, etc., and grow; and have I ever! Dr. Greenberg is OUTSTANDING in every way. His delivery, humor, musical knowledge, and personality has opened a new world of art I could not have imagine, existed! I now watch his lectures everyday, and listen with a new perspective to the music I had avoided! It is my goal to listen to all 24 of Dr. Greenberg's lecture sets! THANK YOU Dr. Greenberg for for being the educational exemplar I have been looking for!!!
Date published: 2021-12-08
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Overview

Discover why Peter Illych Tchaikovsky exhibits as close a link as you will find anywhere between an artist's inner world and the outward products of his creative activity with Great Masters: Tchaikovsky&;amp;-His Life and Music. Award-winning Professor Robert Greenberg reveals how, as a man, Tchaikovsky was defined by his music, which became an outlet for all the shifting moods of his turbulent soul. Tchaikovsky walked a fine line between his Romantic penchant for expression and the demands of Classical structure; understanding this delicate balancing act, you learn, serves as the key to understanding his musical masterpieces.

About

Robert Greenberg

For thousands of years cultures have celebrated themselves through their music. Let us always be willing and able to join that celebration by listening as carefully as we can to what, through music, we have to say to one another.

INSTITUTION

San Francisco Performances

Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions-which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles-performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands.

He has served on the faculties of the University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Hayward; and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Chicago Symphony. For The Great Courses, he has recorded more than 500 lectures on a range of composers and classical music genres.

Professor Greenberg is a Steinway Artist. His many other honors include three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress. He has been profiled in various major publications, including The Wall Street Journal; Inc. magazine; and the London Times.

You can find more music content from Robert Greenberg on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/RobertGreenbergMusic.

By This Professor

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Introduction and Early Life

01: Introduction and Early Life

Tchaikovsky was an extremely sensitive child, obsessive about music and his mother. His private life was reflected to a rare degree in his music. His mother's death when he was 14 years old was a shattering experience for him—one that found poignant expression in his music.

47 min
A Career in Music

02: A Career in Music

According to Tchaikovsky, Mozart's Don Giovanni was the inspiration for his musical career. After a brief turn as a civil servant, he joined the teaching faculty at the new Moscow Conservatory, and in 1868 his First Symphony was premiered. He was the only composer in Russia at that time with the education, craft, and talent to combine the best of Western European compositional technique with his own Russian heritage.

47 min
The First Masterworks

03: The First Masterworks

The Russian nationalist composer Mili Balakirev championed Tchaikovsky's music and suggested the idea for Tchaikovsky's first masterwork, the Overture-Fantasy Romeo and Juliet of 1869. Tchaikovsky's first two symphonies and the iconoclastic First Piano Concerto were written between 1868 and 1872. His success allowed him to acquire his own apartment, freeing him to lead a double life as a homosexual. Yet he feared public exposure in a country that severely punished homosexuality.

45 min
Maturity

04: Maturity

Tchaikovsky took a number of structural liberties with his First Piano Concerto that drew criticism as well as praise. It soon became a favorite throughout Europe and the Americas. Despite his success, Tchaikovsky lacked confidence in his creative abilities and felt alienated by his homosexuality, which may have forced him to turn inward to a world of self-expression. Swan Lake, written in 1876, revolutionized the way ballet depicted mood, dramatic action, and characters in the tragic story.

47 min
Three Women—Tatyana, Antonina, and Nadezhda

05: Three Women—Tatyana, Antonina, and Nadezhda

In 1877, Tchaikovsky wrote Eugene Onegin, an opera inspired by Pushkin's tale of unrequited love. In July 1877, he married a former conservatory student, Antonina Milyukova. The marriage was such a disaster that Tchaikovsky would attempt suicide. He separated from her that October. He was then exchanging letters with a wealthy widow, Nadezhda von Meck, who became his patroness and lifeline for the next 14 years.

45 min
“My Great Friend”

06: “My Great Friend”

With the generous financial support of Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky lived abroad, and in 1878 resigned from the Moscow Conservatory to compose full time. His Fourth Symphony was premiered in Moscow and was quickly followed by the brilliant Violin Concerto in D Major, which became a pillar of the repertoire within a few years.

44 min
“A Free Man”

07: “A Free Man”

Tchaikovsky's masterwork of 1879–80 is the Serenade for Strings, for which he himself had a special affection. In the 1880s, Tchaikovsky became an international celebrity. He conquered his fear of conducting and promoted his music across Europe. Yet he was still unhappy due to depression and anxiety over public discovery of his homosexuality. In the late 1880s he wrote the Fifth Symphony.

46 min
The Last Years, or Don't Drink the Water

08: The Last Years, or Don't Drink the Water

In 1890, Tchaikovsky lost his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck; she could no longer support him. In 1891, he made a highly successful conducting tour of the United States. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Cambridge University. In August 1893, he completed his Sixth Symphony. On November 4, 1893, he died of self-inflicted arsenic poisoning. It was publicly announced that he had died of cholera. Tchaikovsky's music endures—a unique marriage of Western European compositional technique and passionate Russian nationalism.

46 min