I was kindly sent a copy of a book by Robert Greenberg to review called “How to Listen to Great Music: A Guide to Its History, Culture, and Heart.” The book has about 330 pages and is organized into 33 chapters.
The content of this book is mostly about its subtitle than about its title. It reads like a history book — which is, of course, important to understanding “how to listen to great music.”
I often find history books (music or otherwise) dry and uninteresting; however, Greenberg’s book is more than tolerable — it is a very enjoyable read! From my years as a college student, I remember that my music history textbooks from college that it was easy to get bogged down in the details and fail to recognize over-arching themes and changes across the centuries. Greenberg, however, got it right! He has a knack for indentifying and bringing out those bigger themes to give the reader a better understanding of the historical and musical developments across the time periods.
Throughout the book, there are little boxes entitled “Music Box” that discuss a particular piece of music and encourage the reader to listen to a recording. There are also occasional black-and-white photographs of composers.
For teachers desiring to brush up on their knowledge of the great composers and their historical contexts, this book is a perfect solution. (I found the book helpful when preparing for my recent music history camp!) It is also an excellent book to recommend to high school or adult student who are interested in music history. Greenberg is careful to define all the terms he uses throughout the book, and his writing style is intelligent and well-written. I greatly enjoyed the sprinkles of humor Greenberg weaves throughout the book. Overall, I highly recommend this book — it is very worthwhile and enjoyable to read!
Disclosure: I was sent a free copy of this book to read, but was not required to write a positive review. As always, my reviews contain my honest opinions!