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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas by Curtis Institute of Music

4.8
stars
543 ratings
130 reviews

About the Course

Our relationship to Beethoven is a deep and paradoxical one. For many musicians, he represents a kind of holy grail: His music has an intensity, rigor, and profundity which keep us in its thrall, and it is perhaps unequalled in the interpretive, technical, and even spiritual challenges it poses to performers. At the same time, Beethoven’s music is casually familiar to millions of people who do not attend concerts or consider themselves musically inclined. Two hundred years after his death, he is everywhere in the culture, yet still represents its summit. This course takes an inside-out look at the 32 piano sonatas from the point of view of a performer. Each lecture will focus on one sonata and an aspect of Beethoven’s music exemplified by it. (These might include: the relationship between Beethoven the pianist and Beethoven the composer; the critical role improvisation plays in his highly structured music; his mixing of extremely refined music with rougher elements; and the often surprising ways in which the events of his life influenced his compositional process and the character of the music he was writing.) The course will feature some analysis and historical background, but its perspective is that of a player, not a musicologist. Its main aim is to explore and demystify the work of the performer, even while embracing the eternal mystery of Beethoven’s music itself. This season's Curtis courses are sponsored by Linda Richardson in loving memory of her husband, Dr. Paul Richardson. The Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation supports Curtis's lifelong learning initiatives....

Top reviews

M

Jun 03, 2020

This course and Mr. Biss' immense knowledge of Beethoven's sonatas and that era has given me a new interest in classical music. I can understand and speak about it more confidently than ever!

JR

Aug 23, 2016

Fascinating trip through the marvellous Beethoven sonatas.\n\nAlthough I love them since many years, I'm very happy to see that It's always possible to progress.\n\nMany thanks Jonathan.

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1 - 25 of 129 Reviews for Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

By Eduardo A d C L

Dec 05, 2015

I have taken many courses by now, however this course brings to mind the fantastic "A brief history of time". Both go above and beyond my wildest dreams, leaving my expectations so far as to be unable to recall them.

I learned not only about Beethoven the composer; but developed a greater appreciation for him and his music, for his predecessors and those who followed his footsteps, the sonata form and many other forms, and perhaps more important to ponder about the nature of music itself and it's relevance in our life. His presentation of the musical question, quotation, program music, and the notion of "jokes" exposed and explained a musical paradigm far broader than affective or cerebral qualities.

It stems from these observations that there is a very rich and capable language with its own strengths and weaknesses. In this case, the history of Beethoven's sonatas is then a very close look at a critical point in the life of this language that binds multiple stages into a consistent whole.

This subjects quasi universal nature, spans multiple cultures and allows us to look into snapshots of the experience of life. And this presentation has provided me with the necessary training to be aware of this and also to slowly delve further into this subject. And I find this in itself to be a very significant reason why to study music in the first place.

My deepest thanks to all who made this great work possible

Wither music?

Most certainly :)

By Ashley

Dec 01, 2015

I am only halfway through this course and it is already a favorite out of the handful of courses I've successfully completed through Coursera. Jonathan Biss's passion for the subject matter brought me from an infatuation with Beethoven to a full-on heed over heels love. I am a vocalist, I was classically trained as a child (lately a lot more bluesy) but do not have a strong background in theory. Most of what I know is through an innate understanding of harmony, structure, etc. This is whetting my appetite for musical structure and thoroughly illustrating that musical analysis is so very exciting. There really aren't words for how much I love this course. It has really brought me joy.

By Daniel H

Aug 29, 2017

Jonathan Biss discusses these cornerstones of the piano repertoire with such incredible depth of knowledge, vast understanding of the historical context, incredible insight into the compositional process, and, most importantly, an unending passion and heartfelt love for this music. I not only feel like I learned more than I ever could have discovered on my own, I feel a deeper love for these sonatas than I did before, and feel incredibly inspired by Jonathan's own passion for Beethoven and his piano music. Anyone even remotely interested in piano music, or Beethoven, or classical music, or really any music, MUST take this course.

By Lauren L

Aug 15, 2015

I am about three-quarters of the way through this course and I am completely enamoured with Beethoven in ways that were impossible before taking this course. I love the depth that Professor Biss imparts without ever getting pedantic or overwhelming. I have now listened to all 32 sonatas, some several times more over the past several weeks and I feel so fortunate that I can love this music in a deeper, more passionate way because of the understanding I have gleaned from this class. Highly recommended for all musicians and music-lovers.

By JK

Aug 18, 2015

I rediscover the beauty of Beethoven's piano sonatas through Mr. Biss clear, interesting and engaging lectures. I like the fact that he himself is a performing pianist that made all the demo very enjoyable and convincing.

Also, I did not quite understand the greatness of Beethoven's late sonatas before and now I almost cannot pass by a week without listening to one. Thanks for introducing me to the world of late period of Beethoven. Now there is much more to be explored: string quartets, piano trios, missa solemnis, etc.

By Chris M

Sep 24, 2015

A fascinating course for any classical musician, or keen listener of classical music. Jonathan Biss' passion for his subject, his rich language and his emotion-laden playing combine to engage the participant, so that one is left with not just a better intellectual understanding of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, but also, a much greater appreciation of the pieces themselves and the man who wrote them. Thank you to Coursera, Jonathan Biss and the Curtis Institute of Music for making this course available.

By Warren S

Aug 29, 2017

Jonathan Biss presented a brilliant and in-depth understanding of Beethoven's Sonatas. I appreciated his extraordinary artistry as a concert pianist.

I have been working on many of these pieces for the last three years and found the course truly assisted in my own ability to play the Sonatas capturing Beethoven's insights into the technical, philosophical and spiritual dimensions of these Sonatas. I am ready and waiting for is next course offering!

Warren Stone

By Adrienne F

Aug 26, 2018

This course presents a totally interesting view of the Beethoven Sonatas, zeroing in on a few of them since an exhaustive view would take so many more hours to present. Jonathan Biss is a wonderful pianist and lecturer and the course is fascinating. It has helped me tremendously in both my enjoyment of the importance and variety of the sonatas and in re-evaluating my own performances. Thank you so much for this insight, Jonathan Biss - it is invaluable.

By Michael M

Sep 01, 2015

I'm not a musician and have little knowledge of classical music, but I figured that an on-line course would be a great way to gain some understanding of this type of music. Mr. Biss made the course both enjoyable and educational. While I wasn't able to comprehend all of the concepts, it wasn't for lack of a clear explanation and demonstration. Somehow, I managed to pass all of the quizzes and came away with an appreciation of Beethoven's music.

By Maggie J

Jul 25, 2016

Love love love this course!!!

Jonathan Biss is very well-acquainted with Beethoven's sonatas. His explanations are beautiful and I love how thorough he is! He goes through the fine, minute details of Beethoven's sonatas without sacrificing the zoomed-out view of Beethoven's life and influences as well.

Besides that, Biss is an extraordinary pianist and clearly loves and admires Beethoven's sonatas. I hope he'll keep on adding to this course!

By Kam C F

Jun 24, 2016

In discussing modulation in classical music, one of my classmates said that Beethoven's piano sonatas are bizarre in their styles compared with those Romantic composers like Liszt and Chopin. I don't agree with him, but I don't have enough knowledge to analyze Beethoven's work. The course titled "Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas" provides such a high-level overview of Beethoven's Piano music, I should say Thank you to the instructor!

By Jonathan

Dec 10, 2019

I really like the passion and the way Jonathan talks about the work of Beethoven. It is music to my ears and I always want more. I understand subtleties now that were just unknown to me before. I helps in my own vision about my compositions and will be an inspiration for the future ones to come. Outstanding course! Great for every classical music lovers but especially pianists and Beethoven fans.

By Peter E

Sep 02, 2015

Just superb. Is there a better, more passionate and lucid guide to this extraordinary music than Jonathan Biss? The whole series is utterly compelling. It's made me listen to and absorb the sonatas in a whole new way, and it's opened my eyes to the full scope and scale, beauty and humour of Beethoven's genius in a way I'd never imagined possible. Can't wait for more new lectures in the future.

By Esther K

Jun 14, 2016

For a Beethoven fan (or dare I say geek) this is an absolute joy. I'm 'only' a listener, but passionate enough to take on this wonderful journey through these piano sonatas with Jonathan Biss, he's just awesome and makes me want to come back over and over again ... for more. Please keep adding.

Thank you for this opportunity to learn more about Beethoven and his music.

By Otto V

Mar 01, 2020

I thank Coursera and Mr. Biss so much for the opportunity to learn more about Beethoven's Piano Sonatas. Although I am just an amateur and have not studied music as a career (only a few lessons while I was at college), I believe I can understand at least the main idea behind Mr. Biss teachings. I love music and I would love to keep studying all the 32 sonatas.

By Ats A

Aug 27, 2015

This is a great course! I Highly recommend it to anyone like me struggling to find meaning in musical harmony in general. The interest in sonatas is a great side effect! And the way Mr. Biss emphasizes and explained the passages, this is just extraordinary. I am looking forward to any new courses from this great teacher!

By Cheryl L D

Mar 31, 2016

MORE, MORE, MORE Please

Please make another MOOC, I am dying to hear from you again, Mr. Biss. Thank you for making this learning experience so enjoyable. Your playing is wonderful, and your explanations are clear and concise, making this course a real pleasure to take. Great job, and please do it again!

By Peter A H

Sep 14, 2015

It was an introduction to some really beautiful pieces of music, and a look under the surface that helps appreciate them more; even those that are well known have hidden depths.

I don't have much formal musical education, but I feel I learned something from this course, and enjoyed it greatly.

By Marina S

Nov 01, 2015

I am learning a interesting things about the sonatas I love, even though some musical terminology is above my head. I would prefer a course, where the musical terminology was explained first (tonic, dominant, key, harmony and so on). Still, I am grateful for what I could glimpse though.

By Harry Y

Jan 26, 2019

Jonathan Biss communicates, so profoundly, the essence of the musical experience. He does it with consummate authority, both as an exceptional pianist and as a lover of Beethoven's music. So many MOOC courses end up sagging. This one never sags; it soars to and through its finale.

By Joy S

Dec 18, 2017

I signed up for this because I took a longer class on classical music and loved Beethoven week. This course did not disappoint: instructor's knowledge is comprehensive and his ability to just sit down and play any bit of Beethoven at whim is impressive. Truly enjoyed by me.

By Sebastian R B

Dec 15, 2015

This course provides an excellent overview of Beethoven's most important piano sonatas and the innovations that he made. It is the point of view of a player, not a musicologist, and this makes the lessons quite enjoyable and closely related to the music itself. I loved it.

By Ronald J B

Apr 23, 2016

This course was excellent and I enjoyed it, but I was done with it when they offered more lessons and was very annoyed to get multiple emails telling me I needed to complete the course. I did complete it, as originally offered, and think that should be noted on my record.

By Jill S

Nov 22, 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. It was presented with great knowledge and passion, and despite being full of musical terminology and detail, it was always accessible to me as a non-player. I learned so much about how this wonderful music was structured and composed.

By Michael S

Feb 22, 2016

Fantastic course! Very informative.

I think the second part of the course was improved. Jonathan demonstrating more on the piano (as opposed to just explaining -- as he did more of in the first part) was a great addition.

Looking forward to Jonathan's next concert!