How to Listen to Great Music for Orchestra

Online Course from Juilliard and the Berliner Philharmoniker

Discover the foundations of listening to orchestra music through five key orchestra pieces from Baroque through the 20th century, gaining insights that will enrich your listening for life.

The course was developed by Dr. L. Michael Griffel, chair of Juilliard's music history department, and features members of the world-renowned Berliner Philharmoniker.

Through video examples and interactive online instruction, you will deepen your knowledge of a range of orchestra music and composers so you can confidently find classical music that you like, whether attending a concert or listening on Spotify.

What You'll Learn

In this six-week online course, you will become familiar with five important orchestral works that span styles and genres, written by notable composers Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, R. Strauss, and Bartók. You will learn:

  • What to listen for to appreciate orchestra music without feeling intimidated.

  • The roles that key instruments play in these works of music, and how they interact.

  • How to identify which era a piece of music is from, including Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century.

  • How to compare these five major orchestral pieces with orchestral pieces by other great composers.

  • What to listen to next to continue your enjoyment of orchestra music beyond the five pieces in the course.

Course Contains

Full HD Video Performances by the Berliner Philharmoniker

Playing notable works composed by Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Bartók.

5 HD Instructional Focus Videos

Dr. L. Michael Griffel illuminates the history of five featured pieces of orchestral music, from the life of each composer, to why each piece was written, to the impact that each piece had on the course of history.

5 HD Expert Insights Videos

Behind-the-scenes interviews with musicians from the Berliner Philharmoniker with key insights about these pieces from a musician's perspective.

Interactive Discussion Group

Join your peers in written discussion with your Juilliard Course Fellow to get all of your questions answered throughout the course.

3 Exclusive Live Stream Events

Including a live Q&A with Dr. L. Michael Griffel.

5 PDF Listening Guides

Detailed downloadable listening guides for each key piece, so you can follow along as you listen and understand what you are hearing, even if you don’t read music.

Curated Orchestra Playlist

Juilliard-curated playlists of recommended orchestral pieces to continue your listening beyond the course.


Free 60-day ticket to the Berliner Philharmoniker's acclaimed Digital Concert Hall, plus 30% off future tickets. Watch and listen to classical music's finest conductors and soloists – live, on-demand or on the go as it suits you.

Course Outline & Schedule

This online course is on a flexible weekly schedule, with new course modules released that you may complete at your own pace before the end of each week. For best results, we recommend setting aside 2.5–3 hours per week for interacting with course materials.

  • Week of May 15: Introduction to Juilliard’s Guide to the Orchestra

  • Week of May 22: The Orchestral Suite: Handel, Water Music Suite No. 1 in F major (1717)

  • Week of May 29: The Solo Concerto: Mozart, Piano Concerto in E-flat major, K. 271 (1777)

  • Week of June 5: The Symphony: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D minor (1824)

  • Week of June 12: The Symphonic Poem: R. Strauss, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1895)

  • Week of June 19: The Orchestral Concerto: Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra (1943)


No prior knowledge or courses required. Age 13 and up.

100% Guaranteed

If you are unsatisfied with your results from the course, you may email us within the first 14 days of the course start date and we will offer you a full refund.

Statement of Accomplishment

Those who successfully complete this course will receive a Statement of Accomplishment.




6 weeks

This course is not open for enrollment.

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Meet the instructor

Dr. L. Michael Griffel

I am an alumnus of Juilliard, have been teaching music history for more than 45 years, and have been the chair of Juilliard’s Music History department since 2005. I am passionate about the rich stories contained within music history, and never tire of witnessing the joy of students discovering a piece of music that really resonates with their modern experience.

If you would like to learn the ins and outs of listening to truly remarkable works of orchestral music, I’d love to be your guide.

Course Details


2 hours/week


Music Appreciation - Orchestra


Basic - No previous knowledge required



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