What is a symphony?

Catherine Bott explores just what makes the symphony as a musical form so satisfying. Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about Classical Music, Sunday 20 July, 9pm.

The term, says Catherine Bott, comes from two ancient Greek words - syn ('together') and phoneh ('sounding'). Nowadays we think of a symphony as a large-scale work for orchestra, but when the word first appeared on a title page at the end of the 16th century it was introducing a much simpler kind of piece altogether, mainly a piece of music to introduce an opera or a ballet. Then, in the early 18th century, Italian composers started to expand these little pieces into three movements: fast, slow and, usually, faster still.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION: The 10 Best Symphonies of All Time >

To illustrate her whirlwind history of the symphony Catherine will have significant examples from Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Berlioz and Mahler.

 

Classic FM Apps

Get the Classic FM app for iPhone, iPad and Android - now with HD audio

rune brodahl horn player

Joyous: this horn player absolutely lets rip during a ballet performance

Backstreet Boys in the style of Bach

The Backstreet Boys' 'I Want It That Way' in the style of a Bach Allemande

Sunshine

Quiz: Answer these questions and we'll tell you what your ultimate summer banger is