Symphony Question Time

Sue Perkins and Tom Service unravel everything you ever wanted to know about the symphony...but were too afraid to ask...

Why are symphonies considered the pinnacle of classical music? Who wrote the first one? Is there really a "Curse Of The Ninth"? And can you be a truly great composer without writing a symphony?

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0120111109

Sue Perkins and Tom Service unravel everything you ever wanted to know about the symphony...but were too afraid to ask...

Why are symphonies considered the pinnacle of classical music? Who wrote the first one? Is there really a "Curse Of The Ninth"? And can you be a truly great composer without writing a symphony?Comedienne Sue Perkins joins Tom Service for the first in a six-part celebration of the most famous - and perhaps scariest - form in classical music.

They're here to blow away the myths and unpick the mysteries surrounding this most venerable form - with a host of musical excerpts from Haydn to Hovhaness, Mozart to Mahler, Beethoven to Berio.

Over the six episodes they'll be looking at questions like how the symphony first originated; whether a symphony should be about logic and form, or be a encapsulation of the whole world; and why people get so darn annoyed when you clap between the movements...

In today's episode, Sue and Tom look at the roots of the symphony - the idea of a 'sounding together' - and try to pin down who wrote the first one, before getting to grips with the so-called "father of the symphony" 'Papa' Josef Haydn.

They'll also be asking you to send in your own questions for their perusal later in the series.

You can submit your queries about anything symphonic by email to r3symphonyqt@bbc.co.uk; alternatively, you can pose your questions on the BBC Radio 3's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bbcradio3), or via Twitter at @BBCRadio3 (hashtag #R3SymphonyQT).

Sue Perkins and Tom Service try to discover the roots of the symphony.

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Today, the pair examine the colossal legacy of Ludwig van Beethoven: a composer in whose hands the symphony became the most important (and perhaps hallowed) musical form.

Sue and Tom also investigate why some symphonies are so darn long, and ponder the thorny question of whether it's ever right to clap between movements...

And they want your questions too! You can submit your queries about anything symphonic by email to r3symphonyqt@bbc.co.uk; alternatively, you can pose your questions on the BBC Radio 3's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bbcradio3), or via Twitter at @BBCRadio3 (hashtag #R3SymphonyQT).

Sue Perkins and Tom Service unravel the mysteries of the symphony.

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In the third programme of the series, the pair look at symphonies with a story to tell...

How can a symphony tell a story? Today's episode explores the rise of the 'programme symphony' in the mid-19th century in the hands of Berlioz, Liszt and Richard Strauss, as a host of composers, from Berlioz to Schumann to Liszt, sought to make their music tell fantastic tales of life, death, sex and the underworld...

But away from these symphonies' explicit texts, in the works of Tchaikovsky and Mahler, a new type of 'extra-musical' symphony gradually developed: musical works with hidden subtexts that hinted at the composers' inner world.

These would come to a peak in the works of perhaps the greatest 20th century symphonist, Dmitri Shostakovich.

Remember, Sue and Tom want your questions! You can submit your queries about anything symphonic by email to r3symphonyqt@bbc.co.uk; alternatively, you can pose your questions on the BBC Radio 3's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bbcradio3), or via Twitter at @BBCRadio3 (hashtag #R3SymphonyQT).

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Sue Perkins and Tom Service unravel everything you ever wanted to know about the symphony, but were too afraid to ask.

Beginnings and endings are the subject of the fourth episode in the series, as Sue and Tom explore the myriad ways that composers have plunged into (as well as tied up) their greatest symphonic statements: from Haydn's "Farewell" to Mahler's First to Sibelius's Fifth.

(And yes, THAT famous opening by Beethoven).

And they want your questions too! You can submit your queries about anything symphonic by email to r3symphonyqt@bbc.co.uk; alternatively, you can pose your questions on the BBC Radio 3's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bbcradio3), or via Twitter at @BBCRadio3 (hashtag #R3SymphonyQT).

Sue Perkins and Tom Service explore symphonic beginnings and endings.

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Sue Perkins and Tom Service unravel everything you ever wanted to know about the symphony, but were too afraid to ask...

What relevance do symphonies have today? In Episode 5 of the series, the pair ask if the social and cultural ideas that gave birth to the symphony are still relevant today - and who's still composing symphonies at the dawn of the 21st century.

Can you be considered a truly great composer if - like Chopin, Verdi and Delius - you haven't written one?

Don't forget, you can join in the conversation on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #r3symphonyqt, or visit the Radio 3 Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bbcradio3

You can also download the whole series as podcasts - visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/symphony.

Sue Perkins and Tom Service on the relevance of the symphony in the 21st century.

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Sue Perkins and Tom Service unravel everything you ever wanted to know about the symphony, but were too afraid to ask.

Ending the series, a roll-call of YOUR questions! You can submit your queries about anything symphonic by email to r3symphonyqt@bbc.co.uk; alternatively, you can pose your questions on the BBC Radio 3's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bbcradio3), or via Twitter at @BBCRadio3 (hashtag #R3SymphonyQT).

Sue Perkins and Tom Service respond to listeners' quesions about the symphony.