How to listen to a symphony

Sunday 18 October, 13.10 until 13.50, Garden Room, Barbican Festival Attractions

The word ‘symphony’ evokes all that’s intimidating and difficult about classical music. Symphonies are often inordinately long, they swarm with complicated, many-layered sounds, and they’re puzzlingly divided into movements. How should one listen to them?

Ivan Hewett believes it is a question that cannot be answered: there is no ‘should’ when it comes to listening to a symphony. Instead, he offers a few signposts and helpful metaphors. The aim is to treat the symphony as a narrative in sound, to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than a code to be laboriously cracked.

Part of Sound Unbound

Listen to the debate

Ivan Hewett
chief music critic, Daily Telegraph; professor, Royal College of Music; broadcaster; author, Music: healing the rift

Huw Humphreys
head of music, Barbican Centre

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