Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

BBC Four with Radio 3 to celebrate the Symphony this autumn

BBC Four

The BBC is to kick-start its celebration of the Symphony across radio and television with a surprise "Pop-Up" rendition of the finale of Beethoven's 9th Symphony at St Pancras International on Wednesday 2 November at 1pm.

Simon Russell Beale, who presents the Symphony series which begins on BBC Four the following night, will host the 'Pop-Up' event inviting people passing through St Pancras International to come and join in the singing.

Passengers will be serenaded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and massed choir, all led by the BBC SO Principal Guest Conductor David Robertson performing one of the greatest European anthems of all time – Ode To Joy.

Ailish Tynan, Daniela Lehner, Allan Clayton and James Rutherford make up the quartet of soloists for this unique performance which heralds the most in-depth exploration of the Symphony ever undertaken by the BBC.

BBC Four

Symphony: in this landmark series, Simon Russell Beale explores how the Symphony evolved over the last three centuries as one of the most complex and brilliant musical forms of expression. Looking at the lives and the times of the composers who created these masterpieces, Simon explores how Symphony was shaped by the world around it, and in turn, how it shaped the world.

Broadcast weekly in four movements starting on Thursday 3 November 2011 – Genesis And Genius; Beethoven And Beyond; New Nations And New Worlds; and Revolution And Rebirth – Symphony charts the symphony's emergence from the world of aristocratic privilege, how it accompanied the rise of the nations and the fall of empires, and how it became a symbol of freedom, and a tool of totalitarianism.

Throughout the series the lives of some of the greatest composers – Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Sibelius, Copland, Stravinsky and Shostakovich – are brought to life with readings from their letters and diaries through key moments and places linking to their symphonic journeys.

Sir Mark Elder conducts specially filmed music performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hallé and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

And in conversation with Simon, Sir Mark provides insight and analysis of key moments from the symphonic repertoire as the series explores how the symphony has played a role in defining the present, and how it is inextricably intertwined with the development of modern society.

To complement the Symphony programmes, Simon Russell Beale introduces four great archive symphonic performances by four leading British conductors: Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Colin Davis, Sir John Elliot Gardiner and Sir Roger Norrington.

These specially selected archive programmes, each including a complete performance of a work featured in an episode of Symphony, are: Nick Dear's award-winning film Eroica with a soundtrack conducted by Sir John Elliot Gardiner; Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's classic Proms performance of Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony; a rare performance of Sibelius's first symphonic masterpiece Kullervo conducted by Sir Colin Davis; and Sir Roger Norrington's radical take on Mahler's epic Ninth Symphony from this year's Proms season.

BBC Four's Symphony is produced by BBC Classical Music TV with the Open University.

BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3

In a month-long celebration of Symphony on BBC Radio 3 from 4 November to 2 December, listeners have the chance to hear complete performances of over 60 symphonies, including each symphony featured in the BBC Four series, from Haydn to Shostakovich.

From 4 November Radio 3's Drivetime programme In Tune invites listeners to be in touch with their Essential Symphonies by email/text/twitter @bbcr3intune. Throughout the month famous musicians and musical enthusiasts share their favourites including Alexander Armstrong, Joan Armatrading, Brian Blessed, Antonia Fraser, Alan Hollinghurst, James Naughtie, Will Self, Penny Smith and Rufus Wainwright.

Afternoon On 3's symphony cycle includes performances from all the BBC Orchestras around the UK.

On Tuesday 15 November, Radio 3 recreates the notorious concert of 22 December 1808 when Beethoven premiered his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, and Fourth Piano Concerto, together. This epic programme is performed by the BBC Philharmonic (Sixth Symphony) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Fifth Symphony).

The baton is then handed to In Tune with jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock performing a piano improvisation on Beethoven 5, followed by the Choral Fantasy.

Simon Russell Beale explores further the music connected with the cities he visits in the BBC Four series in Saturday Classics on BBC Radio 3.

In a six-part series starting on 9 November, Sue Perkins and Tom Service blow away the myths and unpick the mysteries surrounding the symphony in Symphony Question Time. Together they explore why the symphony is considered the pinnacle of classical music; how the genre first originated; who wrote the first one; whether a symphony should be about logic and form, or be an encapsulation of the whole world with a host of musical excerpts from Haydn to Hovhaness, Mozart to Mahler, Beethoven to Berio.

To submit questions visit Radio 3's Facebook page ( or Twitter (@BBCRadio3 – add the 'hashtag' #r3symphonyqt to the end of your question). Or you can send an email to

Music Matters picks up where the BBC Four series ends on 26 November by exploring the development of the symphony from 1945 onwards in post-war Europe, USA and beyond. Presenter Tom Service is joined by conductor Marin Alsop, composer David Matthews, and Managing Director of the Barbican Centre Nicholas Kenyon to discuss the evolution of the symphony in the context of dramatic global cultural, social and political change, and to consider the future of an essentially traditionalist form.

From 7 November Suzy Klein, Tom Service and Andrew McGregor present Radio 3's Symphony Guide – a daily podcast guide to symphonies broadcast in Essential Classics and available to download at

Side by Side

Pop-Up Symphony is also part of the wider outreach initiative surrounding Symphony which sees all five of the BBC orchestras undertake participatory work with amateur musicians across the UK.

The BBC Concert Orchestra will be working with the Cornwall and Devon Family Orchestras to create a new symphony based on the main themes from Beethoven's 6th Symphony, while the other four BBC orchestras undertake Symphony Side By Side, inviting local musicians to join them playing great works from the symphonic repertoire.

From the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Wrexham, to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, participants across the UK will have the chance to play symphonies from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky alongside members of the BBC orchestras and under the baton of a professional conductor.

All five events will be reflected in BBC Radio 3's coverage of Symphony. For more information on Side By Side please visit

BBC Four Broadcast Schedule

Symphony: Genesis And Genius
Thursday 3 November 9-10pm

Eroica – award-winning film drama by Nick Dear
Friday 4 November 7.30pm

Symphony: Beethoven And Beyond
Thursday 10 November 9-10pm

Beethoven's Ninth – Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic in a classic Proms performance from 2004.
Friday 11 November 7.30pm

Symphony: New Nations And New Worlds
Thursday 17 November 9-10pm

Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in a rare performance of Sibelius's Kullervo.
Friday 18 November 7.30pm

Symphony: Revolution And Rebirth
Thursday 24 November 9-10pm

Sir Roger Norrington conducts the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony in a radical performance at this year's Proms.
Friday 25 November 7.30pm


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