Centre for Continuing Education

Exploring Music Course: Understanding the Symphony

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

Appreciate and learn about music the smart way with Music courses at the University of Sydney.

What is a symphony? For more than two centuries the symphony has represented the summit of a composer’s ambition. But what actually defines a symphony, and how do you listen to one? Learning more about symphonies can deepen your enjoyment of some of the most wonderful music ever composed.

This music course gives you an understanding of what to listen for, and how to get more out of your listening to symphonies. We will explore the structure, history and development of the symphony, and listen to music from some of the greatest symphonies of all time.

Course Outcomes

Upon completion of this exploring music course, it is expected that participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the basic structure of a symphony.
  2. List some great symphonies.
  3. Describe briefly the development of the symphony.

Course Content

This exploring music course covers the following topics:

  • What is a symphony?
  • What is a symphony for?
  • The structure of a symphony
  • The origins of the symphony
  • Mannheim and the rise of orchestral music
  • The Classical symphony: Haydn and Mozart
  • Beethoven’s symphonies
  • The Romantic symphony: Schubert, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky
  • Variations on the symphonic form
  • The Twentieth Century symphony: Mahler, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, Rakhmaninov, Stravinsky, Shostakovich
  • The First Movement: Sonata Form
  • The Second Movement: Theme and Variations
  • The Third Movement: Minuet and Trio Form
  • The Fourth Movement: Rondo Form

Music we will listen to:

  • Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 9
  • Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
  • Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 94, 96
  • Elgar: Symphony No. 2
  • Liszt: A Faust Symphony
  • Mahler: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8
  • Mendelssohn: Symphony Nos. 3 and 4
  • Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 28, 38, 40 and 41
  • Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1
  • Schubert: Symphony No. 8
  • Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
  • Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4
  • Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 3

Intended Audience

This exploring music course is designed for fans of classical music, beginners and experienced listeners alike. No prior musical knowledge is required.

Course Delivery

This exploring music course in Sydney will be richly illustrated with musical examples, illustrations and video clips. The tutor will use the piano to demonstrate musical concepts to the everyday listener. Questions from participants will be encouraged, and there will be room for discussion throughout the course.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion
$132 Limited inc GST
Exploring Music Course: Understanding the Symphony

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - Music”}</p><p>What is a symphony? For more than two centuries the symphony has represented the summit of a composer’s ambition. But what actually defines a symphony,