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Sydney Symphony is launching 'Symphony Hour' at the Town Hall

Ben Neutze

It can be hard to know where to start if you want to dip your toe into the classical music pond. Each year our city's biggest orchestras play a heap of concerts from massive symphonies you can probably hum (even if you can't name them) through to newly commissioned or experimental works that can challenge the audience as much as the musicians. Tickets can also be expensive and the programs can feel pretty long after a day's work.

But Sydney Symphony Orchestra is keen to help some of us overcome our classical misgivings and is introducing a new program in 2020 that's perfectly designed to fit around a busy social calendar and tight budget. Symphony Hour is a series of concerts featuring much-loved works from the classical canon that last just an hour. The performances have a flat-rate of $49 and all kick off at the Sydney Town Hall at 7pm. So you can come straight from work, swoon to a tune, then get to your dinner reservation by 8.30pm. The first in the series is Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, conducted by Finnish maestro Pietari Inkinen (February 19 and 20) followed by a double bill of Debussy and Rimsky-Koraskov (March 11 and 12), Shostakovich's fifth symphony (April 22 and 23), Brahms' fourth symphony (September 9 and 10) and Mahler's fourth (November 11).

The concerts will take place in the grand surrounds of Sydney Town Hall, which is the orchestra's new home in 2020 and 2021, while the Opera House's Concert Hall is undergoing major renovations. It's a homecoming of sorts for the orchestra, which played at Town Hall from its formation in 1908 through to the opening of the Opera House in 1973. The Town Hall is a more intimate auditorium than the Opera House's Concert Hall, so while audiences might miss out on the spectacular harbour views for the next two years, they'll get to hear and see the orchestra up close and personal.

The orchestra today announced its full program, with some starry conductors stepping in to lead the players. You can check out the full 2020 season at and either take out a subscription now or book single tickets when they go on sale later this year.

Looking for more affordable arts experiences? Check out the best exhibitions in Sydney and our guide to cheap theatre tickets.

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