One of the most thrilling cultural experiences is to hear live symphony-orchestra music build up from a whispering passage to a monumental fortissimo. The impact of such a crescendo has been thought to depend only on the musicians' skill, but here we show that interactions between the concert-hall acoustics and listeners' hearing also play a major role in musical dynamics. These interactions contribute to the shoebox-type concert hall's established success, but little prior research has been devoted to dynamic expression in this three-part transmission chain as a complete system. More forceful orchestral playing disproportionately excites high frequency harmonics more than those near the note's fundamental. This effect results in not only more sound energy, but also a different tone color. The concert hall transmits this sound, and the room geometry defines from which directions acoustic reflections arrive at the listener. Binaural directional hearing emphasizes high frequencies more when sound arrives from the sides of the head rather than from the median plane. Simultaneously, these same frequencies are emphasized by higher orchestral-playing dynamics. When the room geometry provides reflections from these directions, the perceived dynamic range is enhanced. Current room-acoustic evaluation methods assume linear behavior and thus neglect this effect. The hypothesis presented here is that the auditory excitation by reflections is emphasized with an orchestra forte most in concert halls with strong lateral reflections. The enhanced dynamic range provides an explanation for the success of rectangularly shaped concert-hall geometry.