The MCO understands the importance of music education, which is why we’ve developed a unique instructional resource for teachers and parents. Written by music educator Beryl Peters, Ph.D, MCO’s Listening Guides provide a clear and thorough analysis of the repertoire featured in our concerts. They offer a perfect primer to the great works of Bach, Beethoven, Britten and beyond for K-8 and 9-12 students — with engaging historical anecdotes and simple theory for younger students, and more complex information for older students. Indeed, just about anyone can learn a thing or two from our MTS Future First Listening Guides … so dig in!


Ludwig van Beethoven composed the Piano Concerto No. 2 over a number of years and it was finally published in 1801. Beethoven enjoyed performing this concerto as it showed off his talents both as a piano soloist and as a composer. You can read Haley Rempel’s comments about this work on the MCO website to find out more about Beethoven and this work here.

When you listen to this Piano Concerto by Beethoven, you will hear musical elements that give this work a sense of drama and contrast.


Manitoba Music Curricular Connections

9-12 Making: The learner develops competencies for listening by listening critically with discrimination and purpose to:

  • situate and contextualize music (e.g., cultural/ ideological/historical/social contexts, music style, genre, tradition, or praxis, etc.)
  • support enjoyment and understanding of music
  • make and interpret music expressively and creatively
  • inform analysis, interpretation, judgement, appreciation, and evaluation

K-8 Understanding Music in Context: Demonstrate awareness of the intended meanings and/or purposes of music encountered in own performance and listening experiences

9-12 Connecting: The learner develops understandings about the significance of music by connecting music to diverse contexts.

The following questions can help you listen to this work:

1 Can you identify the form (organizational structure) of this piano concerto?

Can you hear that it is written in three different sections, or movements? They are called:

  1. Allegro con brio (fast, lively)
  2. Adagio (slowly)
  3. Rondo Molto Allegro (a music form called a rondo played very fast)

Each of the three sections or movements also has a particular form. The first movement Allegro con brio is written in sonata form. Can you hear a main theme introduced by the orchestra at the beginning of the work that Beethoven develops in different ways throughout this movement, and then returns to at the end of the movement? This kind of compositional development is characteristic of sonata form.

The second Adagio slow movement is a three part form called ABA or ternary form. Can you hear themes in the first part of this movement, then a contrasting section, and then the sounds repeated from the first section again?

The third movement is called a rondo. In rondo form, a main theme is repeated before and after contrasting sections. The repeated theme is called the A section. The contrasting sections are called B, C, D etc., depending on how many different sections the composer decides to compose. In this rondo the repeated theme and contrasting sections create an ABACABA form. This means that the main theme (A) is heard 4 times with two different sections (B and C) heard in between the A sections.

Beethoven also includes a musical joke in the rondo for his audience and musicians of the time. Just before the last A theme is heard, Beethoven writes the music in a different key to what the musicians and audience would have expected at that time in Europe. Can you hear where the sounds of the rondo in the final A section sound like they change as Beethoven ‘corrects’ the final key of the rondo for his audience and orchestra?

2 What Instruments can you hear in this concerto? How many performers are playing onstage? What string instruments do you hear (violin, viola, cello, double bass)? Can you pick out when you hear the flute, oboes, bassoons, and horns?

When do you first hear the piano? Do you hear the fast notes that sound very close together when the piano is first heard?

Do you hear the way that Beethoven treats the piano as a special, solo instrument? Can you hear when the piano is given an important part to play? Can you hear when the piano gets to play a very difficult section all by itself towards the end of the first movement? This showy section is called a cadenza. Can you hear when the orchestra plays by itself or when different instruments can be heard above the rest? Which instruments are given the predominant melodies or themes in this work?

3 Can you identify the mood Beethoven is trying to create in each movement? How does Beethoven use tempo (the speed of the music), dynamics (the volume of the music), and expression (musical elements that express certain feelings or dispositions) to create different moods?

Which movements use mostly fast music? Which movement uses mostly slow music? Can you hear when the tempo of the music changes and gets faster or slower? How does that affect the mood of the work?

Was the music played at all the same volume (dynamics)? When do you hear music played loudly? Quietly? When do the dynamics change and what effect does that create? When does the music get louder (crescendo) or get quieter (decrescendo)?

Do you hear musical sounds that are short sounding (staccato) or very smooth sounding (legato)? Do you hear suddenly loud sounds (accents)?

4 How is rhythm used in this piano concerto? Do you hear sections that have a steady rhythm or beat that you could tap to? Did any particular rhythmic pattern stand out for you that you could listen for in the work? Was there a particular pattern that you could hear repeated anywhere in the work?

5 How is melody or pitch used in this piano concerto? Do you hear high sounds or pitches? Do you hear low sounds or pitches? Can you pick out a particular melody played by the orchestra instruments or piano in each of the three movements? Can you hum or sing that melody? Could you draw the shape of the melody in the air? When does it move up higher and when does it move lower?

Do you hear a melody in a certain instrument that is then played by a different instrument?

Can you hear a melody that is repeated over and over again in the third section or movement of the piano concerto? A piece where a melody keeps coming back after different or contrasting sections is called a rondo.

6 Can you hear different kinds of texture in this work? Where do you hear lots of instruments playing together so that the sound is thick? Where do you hear just a few instruments playing? Can you tell which instruments are playing?

7 What kinds of instrumental timbre do you hear? Timbre is the different qualities of sound that can be heard, for example the kinds of sounds that the string instruments make when they play together. When does the timbre of the music change because Beethoven adds different instruments to the strings? Can you hear when the strings are playing alone and when they are playing together with the piano and other instruments?


Reflections and Responses (K-8 Valuing; 9-12 Responding)

Grades 9-12 Responding

The learner develops and uses critical reflection and thinking for music learning:

  • the learner generates initial reactions to music experiences
  • the learner critically listens to, observes, and describes music experiences
  • the learner analyzes and interprets music experiences
  • the learner constructs meanings about music experiences

Grades K-8 Valuing

Students analyze, reflect on, and construct meaning in response to their own and others’ music:

  • students analyze their own and others
  • musical excerpts, works, and performances
  • students form personal responses to and construct meaning from their own and others’ music

1 What is your immediate response to this music? Does this music sound like any other music you have heard before? What does this music make you think of? Have you ever heard the opening of Beethoven’s fifth symphony? It has a famous four note opening that is often used in films and on TV. If you have ever heard Beethoven’s fifth, does it sound anything like his second piano concerto? What music elements might be similar?

2 What adjectives might describe the mood that you felt when listening to this piano concerto? Can you identify what musical elements may have created that mood for you? When did the mood change and why?

3 What musical elements did you enjoy or find interesting? Did you enjoy the melodies that you heard? Did the rhythms, dynamics, or tempos used by Beethoven help make this work exciting? Did you hear parts of the piano concerto that made you feel peaceful or calm and if so, what part of the piano concerto were they in? Were there any parts that sounded playful to you? If so, which movement did you hear them in?

4 Were there parts of the Piano Concerto that you did not enjoy? Why or why not? Can you identify which music elements made you enjoy or not enjoy the music?

5 Different people often have different responses to the same music. Ask someone else who heard the same music about their response to BeethovenÕs second piano concerto.

6 What feelings did it seem that Beethoven was trying to communicate to his audience about this work? What music elements seemed to be important to him?

7 Is there other music by Beethoven that you could listen to and compare to the sounds and experience of the Piano Concerto No. 2?