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!


Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed his second Cello Concerto in D major around the year 1783 although it was at one time attributed to Anton Kraft, a renowned cellist whom Haydn knew well. Anton Kraft studied composition for awhile with Haydn and aslo premiered the work, but musicologists are now convinced that the work was written by Haydn. Haydn likely composed the work for Kraft as soloist since Kraft was such a prominent cellist of the time. A manuscript in Haydn’s writing of this cello concerto, rediscovered in the twentieth century, further confirms the authenticity of this Haydn work which is one of only two authenticated cello concertos by Haydn.

Haydn may have learned much about composing for cello from Anton Kraft; certainly this famous virtuosic cello concerto has been delighting audiences since it was first composed and performed well over 200 years ago!

When you listen to this Cello Concerto by Haydn, you will hear a work in three different sections called movements. You will hear a solo cello perform in virtuosic ways.


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 hear that this concerto is written in three different sections, or movements? They are called:

  1. Allegro moderato (moderately fast and lively)
  2. Adagio (slowly)
  3. Allegro (fast and lively)

Each of the three sections or movements also has a particular form. The first movement Allegro moderato is written in sonata form. Can you hear the orchestra introduce the two main themes of this movement in the opening introduction (called ritornello)? Can you hear those two different themes then played by the solo cello?

Can you hear how Haydn develops the two lyrical principal and secondary themes introduced at the beginning of the work in different ways throughout this movement, and then returns to the themes at the end of the movement? This kind of compositional development is characteristic of sonata form.

If you have ever heard Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, listen to see if you can hear the similarity between one of the opera’s arias and the opening theme of the first movement!

The second Adagio slow movement in A major is organized in five parts in a way similar to sonata-form. The different sections are all connected by the solo singing melody of the cello throughout.

At the beginning of the slow movement, can you hear a beautiful melodic theme played by the cello accompanied by a few stringed instruments? Can you hear this main theme returning throughout the movement? Can you hear how the music played between the statements of the main theme contains variations or decorations of the theme? Is there one section that has a different mood to the others?

Can you hear any similarities between the opening Adagio theme and the opening first movement Allegro theme?

Do you hear the return of the main theme at the end of the Adagio with a final short cadenza played by the cello?

The third Allegro movement is called a rondo. The rondo movement was a common form for the third movement in this time period. 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 is heard in three different episodes.

Do you hear how the folk-like motif first heard in the cello is used to build the rest of the movement?

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 oboes and horns? Can you hear a harpsichord playing?

When do you first hear the cello? Do you hear the way that Haydn focuses on the cello and treats the cello as a special, solo instrument? Can you hear how Haydn gives the cello brilliant solo passages that feature the cello’s upper register in the opening movement?

Can you hear when the cello gets to play a very difficult, virtuosic section all by itself towards the end of the first movement after the final return of the main themes? 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 Although this concerto does not have the dramatic tension and contrast that can sometimes be heard in Haydn’s works, the composer does 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 throughout the concerto.

Can you identify the mood Haydn is trying to create in each movement? Can you hear a change in mood when Haydn writes a section of the second movement Adagio in a minor key?

Haydn was known for the good humour that can be heard in some of his writing. Can you hear that cheerful, good humour in the final Allegro movement? Can you hear where Haydn gives the cello soloist opportunities to demonstrate virtuosic technique?

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)? Which movement features legato sounds? Where do you hear suddenly loud sounds (accents)?

4 How is rhythm used in this cello 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?

The opening movement begins with a gentle rhythmic pattern that sounds like “Who’s knocking knocking please--come in.” Do you hear that pattern in the first movement? Can you hear the “knocking knocking” rhythm motif in the second theme of the first movement?

Part of the first movement theme 1 rhythmic pattern is heard again in the opening of the second movement Adagio—can you hear the little “please—come in” motif in the cello?

Can you hear any other repeated rhythmic patterns in other movements? Did any particular rhythmic pattern stand out for you that you could listen for in this symphony?

5 How is melody or pitch used in this cello 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 cello 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?

Can you hear that the opening melody (theme) in the first movement is pitched in a high register and the second melody (theme) is pitched in a lower register? 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 cello 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 Haydn adds different instruments to the strings? Can you hear when the strings are playing alone and when they are playing together with the cello and other instruments?

Can you hear different qualities of sound when the oboes, horns, and harpsichord play with the cello and orchestra?


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?

2 What adjectives might describe the mood that you felt when listening to this cello F? 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 Haydn help make this work energetic? Did you hear parts of the cello concerto that made you feel peaceful or calm and if so, what part of the cello 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 Cello 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 Haydn’s second Cello concerto.

6 What feelings did it seem that Haydn 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 Haydn that you could listen to and compare to the sounds and experience of the Cello Concerto in D major?