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!


Mozart wrote at least 41 symphonies and there is evidence that he probably wrote even more. He finished writing his 40th symphony in July 1788. This symphony is one of Mozart’s most performed and admired symphonies and it exists in different versions. You can read Haley Rempel’s comments about this work on the website to find out more about Mozart and the story of this work here.

Click PLAY to watch the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
perform this work in its entirety!

When you listen to this symphony by Mozart, you will hear musical elements that give this work a strong emotional quality. Perhaps you might even feel there is a sense of tragedy, grief, or passionate feelings expressed in this work. The following questions can help you listen to this work.

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

Can you hear that it is written in four different sections, or movements? These movements use forms typical for a symphony written in this classical time period. They are:

  1. Molto allegro (Very fast and lively)
  2. Andante (a slower movement)
  3. Menuetto Allegretto ( A minuet dance form)
  4. Allegro Finale (a fast, lively finale)

Each of the four sections or movements also has a particular form. The first, second, and fourth movements are written in sonata form. Can you hear a main theme introduced by the orchestra at the beginning of these movements that Mozart develops in different ways throughout the movement, and then returns to at the end of the movement? This kind of compositional development is characteristic of sonata form.

The third movement is a three part dance form called a minuet and trio. 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? This particular dance minuet was not intended for people to dance to. Could you dance to this minuet? Why or why not?

2 What instruments can you hear in this symphony? How many performers are playing onstage? What string instruments do you hear (violin, viola, cello, double bass)? Can you pick out other instruments? Which ones?

3 Can you identify the mood Mozart is trying to create in each movement? How does Mozart 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 slower 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? When do you hear music played loudly? Quietly? When does the volume of the music change? 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 symphony? Do you hear sections that have a steady rhythm or beat that you could tap to?

There are many interesting rhythm patterns in this symphony. The opening movement begins with a repeated three note pattern that sounds like Òopen up, open up, open up now!Ó Do you hear that pattern in the first movement?

Can you hear any 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 used in this symphony? Do you hear high sounds or pitches? Do you hear low sounds or pitches? Can you hear when a melody suddenly jumps much higher? The opening of the first movement is sometimes known as the rocket theme because in the opening rhythmic pattern ‘open up open up now,’ the note on the word ‘now’ is suddenly higher than the rest.

There is another rocket sound at the very beginning of the fourth movement that Mozart creates by writing a series of notes that quickly go higher and higher. This was known as a ‘Mannheim rocket.’ Can you hear the Mannheim rocket in the finale of Mozart’s symphony?

Can you pick out other melodies or themes in each of the four movements? Can you hear melodies or themes that are repeated throughout each movement and sound quite different to each other? Can you hear melodies or themes that are louder and more dramatic than others? Do you hear themes are that calmer and gentler? Do you hear where Mozart has lets different instruments take turns playing the same melody or parts of the melody? The contrast of these different themes helps create a sense of drama in this symphony.

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 hear 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 Mozart adds or takes away different 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 heard any other music by Mozart? His music has been used in many films and on TV. If you have heard other music by Mozart, is it similar or different to the Symphony No. 40?

2 What adjectives might describe the mood that you felt when listening to this symphony? 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 Mozart help make this work exciting? Did you hear parts of the symphony that made you feel peaceful or calm and if so, what part of the symphony were they in? Were there any parts that sounded particularly dramatic to you? If so, which movement did you hear them in and why did they feel dramatic to you?

4 Were there parts of the Symphony 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 Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

6 What feelings did it seem that Mozart 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 Mozart that you could listen to and compare to the sounds and experience of the Symphony No. 40?