Für Elise, The World's Most Famous Rondo

This week I want to help you and your kids understand how to start engaging your brains when listening to classical music. In my first post this week, I mentioned the idea of looking for repeated musical ideas. Our minds are very skilled in finding patterns, and so we like to hear things be restated. Research has been conducted to discover the relationship between hearing something and remembering it. It seems the magic number is seven. Essential, you need to hear something seven times for your memory to take over. Obviously, this is not a set rule. Sometimes it will take more than seven times and sometimes less. I think we can remember music better than speech, but that’s just my experience.

In this post, I want to introduce some more music that is easy to hear the repeated section. The first song is from Bach’s Violin Concerto in E Major. Altogether, there are 5 different sections in this work and a lot of repetition. When music is organized in specific ways, we call this form. Form is simply a way to organize the musical ideas and melodies so that they make sense. This part of Bach’s concerto is called a rondo, and we use letters to describe each section. We start with section A. This is also the section that gets repeated. When it finishes, the solo violinist plays the B section with light accompaniment from the orchestra. After this, the A section is repeated just like it was played at the beginning. The pattern continues through all five sections. Altogether, the form is


After you enjoy this masterful violin concerto, I have included what is likely the most well-known rondo in the world, Für Elise. The beginning theme is the A theme and repeated three times overall. The B and C sections offer contrast and variation. See if you and your kids can recognize the A theme every time it is repeated. It might take several listenings to be confident when you hear the A theme again, so take your time and hit the repeat button as you like. You’ll get it!