This Webinar will begin by defining what contextual knowledge is expected from examiners in top level essay answers, and providing clear perspectives through which a deep understanding of the composer’s intentions can be gained. Clear directions will be suggested for students to research, along with practical and realistic teaching strategies that increase the efficiency of learning and free up lesson time. Deeper analytical points not covered in existing resources will be explored in both excerpts, particularly in relation to the essay criteria for the highest marks. The final part of the Webinar will focus on preparing students for Section A answers based on this set work.


  • Clear and valuable guidance on mastering the context and analysis of an academically dense set work;
  • Essay concerns: examiner-led advice on how to embed context, AO4 and Wider Listening in essays for the highest marks;
  • Clear advice on pertinent vs. irrelevant contextual information and avoiding rabbit holes, and using this and Wider Listening examples to illustrate and justify analytical points in an essay;
  • Mastering Section A demands with this set work, and generating questions for students.
DATES & LOCATION Online | Wednesday 02 December 2020 – 120 minutes 4pm
  • Heads of Department
  • Experienced Teachers
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School webinar
  • A specially prepared folder of detailed notes, practical advice and guidance
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance


4.00 – 4.05pm Welcome and Introduction

4.05 – 4.30pm Contextual Knowledge for the Highest Marks – Directions that Explain Mozart’s Music

  • Distilling big ideas into musical explanations: the singspiel, the Enlightenment, political upheavals and social mirrors, all in Bb major;
  • Opera before, during and after Mozart – key points that place Die Zauberflöte into context, and demonstrating this understanding to the examiner in an essay;
  • The minefield of masonic symbolism: how much is too much?

4.30 – 5.15pm: The Queen’s Aria – Embedding AO4, Context and Wider Listening

  • Alternative perspectives and unlocking the hidden symbolism;
  • The power of words: making the aria immediately accessible to students;
  • The role of the accompaniment in portraying drama;
  • Bending the principles: Mozart and Schikaneder’s approach to ‘static’ arias;
  • Where on earth do I start with Wider Listening?
  • Mozart’s harmonic and textural palette – exploring the Section A treasure trove.

5.15 – 6.00pm: The Quintet – the Power of 2, 3 and 5; Unlocking Context                

  • Under the surface – deeper analytical points often missed;
  • More symbolism, the role of keys and accompaniment figures;
  • Smoke and mirrors: what is Mozart actually doing here?
  • Context and Wider Listening – getting students confident.
  • Ideas for introducing, studying, and mastering this set work.
  • Final thoughts on what examiners would like in a top level essay.


Alex Aitken

Alex Aitken is an A level examiner with Edexcel, and was also on the review team for the GCSE textbook, having written the analysis for Defying Gravity. A former organ scholar of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, he has been teaching for fifteen years in a variety of schools, as well as privately, and is formerly Head of Academic Music and Choirmaster at Stowe School. His unique, innovative and holistic teaching approach has consistently yielded outstanding A level and GCSE results across all components of the specifications and this, alongside wider educational work, has led to being in great demand as a visiting leader of INSET days and departmental reviews in schools across the UK. Alex is currently the Children’s Musical Director and Cover Conductor for Mary Poppins in London; a role he combines with other freelance work as a musical director, pianist and organist (notably with MK Chorale, the National Youth Music Theatre, National Children’s Choir, and CBSO). Alex has composed scores to numerous short films, which have premièred at both BAFTA and the London Film Academy, and holds Licentiate diplomas in piano performance from both the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College London, and the Associate diploma in organ performance from the Royal College of Organists.