Listen to extracts from music for films starring "heroic" figures: Rocky, Superman, Buzz Lightyear, Batman, Robin Hood etc. What features, if any, do the "hero" themes have in common? How often are brass instruments used? How often do we hear something like a fanfare? How often is the music loud?
The romantic concerto was sometimes conceived as a contest between a "heroic" solo instrument and the rest of the orchestra representing the crowd. Listen to examples where this definition might hold: eg piano works by Liszt, Grieg, Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov. Compare these with what happens in a concerto for orchestra by more recent composers, such as Bartok, Tippett, or Robin Holloway.
Students can research the background to Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, first performed in front of an audience of inmates in a Nazi prison camp in January 1941 by musicians who were fellow prisoners of the composer. Does the music represent the triumph of good over evil, of faith and hope over despair? Could we hear that if we didn't know the story behind it?