I first discovered Maestro Classics during my very first year on The Schoolhouse Review Crew. Six years ago, I had the honor to review The Tortoise and the Hare, and we fell in love. A year later, we were reviewing Peter and the Wolf, and then Swan Lake a year after that.
The Nutcracker though? That just makes my heart go pitter-patter.
Most of the Maestro Classics titles include the narrated music, some discussion of various aspects of the music, and the music without narration, along with fun little extras. My kids particularly love the sections where Stephen Simon, the conductor, talks about the music.
The Nutcracker is different from that standard. It is only the narrated music.
And it is wonderful.
The London Philharmonic performs. Of course it is wonderful.
The narration, written and spoken by Jim Weiss is superb. He tells the story, of course, but he tells of so much more than that. At one point, he is describing what 'pirouette' means, which I thought was great. If you've ever seen a performance of The Nutcracker, the narration really helps you to picture the ballet in your head while you listen.
Included with the CD is a little booklet. This contains a list of the various scenes of the ballet. There is a two-page spread about ballet, which is a perfect length. Did you know that women didn't dance in ballets until the middle of the 18th century?
There is also a spread about the harp, where I learned quite a bit. Another spread gives a brief biography of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky. And finally there are a couple word puzzles.
Maestro Classics is making it even easier to use their materials as part of a music education now, as they have been developing Curriculum Guides to go with their CDs.
This is really amazing!
For The Nutcracker, the guide gives information about ballet, including links to videos, discussion of nutrition, exercise and games. You can learn more about how Christmas is celebrated around the world. There is material on the history and science of nutcrackers. Then you get into fairy tales for a language arts section. Hands-on families can make a nutcracker, or cut out ballerina snowflakes. There is more information so you can study Tchaikovsky more in depth. And there is even math.
Now, I'm not a unit study mom at all, but I am absolutely planning to spend some time using this curriculum guide with my kids in December.
And by kids, I mean all of them. I believe Maestro Classics claims their materials to be targeted to a fairly young age group (8-12 maybe?) but I have to say that I have used their materials with all of my kids all along. For that first review of Tortoise and the Hare, my kids were three to twelve, and the CDs were a great fit for every one of them. Now, they range from nine to eighteen, and the CDs are still a great fit for all of them.
If I were going to be attending any production of The Nutcracker with children of any age, really, I would purchase this CD and have the kids listen to it a few times before going. The child would then be familiar with the storyline, and also with the music, and be free to enjoy the dancing part without the distraction of trying to figure out what is happening in the story.
My bottom line:
I have been so very impressed with Maestro Classics over the years, and I will continue to purchase everything they make. While we love some of the titles more than others, we have yet to be disappointed by any of them. Although I received The Nutcracker as part of the Crew, I have purchased most of the dozen titles they have.
These are well worth owning.
Go see what other Crew members have to say about The Nutcracker and Peter and the Wolf by clicking the Crew banner below: