Tuesday, October 27, 2015

{Review} The Nutcracker - Maestro Classics

Music appreciation is as important to a well rounded student as mathematics. Still, balancing the need to complete core subjects while finding time to enjoy lessons in the arts can be frustrating. The key to successfully integrating music appreciation into our school days has been finding fun, but easy to use products like The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics.

Unexpected Homeschool Review: The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics. A wonderful way for the whole family to enjoy this musical story.

These stories in music, as Maestro Classics likes to call them, provide exposure to Classical music performed by well known orchestras while entertaining with the related story narrated over the music. For the purpose of this review, we received the physical CD of The Nutcracker in a beautiful trifold case which also held a small booklet about this production of The Nutcracker. Although I highly recommend the physical copy, if you need the instant gratification The Nutcracker is also available as an MP3 download.

This Maestro Classics production of Tchaikovsky's music, adapted by Stephen Simon, is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and narrated by Jim Weiss. It is recommended for anyone ages five and up, and I entirely agree with that range. Even the quite young can enjoy the music and story presented in these productions. The entire CD runs almost exactly one hour and can easily be heard in a single setting, however it is also a simple matter to pause between tracks if an hour is too long in one place for your family.

The lovely full color booklet included with the CD can be used as a small music appreciation lesson on it's own. It starts with a summary of the production by acts with each scene detailed. Then has two pages on the history of ballet, the scoring for Overture to The Nutcracker, two pages on the harp, two pages on the composer Tchaikovsky, and finally a couple of fun activities.

Unexpected Homeschool Review: The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics. A wonderful way for the whole family to enjoy this musical story.

To be honest, I was a little unclear as to how this type of production worked since we've only ever seen The Nutcracker as the ballet. It turns out it is a fantastic way to enjoy music originally meant to tell a story. The appropriately animated narrator speaks over the music while it's playing, but only enough to set the tone and guide the listener along the path of the story. The well written story invokes the perfect imagery to complement the music, then allows the music to create an auditory picture.

We listened to The Nutcracker on my computer while relaxing after a long day of appointments and physical therapy. Amber adores The Nutcracker and did a several week study of it back in sixth grade after which we went to a professional production of the ballet. Amber kept the included booklet with her the whole time, following along with the scenes. While listening Amber also read through the entire booklet and completed both of the activities. She thought it was fun, even though she is a bit above their target age.

Unexpected Homeschool Review: The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics. A wonderful way for the whole family to enjoy this musical story.

Right away Amber noted this Maestro Classics production of The Nutcracker was shorter in length than what she normally listens to and has seen. Thankfully, she felt it was well arranged and the length did not detract at all from the overall enjoyment. It actually made it much easier to relax and listen, knowing we didn't have to commit to a long period of time.

If you want to use The Nutcracker as a basis for a more in depth music appreciation study or even a multi-subject unit study, Maestro Classics has a curriculum guide for The Nutcracker on their website. It includes topical information and study ideas for ballet, history & geography, science, language arts, art, music, and math. We looked over these pages, but decided against completing another study on The Nutcracker. However, I wish these resources had been available when we studied The Nutcracker.

No matter if you are looking for a complete unit study on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker or simply an enjoyable listen, Maestro Classics has the perfect answer in their production of The Nutcracker.

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See how other members of the Review Crew used Maestro Classics to incorporate music into their days!

Maestro Classics Review

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1 comment:

  1. We have enjoyed maestro classics in the past. Thanks for the great review.
    Blessings, Dawn