For most of my school years, I played the flute in the school orchestra. Doing this provided me with a great appreciation for classical music. I really want my own children to also have an appreciation for classical music, although some of them are more willing to try it than others. Ha ha! We were given the opportunity to review The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics, and I thought this would be a great classical choice to share with my children.
For this review we received
- The Nutcracker - a CD with 21 tracks of music that lasts just under an hour total
- The Nutcracker study guide - a 24 page booklet included as an insert with the CD
- The Nutcracker curriculum guide - an online guide that can be viewed as online links or downloaded as a PDF file
Maestro Classics offers The Nutcracker as one of their Stories in Music selections. The famous music selections written by Tchaikovsky and adapted by Stephen Simon are performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Simon. The story accompanying the music is narrated by Jim Weiss.
After receiving the CD, we popped it into the CD player and began to listen. Having seen The Nutcracker performed as a ballet, the girls and I could easily envision the dances that accompanied each track on the CD. In fact we danced along with several of the pieces on the CD. (Yes, even me, although that was quite a sight.)
I liked having the narration to go along with the music. I think this would be a great way for anyone who hasn't seen a performance of The Nutcracker to still be able to picture what is going on during the music. I also think it would really be a great help for smaller children to hear the narration before (or even after) attending a ballet performance since most ballet performances have no narration, and the narration on this CD presentation provides details that would help young ones better comprehend the ballet. The study guide insert also breaks down the music into scenes and contains colorful illustrations that help the listener better picture the action while listening to the music.
Other information included in the study guide insert includes
- History of the Ballet
- A simple musical score for the Overture to The Nutcracker
- Information about the harp
- A short biography of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, composer of The Nutcracker
- A short biography of Stephen Simon, conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jim Weiss, narrator
I loved learning from the study guide. Did you know that only men danced in ballets until the middle of the 18th century? I sure didn't. I also didn't know until we went through the study guide that the strings on a harp are color-coded to help the harpist find the correct notes. I've never noticed that before.
The study guide insert also contains some activity pages for children: a word scramble of dances from the Land of Sweets and a crossword puzzle about the entire Nutcracker.
The online curriculum guides offer lesson plan ideas for history & geography, science, language arts, art, music, math, and ballet, This is a great way to take this Story in Music and create a multi-subject unit study, especially around Christmastime since The Nutcracker is a traditional Christmas ballet.
The Nutcracker is just one of several Stories in Music offered by Maestro Classics. Others include
- Peter and the Wolf
- The Story of Swan Lake
- Carnival of the Animals
- Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
- and many more!
You can learn more about Maestro Classics and The Nutcracker on social media: