Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Maestro Classics: The Nutcracker {A Review}

First Thoughts
Maestro Classics sent us their brand new The Nutcracker to review. We love Maestro Classics! And you may know that we've reviewed for them before. After we reviewed Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and My Name is Handel, we decided to do a composer study on Steven Simon. The kids love listening to the music, stories, and information about the composers and the pieces.

About The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker tells the story about one special night after a Christmas party, where Clara was presented with a special nutcracker doll from Heir Drosselmeyer (a magician and toy maker). After everyone was in bed, Clara hears the mice shifting about and goes down stairs. As she is watching, the mouse king grows life sized along with the dolls and the room. The Nutcracker defeats the mouse king with the help of Clara. Then he turns into a prince. The prince takes Clara on an adventure to see the Snow Queen and King to watch the snow dance. Then they head to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum fairy. The victory against the mouse king is celebrated with dancing, treats, and music. After the final dance, Clara wakes up and she is at home in her bed with the Nutcracker in her arms.

Maestro Classics' The Nutcracker has just over 58 minutes of playing time. It begins with Jim Weiss providing the listener with the history of the story, the composer, and the music. The London Philharmonic Orchestra plays music from all sections of Tchaikovsky's ballet during Weiss' reading of the story.

There is a 4 3/4 inch square 24-page activity book included with the CD. It has the list of scenes in the play, history of the ballet. sheet music for the overture, information about the harp, a biography about Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, a word scramble, and a crossword puzzle.

Bonus Materials
We recommend checking out the website along with the CD's. Maestro Classics has a Homeschool Music Curriculum Guide page with lots of great resources to go along with the CD and includes: ballet, history, science, geography, language arts, art, music, and math. It is an interactive guide with lots of links to other internet resources. You can use the unit study for free.

Our Experience
The kids asked to listen to the cd over and over again (as they do every time we get a new Maestro Classics cd). The kids looked through the book, read it, and did the activities together.

We have just started working in the Nutcracker Unit Study provided and are going to start with how nutcrackers are simple machines. We'll update this post with pictures of our progress, so stay tuned.

One of our own projects was to make a chalk pastel of the story as we listened. Ceesa practiced drawing some scenes while she was waiting for us to be ready to start.

I made the part with the dancing dolls...

Li made the part right before Fritz breaks the Nutcracker...

Jo-Jo made the waltz of the flowers...

Ceesa made the Snow Queen and the Snow King during the snow dance...

My Thoughts
This is a very fun story and we've studied Tchaikovsky before, so the kids are familiar with his music and some history about his life. Swan Lake, another ballet by Tchaikovsky, is another of Maestro Classics cd options and I can always recognize it when I hear it because of the words Maestro classics made to go along with the music. I appreciate that Maestro classics makes the music accessible to everyone.

The Kids Impression
Jo-Jo says, "I like that they (Weiss) told the story along with the music. The instruments made the story sound exciting and as I listened I could tell when something exciting was going to happen. I think the adventure and dancing were fun. I liked to act it out as I listened."

Ceesa says, "I liked acting out Clara. The music shows how the person is feeling and you can act it out better. The different dances were fun...Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian...I could imagine the characters and how they might be dancing because of how the music was playing."
Ceesa acting out Clara's reaction to watching the dancers with the nutcracker prince as she listens for the first time.
They just finished a play and were talking excitedly about how this would make a wonderful play to be in and how many characters would be in it. Then conversation lead to..."Momma, can we go to see the play sometime? Soon?"

As always, in addition to great homeschool resources, we think Maestro Classics cds make great gift ideas for the kids and recommend them for those that love classical music and for those that don't know anything about it. The Nutcracker would be an especially lovely gift for the Christmas season just around the corner.

Sweet Baby Wheel looking at the case while listening.

Wishing you homeschool blessings,


Click here to read more reviews from Schoolhouse Review Crew. *Our review was in the Top Ten on pinterest!! To see all ten click here.

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