What is November and December without The Nutcracker? We have yet another addition to our collection of Nutcracker stories with this new release by Maestro Classics.
Maestro Classics brings classical music and stories together in a unique blending of arts. Recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Stephen Simon, we are given a beautiful production of the story of The Nutcracker. Narrated by Jim Weiss, it is just as much fun as his other narration works. We were sent the CD for the purpose of this review but you can also download this production.
This product comes with the CD in a trifold case that has a pocket for the pamphlet that comes with it. The pamphlet contains the scenes of the ballet. There is a short history of ballet and a short history of the harp included. You will find a copy of the musical theme from the overture. With a history of Tchaikovsky and a couple of games, the pamphlet provides enough for a short unit study.
The music is beautiful and very well performed. It follows the story the way we are used to for the most part, though as with most Nutcracker stories there are some variations. The variations are part of what makes these stories and the ballet music such fun. The narration happens over the music, which I personally did not care for but it does help students to follow along with the story. It also helps the listener to hear some of the musical themes if they are not familiar with The Nutcracker.
This disc is quite different from the others in the Stories In Music series by Maestro Classics. All of the other discs we have enjoyed tell the story and some educational materials are included. It might be a history of the music or the composer. It might be information on the musical themes. Sometimes it is background information on how a story came about. We have loved these parts of the discs. In fact, these are what makes Maestro Classics unique.
The Nutcracker diverges from this format in a major way; all that is on this disc is the music of the ballet. It is only performed once and there is no instruction on music themes or story lines with an opportunity to list. There is no discussion of the composer, the background, or the history. This is really quite disappointing and not at all what we have come to expect from Maestro Classics. I realize that the music for this ballet covers a whole lot more time than some of their others works, but it is a missed opportunity since there are so many rich musical themes in this work.
The music is beautiful and if you are not familiar with the story of the Nutcracker or the ballet, this disc does help it be a bit more accessible. Perhaps if your family is not in the habit of studying classical music or ballet music, this will help your students. Personally, though, while the disc is very well done, I feel that the other titles in the Maestro Classics Stories in Music line would be better choices. This is disc is missing the educational piece which I have come to expect from Maestro Classics.
Maestro Classics is a fantastic company with wonderful products. I wholeheartedly suggest checking out their titles and using them to help bring the stories and music to your children. And don’t forget to visit their website. They have created curriculum guides to go along with most, if not all, of their titles. They have the one for The Nutcracker up. It has links to video, audio, and other articles and games. It includes ballet, history, geography, math, science, and language arts. This curriculum guide is going to make for a wonderful unit when we study The Nutcracker as a unit in a few weeks.
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Read more reviews on The Nutcracker and on Peter and The Wolf from the Review Crew.