You all know about my love of the arts, right? Hence our Artist/Composer/Poet of the Month? Well, I was off the hook for the month of April for music appreciation because I was given the fabulous opportunity to review Maestro Classics, a "Stories in Music" collection of classical music cd's for children. I used the My Name is Handel: the Story of Handel's "Water Music" and The Sorcerer's Apprentice cd's to enliven our composer studies last month and I can tell you~ I enjoyed our musical arts learning as much as the children.
Maestro Classics' Stories in Music series incorporates classical music skillfully performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with entertaining and informative narration. Sometimes this narration covers the life of the composer, sometimes it covers the history of the composition, sometimes it covers the science behind the music or a story around the music. Often, it covers all of the above. The result is becoming more well-rounded and enlightened while feeling like you are being entertained, not educated. These cd's truly make the music come alive.
Accompanying the cd is a richly illustrated activity booklet that fits inside the cd case. This booklet holds mazes, games, crossword puzzles, activity suggestions, sing-alongs and even more information to provide even further opportunities to enjoy and learn about the music and the rich history behind it.
In My Name is Handel, we learned about how Handel had to get into King George I's good graces after maybe taking a bit too long fulfilling a promise. He does so by buttering him up with a barge, a suite of dances and 50 musicians that followed alongside the King's boat. This eventually became known as Handel's "Water Music" and it did exactly what it was supposed to do! Along with the narration, we were able to listen to performances of Handel's music.
In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which was our favorite of the two cd's, we were able to listen to Paul Dukas' composition which brought to life the story of the sorcerer and his lazy apprentice who thought magic would take care of chore time for him. This lovely piece was composed based upon the poem that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned of the same name which was based upon the story written almost 2,000 years ago by the Greek author Lucian. This story and accompanying piece of music was made popular when it was included in Disney's Fantasia where poor Mickey has to live out his mistake on the big screen.
Where the Handel cd spent a lot of time teaching about the composer Handel and performed his music beautifully, this particular cd seemed to spend more time on the actual music and the ways in which it conveyed a story. It broke down the music and separated the distinct sounds that the different instruments brought to the whole while explaining the different ways Dukas utilized the same sounds but changed them by speeding things up/slowing things down, using different instruments, etc to create something new. Stephen Simon, the conductor, breaks down the March of the Brooms, the 'dream music' and the 'spell' and isolates the different sounds while pointing out the ways in which they are different and the same and then, gives you the opportunity to listen to the whole thing again. In this way, we were able to experience the music as a whole in an entirely new and profound way. The end result was captivating and so, so neat. We felt very much like we had just stepped into the music.
Besides these two titles, Maestro Classics' other titles include Peter and the Wolf, Juanita the Spanish Lobster, The Story of Swan Lake, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Casey at the Bat, The Tortoise and the Hare, A Soldier's Tale and A Carnival of Animals.
Each cd costs $16.98 and runs between 40-50 minutes. You also have the option of purchasing an Mp3 download and an accompanying PDF.
These cd's were made with 5-12 year olds in mind but don't think for a minute they wouldn't be appreciated by other ages. They were developed to "expand listening horizons, develop listening skills, accumulate musical memories and encourage adults and children to listen to music together" and they have certainly accomplished what they set out to do. I would not hesitate to recommend these cd's to families looking for ways to enjoy and appreciate music together.
To find out what other reviewers thought about the different available titles, click the box below!