Monday, January 9, 2012

TOS Review - Maestro Classics Swan Lake

I have really been enjoying our study of the great composers so far this school year, and describe many of them as "one of my favorites", so I was very excited about spending a little extra time on Tchaikovsky (one of my favorites!) recently when we were given the opportunity to review "The Story of Swan Lake" by Maestro Classics. 

Maestro Classics says their mission is to cultivate a love of music through education and joyful performances. "Stories in Music" - a CD series that brings classical music to children ages 5 through 12 and their parents - are intended to provide three major benefits:  expand listening horizons; develop listening skills and accumulate musical memories; and encourage adults and children to listen to music together.  The CDs have won many national awards and are educational and entertaining.  They feature music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and child-friendly stories and explanations of the music.
We received "The Story of Swan Lake" and I did a little rearranging to our composer study schedule so that we could add this delightful CD to our study of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  The CD opens with a narration of the story about a prince who falls in love with a princess who is under a spell that turns her into a swan.  The narration is accompanied by music from Swan Lake and is about a half hour long.  The CD also features a segment telling about Tchaikovsky's life, some explanations about the music and some musical concepts, and a little sing-along version of the main theme.  And we especially loved "Speed Metal Swan," a heavy metal version of the main theme by guitarist Joe Stump.  (If you're a fan of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you will love it!)

There is also a program book which has some activities and information.  Kennady must have thought that I got this CD from the library, because when I showed her the booklet she said "but I can't write in it, can I?"  I told her she could and her face totally lit up! She was that excited to do a dot-to-dot picture and write in the answers on the music pages that teach about major and minor scales.

We truly enjoyed listening to the CD and it definitely inspired interest in the ballet, because Kennady asked if I could find a DVD or video of Swan Lake for her to watch.  The "About the Music" section in which conductor Stephen Simon explains some of the musical devices Tchaikovsky used to tell the story and set the mood was wonderful and enlightening.  His explanations were simple enough for children to understand without sounding childish.

The Maestro Classics website has lots of extras too - links and additional information to springboard to further education in history, geography, science, language arts, art, and math.  And of course, music!  They include video links to some scenes from the ballet, which was what Kennady most wanted to see.  I wish I'd been able to make more use of the long list of links provided, but I have had computer issues that prevented me from doing all that I would have liked with it.  I will definitely be checking back for more of those links when I get my computer back!
What We Liked Best:

  • beautiful music made easy to understand and enjoy!
  • the fun "Speed Metal Swan" segment.
  • musical concepts like themes and major/minor scales explained clearly
  • Kennady loved the program booklet and was delighted that she could play back the theme music for me!
  • all the links and educational extras at the website
At first, I thought Kennady (who is 10 years old) would find this a bit young, but she seemed to love every minute of it, and showed lots of interest.  The program booklet was a hit, and is now parked at the piano, so she can practice playing the theme music.  The CD has made its way to her room, where she listens to it on her own just because she enjoys it.  And she left me some very broad hints that she would like to have another in the series, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" or maybe "My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music."

Would you like to make musical memories with your children?  Here's what you need to know:

There are several titles available at the Maestro Classics website, on CD for $16.98 each, or as an MP3 download for $9.98 each.  There are also a couple of package deals available, so check the website for details.  The website also has lots of information, ideas for enjoying music as a family, and lesson plans and projects.  

There are lots of ways to connect with Maestro Classics on the web - follow producer Bonnie Simon's blog; follow Maestro Classics on Twitter;   check out their YouTube channel; and "like" them on Facebook.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.


Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were provided with this CD in exchange for our honest opinions.


Bonnie Simon said...

I was delighted that you enjoyed the CD and particularly that you understood that you can like great classical music like Tchaikovsky and also a version like Joe Stump's for electric guitar! It is very gratifying when a parent really gets all the parts that we work so hard to include in the listening experience. Bonnie Simon

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