My family loves Maestro Classics. We own more than one of these stories set to music and enjoy them often on long car rides. I was SO excited for their newest story, The Nutcracker, to arrive in our mailbox.
I love Maestro Classics because they do a wonderful job at taking the study of classical music, and making it accessible to even young kids. The arrangements are sometimes shortened (while maintaining the integrity of the piece) and then are married with a story and educational content, shared by Jim Wiess (one of our favorite storytellers).
If you are a long time fan of Maestro classics, you may notice that this particular story varied a little from the previous stories we have heard from Maestro Classics. Since the Nutcracker is a ballet, a fair amount of the “story” on the CD is describing what the dancers are doing during that particular portion of music. This probably will make you think less of me, but we actually have never seen the Nutcracker, and it didn’t do much for me to hear the CD say things like “Then the snowflakes become dancers, all in white, more and more snowflake dancers appear to circle the king and queen.” I feel like lines like this are a little superfluous, and didn’t add to our understanding or enjoyment of the story… probably because we couldn’t picture what was being described and it did not add to the core of the story.
I also feel like this story was a bit light on the history of the composer and the elements of the music. With the other Maestro Classics stories we have enjoyed, we have also learned a fair amount about composers and music. I expected more about the music and less attempts at describing the ballet, and I admit, I walked away from this disk a slight bit disappointed. I wish they would have discussed more of the music and less of the ballet.
The good news? The kids loved it, every bit as much as they loved the other Maestro Classics in our collection. Perhaps I am being too hard on it! I do love the additional (free!) study guide provided online for the CD, which did include much of the information I felt was missing from the CD about the author of the Nutcracker fairytale and the composer.
Despite this not being my favorite of Maestro Classics offerings, I still feel like I can wholeheartedly recommend them! I think The Nutcracker was just a larger piece to tackle, and in trying to cover all the elements of the ballet well, we lost some of the musical and educational content I have come to expect from this company. If you love the ballet, you are likely to love this condensed audio version. Either way, please check out my past review of some of their other CDs, and click on the banner below to read more Schoolhouse Crew Reviews!