Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Maestro Classics

It's been said that music is a universal language.  If that is the case, then one of the first lessons in the ABC's of this language for many people is Peter and the Wolf.   The Composer,  Sergei Prokofiev, introduces the listener to various instruments and sections of the orchestra as they represent characters in a story of a young boys first steps to manhood. 

Peter --  the string section

The Bird --  a flute

The Duck --  an oboe

Grandfather --  a bassoon

The Wolf --french horns

The Hunters --  timpani and bass  drums

The Cat -  a clarinet

I can remember my copy of Peter and the Wolf--an actual record album.  Recently, we received a CD from Maestro Classics of the same piece for review.  This new version has so much more to make this a learning experience. 

Track 1     Peter &  the Wolf  (29 minutes)

       ---  by the London Symphony Orchestra and narrated by Yudu.  The narrator's voice reminds me of a leprechaun, lilting and inviting, sharing his treasure of a story with the listener.  I don't think I'm giving away any spoilers when I say the the Duck gets eaten.  This might upset some younger listeners, although we're not really told that the duck dies.  In fact, the narrator says if you listen very carefully you can still hear his theme so perhaps he's just sitting in the wolf's belly like Geppetto in the whale of Pinocchio.  The wolf is taken to a zoo.  I thought this might be some sort of new environmentalist ending,  but after some research on the internet I concluded that this was the original ending.

Track 2   The Life of the Composer (5 minutes) 

---Did you know Prokofiev was a child genius along the lines of Mozart?  Did you know he chose to return and live under the Communist regime of Stalin? Did you know that a teacher approached him with the idea of writing a piece of music to introduce children to instruments of the orchestra and that's how Peter and the Wolf was born?  Well then clearly you haven't listened to this track.

Track 3  A Russian Peter  (2+ minutes)

---The themes we've grown familiar with in Peter and the Wolf are played with traditional Russian instruments.  I recognized the balalaika but I wished there had been an introduction to help us recognize the other instruments.

Track 4   The Magic Maestro Talks About Peter & the Wolf  (6 minutes)

---The conductor of the London Symphony gives us a little more insight on Peter & the Wolf.  We learn that we can recognize characters by their theme as well as the intrument being played. We hear excerpts demonstrating how the base them is varied as the characters go through changes in the story.   

Track 5    Peter & the Wolf without narration  (21 minutes)

---Now we get to test what we've learned.  Can we tell what is going on in the story by the themes being played and their variations?  Can we hear the rope being lowered, for example.

Track 6 -- Invitation to Grandfather's Party (26 seconds)

---Really just an introduction to the next track

Track 7  Kalinka --Dance Along (3 minutes)

--Another track where I wish there had been a better introduction.  It sounds like a tradition Russian folk song played by folk instruments, but there is no explanation about the song or what is used to play it.

Included in the package is a booklet with games and puzzles that tie into the story--a crossword puzzle, several coded messages, and a match up puzzle of characters and instruments.  If you have more than one child, you'll need to copy the pages.

We listened to the CD several times in the car.  Schnickelfritz got very good at acting as the narrator during the music only rendition.  Any age can enjoy the music although it is probably geared towards elementary school children.  Maestro Classics has several other Cd's (click here for our review last year of The Tortoise and the Hare).     Each CD is $16.98 at Maestro Classics with a price break of $45 for three selections.  You can hear samples of all the stories on the website as well.  They appear to be creating lesson plans for the titles, although they don't have one for Peter & the Wolf yet (not to worry, there are plenty of teaching ideas available with an online search).

You can read what others on the Homeschool Crew think of Maestro Classic's Peter & the Wolf by clicking here.
Disclaimer: I received a free CD of Peter & the Wolf for the purposes of completing this review.  There was no other compensation for my honest opinion.

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