Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Classical Music for Children





You’ve heard the expression “Third time’s a charm” before—well in the case of Maestro Classics, third time is simply charming.  To clarify, this is the third time we’ve reviewed the publisher of cd’s for children.  Previously we’ve listened to Peter and the Wolf and the Tortoise and the Hare.  This year we received two discs, My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The My Name is Handel CD (48:45) is for ages 7+ and families. It comes with a 24 page booklet with games, a history of the harpsichord a biography of the composer, etc.  If you opt for the MP3 download version this will come as a PDF file (true for all titles in the series).   There are six tracks for this title.


  1. The Story of Water Music –learn about Handel’s life and compositions.  In addition to pieces from his Water Music, you’ll hear selections from Handel’s opera Rinaldo. There is unnamed harpsichord music in the background.
  2. About Handel and the Story—the narrative in track 1 includes the legend that Handel wrote the music to get back in the good graces of the new king (his former employer in Hanover, Germany).  Now we learn Handel may have been sent to scope out the political scene for his employer who was in line for the British throne.
  3. My Name is Handel song –lyrics are added to a piece from Water Music. 
  4. About the Music with the Maestro – The conductor defines musical terms like “overture” and “concerto grosso.” We learn that you can identify which of the three suites of Water Music is being played by the instruments we hear.
  5. Prepare to Perform
  6. My Name is Handel Sing-Along--The words are included in the booklet.

Normally, the main music of a Maestro Classic title is performed twice—once with narration and later as purely music.  The Water Music track is so long (38 minutes) that is could not be repeated. 

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (41:09) is for ages 6+ and families. It also has a 24 page booklet containing games, a brief biography of the composer, a history of the story, and a diagram of the orchestra, etc.  Its seven tracks are:

  1. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (with narration)
  2. About the Story – The lazy apprentice who gets in trouble for not filling the cistern with water himself is far older than the version with Mickey Mouse in Fantasia.  The story has its roots way back in the 2nd century.
  3. The March of the Brooms—the broom theme is played on the marimba
  4. About the Music – a high-school worthy study of the different themes and their variations that can be found throughout the composition
  5. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (without narration)
  6. Prepare to Perform
  7. The March of the Brooms—Kids can play along with pots and pans.

We listened to both CD’s in the car on the longer trips that we make each week.  Schnickelfritz could read the booklet in the backseat, but we both enjoyed the music and the new information we acquired.  He was more familiar with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as we regularly watch Fantasia.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the piece, but I never picked up on the broom theme and the falling water theme being played at a much slower tempo at the beginning of the piece to give that air of mystery.  The Rinaldo pieces in Water Music were new to my son, although he was familiar with the Water Music (I’m assuming as the theme to a BBC or PBS show).  He complained that “there was too much talking, not enough music” in this 38 minute track and didn’t really care for the long aria.  He did enjoy the Hornpipe and actual Water Music pieces though. 

If you’d like to make Maestro Classics the foundation of a unit study, be sure and check out all the Educational Material they’ve gathered on their website.  They’ve got some Montessori Music Appreciation,  and curriculum guides for most titles that cover history, science, geography, language arts, art, music and math.  Use them with discretion though—the Sorcerer’s Apprentice history study seemed to hone in on witchcraft and the Salem witch trials.

Maestro Classics offers its CD’s for $16.98 and MP3’s for $9.98.  You can save by buying bundles (we’ve really enjoyed all the titles we’ve heard).  

You can read my reviews of The Tortoise and the Hare and  Peter and the Wolf  by clicking on the names.  Neither title was part of this year’s review.  Clicking on the graphic below will take you to the Review Crew webpage where you can find links to  compositions I’ve review above as well as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Casey at the Bat.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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