Maestro Classics graciously provided us with My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to review. As soon as the mail carrier delivered them, I put the CDs on for us to listen to. A story interspersed with music, these CDs are a wonderful way to immerse oneself in music appreciation. The music is woven throughout seamlessly as the narrative explains the story behind the music, and provides historical background and context in an engaging format suitable for ages 5 to 12 (note that on the website, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice says it is suitable for ages 6 to 12, probably because of the intensity of the story and music – see further down where I mention that in the review).
Why I love Maestro Classics:
One of the major advantages of Maestro Classics is that no additional prep work is needed. I need a lot of simple, yet excellent, resources like this. Even though I love the planning and researching of something like composer study and art appreciation, I really don’t have the time to do it. More pressing household duties call, so that things like homemade granola bars, clean laundry, and somewhat decent bathrooms and living spaces take precedence over lesson planning. I choose my curriculum accordingly. Maestro Classics CDs allow us to have thorough music appreciation and enjoyment without costing me any time. This is because the narrative is so thorough in teaching about the story, the history, and the details about the music.
Second, the quality is excellent. The music is played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The narration is slow and precise, making it easy to understand and follow along.
Third, the CDs come with booklets with additional information. Moreover, there are Educational Materials provided on the Maestro Classics website for extra learning opportunities.
Fourth, and quite importantly, Bear and J-jo enjoy listening to them. J-jo is 4.5 and he was mostly interested only in the story part of the CDs, whereas Bear 6.5 was very interested in the entire CD.
I love the art on the flap of the CD case.
First, we listened to the CD. I put on My Name is My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music in the car on the way to gymnastics. The kids were enthralled and listened attentively, asking me to pause the CD sometimes to be able to ask me questions.
At home, we read the pages of the 24 page booklet that came with the CD. We learned more about George Frideric Handel and how his father forbade all musical instruments in the house. We also read about the orchestra in Handel’s time, important churches in Handel’s London, the harpsichord, the organ, the barge trip on the River Thames, and travel in Handel’s day. We read these over a few days. I opted not to do any extra activities from the curriculum materials on the website, though I did peruse through them, and was happy to know they were if we decided to do a future unit study.
The tracts included on the CD are:
1. The Story of Water Music (38:09)
2. About Handel and the Story (3:34)
3. “My Name is Handel” Song (0:28) – The lyrics for this can be found in the booklet and was great fun to sing together.
4. About the Music with the Maestro (5:24)
5. Prepare to Perform (0:33)
6. “My Name is Handel” Sing-Along (0:29)
Total playing time is 48:45
The CD starts with the theme of Water Music briefly played and then goes into the story, “There once was a composer who composed wonderful music. A composer whose music was loved and admired throughout Germany, and England, and Italy.”
The narrator has good voice expression, and speaks slowly and clearly. Classical music plays in the background while he talks at times, and there are also points at which the narrator stops and we get to hear pieces that Handel composed, such as the Overture to the opera Rinaldi. As I stated above, the narration and music is woven seamlessly for a pleasurable listening experience.
I love tract 4 when the conductor, Stephen Simon, explains musical terms like overture, concerto, concerto grosso. He explained that a concerto is when a soloist plays with an orchestra. A Concerto Grosso is a group of soloists. Handel composed many concertos and concerto grossos. The best part is that we get to hear orchestral examples of the terms.
How we used it:
We listened to this one over lunch one day. The music of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is very lively and powerful. It made for an exciting lunch. J-jo listened rapt in the excitement of the brooms and the flooded room. “There stood the sorceror purple with rage.” The narrator, Yadu, is booms these lines dramatically, getting louder and louder as the music escalates. When the music softens, his voice mirrors the music and softens too.
From tract 2 we learned that Dukas’ original score had no narration. Also, the story itself is almost 2000 years old, written by the Greek author Lucian around 150 AD. In 1779, a German poet named Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe read this story by Lucian, and wrote a poem to retell the story. In 1897, Paul Dukas composed music to tell the story.
Tract 4 again was an informative explanation of the music from the conductor. We learned about themes and how the composer can change them and embellish them, slow them down and speed them up. He demonstrates this with a part of the score (a part with the bassoons). We learned how you can change the mood by slowing down a theme. In this case, Dukas slows it down to create an aura of anxiety. We learned about motifs – a short bit of music that represents an action or person. We heard the “falling water motif.” Then we heard it in another section where it was slowed down to create a different mood. I found this quite fascinating and it gave me a deeper appreciation for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The tracts are:
1. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (11:41)
2. About the Story (4:43)
3. March of the Brooms (1:41)
4. About the Music (9:13)
5. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Original Instrumental Version (11:13)
6. Want to Have Some Fun? Prepare to Perform (1:09)
7. Play-Along for Kitchen Percussion (1:41) – beats to tap out on the kitchen pots included in the booklet.
The booklet for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice includes puzzles (matching flags to the composer, poet, and author of The Sorceror’s Apprentice, cracking a code, crossword puzzle, and a dot-to-dot), an illustration of the instruments of an orchestra and their arrangements, a biography of Paul Dukas the composer, music for “March of the Brooms”, and information about the mallet instruments.
We didn’t use the booklet as much for this CD, though I did read all the parts I could to the kids. I preferred the booklet that went with Handel as I found it much more informative. I also didn’t want the kids to spoil the booklet by writing in it. It would be great if the puzzles could be available as a password protected PDF on the website for those who have purchased the CD.
You can purchase the CDs for $16.98 or download the mp3s for $9.99 on the Maestro Classics website.