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Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Maestro Classics


As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received one copy of Maestro Classics’ The Tortoise and the Hare for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

Bringing classical music to children through classic children’s literature---this is the idea behind Maestro Classics. The Tortoise and the Hare begins with a 20 minute updated retelling of that well-known tale, followed by an “intermission” of sorts containing a very short (under 3 minutes) explanation of the origins of the story, a 2-minute little ditty from the story (The Pretzel Vendor of Paris Song), and a short talk about the music in the story and how it helps to “tell” the story. The next track repeats the story with the intent that listeners will have a new appreciation after learning more about it.

The story is narrated Yadu in an upbeat style, with a slooow deep voice for the tortoise and an energetic, cocky voice for the hare. While it does follow the basic plot, this is not Aesop (though they give the original version in the explanation afterwards) or any of the other older versions you may have read, but a more updated version using more “hip” language. The instrumental accompaniment is provided by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Simon. The piece was written specifically for the story.

Production quality is good, though I found a variance in volume from one track to the next. The story is one 20 minute track, so if you have to stop in the middle, you’ll want to leave it paused. The CD comes in a cardboard case that folds up and contains a little book insert that has some activities and the lyrics to the The Pretzel Vendor. Overall, it’s a nice, well thought-out package. It seems like a good way to introduce young children to music appreciation…but what did the kiddos think?

We listened to the story and then the educational tracks during lunch. David, Mary, and Peter were a little bored with the story, though, perhaps that was because they’ve heard so many variations of it already. They weren’t very interested in the explanation tracks, either, but I attribute this to a loss of interest after already listening for 20 minutes---although the kiddos have long attention spans, they are not big on audio books (there are a few exceptions, like The Chronicles of Narnia and the Jungle Book, but these would be classified as adventure stories).

Next time, I’ll play half the story, have an intermission and listen to the explanation tracks, then listen to the rest of the story---a little tricky since the story is a single track, but it could be done. The music is well done and I’d love to hear one of the other stories available. Maestro Classics has also produced versions of:

  • Peter & the Wolf
  • The Story of Swan Lake
  • Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Casey at the Bat
  • Juanita the Spanish Lobster (available in Spanish)

Each Maestro Classics CD sells for $16.98.

They currently have a special: Buy 3 cds for $45 (enter code: MAESTRO45)

For more reviews of this product, please visit:


1 comment:

  1. Hi Susan!

    This is a belated thanks for the wonderful review of our Tortoise and the Hare CD. I just wanted to let you know that since you reviewed our CD we've made a Facebook page so that our fans can participate in monthly giveaways (we have a big one coming up for the full 8 CD set!) and get coupons. We'd love to invite you and your readers to join our page or check out our new free homeschool music curriculum guides and thanks again for the lovely review!

    Maestro Classics


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