Like many of you, I grew up taking piano lessons. I remember playing Beethoven’s Fur Elise and exercises from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. But no one ever told me the stories behind those pieces or introduced the composers to me as real people with living histories. For me, those composers were simply labels and their works were simply challenges in playing the right notes and trying to obey the loud and soft markings. Oh, and the pedal markings.
When I reached high school, we had a long-play record of Chopin’s music that I would listen to over and over. I loved to hear Vladimir Horowitz playing the Revolutionary Etude. So when an opportunity arose for me to enter a piano contest, I knew exactly which piece I wanted to learn. But even then, it was simply a matter of trying to hit the correct notes and play as fast as Horowitz. (I never achieved his tempo, by the way.)
I didn’t know the story behind that etude. I had never heard that Chopin, though living in France, dearly loved his native country of Poland. During his lifetime Russia launched an assault, and Chopin’s heart ached at the upheaval in his homeland. This etude appeared around the same time as an event called the November Uprising in 1831, when Poles of all ages arose and tried to shake off Russia’s yoke of oppression.
Now, imagine how knowing that story would have fueled my performance of the piece! But not once did I wonder why it was called the Revolutionary Etude. That title was just a name, like Chopin was just a name.
Yet, even with my limited understanding, something about the music spoke deeply to my heart—enough to compel me to spend hours learning to play that piece myself.
Charlotte Mason knew the power of good music. And she knew that the power was intensified when that music was given along with living instruction. That’s why she held to this method with her students:
“Let the young people hear good music as often as possible, and that under instruction. It is a pity we like our music, as our pictures and our poetry, mixed, so that there are few opportunities of going through, as a listener, a course of the works of a single composer. But this is to be aimed at for the young people; let them study occasionally the works of a single great master until they have received some of his teaching, and know his style” (Vol. 5, p. 235).
We are thrilled to announce a new resource that makes it simple for you to give your children this enriching and powerful part of their living education: Music Study with the Masters.
Music Study with the Masters
Each Music Study with the Masters portfolio includes everything you need to listen to good music with living instruction.
- Two full-length CDs of the composer’s music, so you can play it often, hear a wide range of his works, and get to know his style. We have included mostly full-length works and added a few shorter, well-known pieces to round out the collection.
- Listen and Learn ideas for eight of the composer’s works, so you and your students can hear the fascinating stories behind the pieces and learn a bit about classical music along the way.
- A personal portrait of the composer and two living biographies, so you will be able to get to know these real people and their living histories—one shorter A Day in the Life narrative designed for all ages, and one longer entire-life biography for older students (or anyone who wants to learn more). Both contain interesting anecdotes and paint pictures in the imagination that make the composer come alive.
- A list of recommended resources for further study, to fuel additional discovery and heart connections with favorite composers and their music.
- Step-by-step instructions for doing music study, so you will feel confident whether you are old friends with the composers or are just being introduced. It takes only a few minutes each week, yet it yields amazingly rich results!
We’re excited about this great new resource available as a printed portfolio or electronic download! Take a look at a sample of the book and listen to a sample of the music to get a taste of Music Study with the Masters. The first three composers offered in this new series are Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin—with more on the way! Special introductory pricing is available through January 22.