Gerard Schwarz just completed his final season as Music Director with the Seattle Symphony. His impressive legacy includes 125 recordings, twelve Grammy nominations and six ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming. Schwarz is a noted champion for the works of living composers, in particular American composers. His latest release with the Seattle Symphony echoes that commitment.
This new recording is appropriately titled "Echoes." It was designed to introduce new listeners to classical music. Gerard Schwarz is dedicated to bringing classical music to as many people as possible. He believes if you can get people to listen to its intrinsic beauty and really feel the music, it will enhance their life. One way to do that was to select well-known short works and remold them for the 21st century. Schwarz hand-picked six of his closest composer-friends and asked each to do just that for this recording, making each new piece an "echo" of an earlier classic.
David Schiff is a writer, a composer and a professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. His piece titled, "Infernal," launches this new recording. This percussive dance is a jazzed-up version of "Infernal Dance of King Kastchei," from Stravinsky's first great ballet, "The Firebird." Schiff had a rather spectacular introduction to this piece, first hearing it when he was just 12 years-old in the red brick ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome - complete with fireworks. This dazzling score generates its own fireworks with a rock groove and West African instrumentation and rhythms in the coda.
In 1982 Chinese composer Bright Sheng immigrated to the United States to become Leonard Bernstein's protege. Gerard Schwarz became another active promoter of Sheng's music, inviting him to serve as Composer in Residence with the Seattle Symphony from 1992 to 1994. Sheng's contribution to this recording, "Black Swan," is based on the melancholic Intermezzo No. 2 from the Opus 118 collection by Johannes Brahms. Brahms was in a reflective mood when he published this set of piano pieces at age 60. As an orchestral arrangement, this elegant piece is even more lush and nostalgic.
Echoes of Jeremiah Clarke's well-known "Prince of Denmark's March," gradually bubble to the surface in David Stock's piece titled "Plenty of Horn." This work was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony. The trumpet and brass section is front and center in this piece, so the play on words in the title is quite apt.
This recording closes with a work composed by Gerard Schwarz at the request of the Canadian Brass who premiered it at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival. Schwarz has always found inspiration in the works of the great Baroque composer Handel. As a trumpeter himself, he's played many of Handel's oratorios and concerti grossi and he knows how to bring out the colors of the brass section. This Concerto for Brass Quintet and Orchestra is a reflection of three movements from Handel's Concerto Grosso No. 9, Opus 6. Adding a brass quintet to this grand concerto brightens the melodic line, and creates deeper orchestral textures.
Gerard Schwarz has spent his whole professional life bringing classical music to the masses. He's done that through familiar works by mainstream composers, and by commissioning daring new works by living composers. On this recording he blends the best of both worlds by inviting living composers to capture the new spirit of a familiar classic. Whether you're a classical music lover, or just discovering what this world has to offer, "Echoes" is a wonderful reflection of a great musical heritage that's withstood the test of time.