|Internationally recognized for his
moving performances, innovative programming and extensive catalogue of recordings,
American conductor Gerard Schwarz serves as Music Director of the All Star
Orchestra, an ensemble comprised of musicians from America's leading orchestras
who will collaborate in a public television series designed to encourage
a greater understanding and enjoyment of classical music. He is Music Director
of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina and Conductor Laureate of
the Seattle Symphony.
With more than 300 world premieres to his credit, Schwarz has always felt strongly about commissioning and performing new music. As Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival, that focus continues with numerous world premieres, including one of his own works. During Schwarz’s tenure, he has expanded the Festival's audiences to the largest in its history, incorporated a composer in residence program, developed three new concert series and increased collaboration with the Appalachian Summer Festival.
A prolific recording artist, Schwarz has a total discography that numbers nearly 350 on more than 11 labels. His pioneering cycles of American symphonists such as William Schuman, David Diamond and Howard Hanson have received high critical praise, as have his acclaimed series of Stravinsky ballets; symphony cycles of Robert Schumann, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich; and orchestral works of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov. More than 50 discs featuring Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony — with works by 54 composers ranging from the Baroque to contemporary periods — will be released in 2012 and 2013 on four labels. In addition to his numerous recordings with the Seattle Symphony, he has also recorded with the Berlin Radio Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra, London Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Symphony, New York Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic.
A sought-after guest conductor, Schwarz has led many of the world’s greatest orchestras.
He is also known for his operatic performances, having appeared with the Juilliard Opera, Kirov Opera, Mostly Mozart Festival, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera and Washington National Opera. He has led 21 productions with the Seattle Opera.
A graduate of The Juilliard School, Schwarz joined the New York Philharmonic in 1972 as Co-Principal Trumpet, a position he held until 1977. Schwarz’s numerous previous positions include Music Director of New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and New York Chamber Symphony.
Schwarz, a renowned interpreter of 19th-century German, Austrian and Russian repertoire, in addition to his noted work with contemporary American composers, recently completed his final season as music director of the Seattle Symphony in 2011 after an acclaimed 26 years — a period of dramatic artistic growth for the ensemble. While at the Symphony, Maestro Schwarz amassed a critically acclaimed discography of more than 140 recordings, and recorded numerous television programs and concert broadcasts. He was instrumental in the building of Benaroya Hall, and the implementation of music education programs including new series and the successful Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center. During his tenure, ticket sales increased dramatically.
In his nearly five decades as a respected classical musician and conductor, Schwarz has received hundreds of honors and accolades including two Emmy Awards, 13 Grammy nominations, six ASCAP Awards and numerous Stereo Review and Ovation Awards. He holds the Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University, was the first American named Conductor of the Year by Musical America and has received numerous honorary doctorates. Most recently, the City of Seattle recognized his outstanding achievements and named the street alongside the Benaroya Hall “Gerard Schwarz Place,” and the State of Washington gave him the honorary title of “General” for his extraordinary contributions as an artist and citizen.
-- Throughout this page, names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
|Born: August 19, 1947 - Weehawken,
New Jersey, USA
The esteemed American conductor, Gerard Schwarz, was born in New Jersey to Viennese parents. He commenced trumpet lessons when he was 8. After attending the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan (summers, 1958-1960), he studied at New York’s High School of Peforming Arts. He also received trumpet instruction from William Vacchiano (1962-1968), and completed his training at the Juilliard School (B.S., 1972). He played in the American Brass Quintet from 1965 to 1973, and the American Symphony Orchestra from 1966 to 1972.
Gerard Schwarz began his conducting career in 1966 and, within ten years, was appointed Music Director of the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Eliot Feld Dance Company, Waterloo Music Festival, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and New York Chamber Symphony. Schwarz co-founded the New York Chamber Symphony in 1977 and served as its Music Director through the ensemble’s 25th anniversary season in 2002. He has brought the New York Chamber Symphony from a fledgling organization to a full concert season at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. In 1981, he founded the Music Today Contemporary Series and served as its Music Director through 1989. From 1982 to 2001, he served as Music Director of New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival and is currently its Conductor Emeritus. He also served as Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 2001 through 2006.
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
In 1983, Schwarz came to Seattle Symphony Orchestra as Music Advisor. The following year he was appointed Principal Conductor and since 1985, he has held the post of Music Director. Under his artistic leadership, Seattle Symphony Orchestra has evolved into one of the world’s finest orchestras. Schwarz’s vast repertoire, including his devotion to American music and the music of our time, has earned him praise worldwide both in performances and on recordings for his compelling sensitivity and extraordinary depth. His over 125 recordings with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, many including music by contemporary American composers, have received widespread recognition, including 12 Grammy nominations, and further enhanced the reputation of Seattle Symphony Orchestra as a leader among ensembles championing the music of contemporary composers. During his tenure with Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Schwarz has received 6 ASCAP awards (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).
Schwarz is noted for his success in building the strength of the orchestra; when he began directing the Seattle Symphony in 1983 it had 5,000 subscribers; as of 2008 it had 35,000. He was also integral to the creation of Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, which opened in downtown Seattle on September 12, 1998. The Hall’s superb acoustics have been widely-praised by guest artists, conductors, performing ensembles and music critics from around the world, as well as Symphony patrons. With the building of the Hall, Schwarz helped to grow Symphony audiences, broaden Symphony programs and expand the organization’s community outreach and music education initiatives, including Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center located in Benaorya Hall. Beyond the impact on the Symphony, Benaroya Hall has been a major component of Seattle’s downtown revitalization, positively impacting tourism and neighborhood businesses.
In the 2001-2002 season, Schwarz conducted eleven subscription series concerts in the Seattle Symphony Orchestra's new home, Benaroya Hall, as well as special concerts with solists Mstislav Rostropovich and Itzhak Perlman and five concerts in the "Musically Speaking" series. In 2003-2004, Schwarz shepherded Seattle Symphony Orchestra in another landmark event with the celebration Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Centennial Season. He led the Orchestra in specially commissioned world premieres by six of the foremost composers of the USA, and led the Orchestra in its first-ever East Coast tour which included the Orchestra’s Carnegie Hall debut.
Under Schwarz’s leadership, Seattle Symphony Orchestra has presented numerous festivals of music focusing on composers from various regions of the world, including the Pacific Rim, Silk Road region, the Americas and Central Europe. Building on his tradition of performing and recording contemporary American music, the Symphony presented a two-part Made in America Festival in 2005 and 2006, showcasing those American composers who created a distinctive American symphonic voice. The festival featured the music of American symphonists such as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, William Schuman, Virgil Thomson, Leonard Bernstein, Augusta Read Thomas, Philip Glass, Bright Sheng, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, John Corgliano and others who created a distinctive American symphonic tradition.
In spring 2007, Seattle Symphony Orchestra presented Music of Central Europe: Bridging the 48th Parallel. Conducted by Schwarz, the festival repertoire and community partner presentations spanned seven decades of the 20th-century. A major highlight was the concert-staged performance of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, featuring sets by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. During the 2008-2009 season, Seattle Symphony Orchestra presented a year-long “festival” that celebrated works by immigrant composers. The festival culminated in two special weeks of performances in May and June 2008. Performances of the rarely performed Genesis Suite featured narration by Academy Award winners F. Murray Abraham and Patty Duke, as well as visuals by Dale Chihuly. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra shared the program with a semi-staged presentation of Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht’s The Little Mahagonny.
One of the leading conductors of his generation, Schwarz celebrates his 26th and final season as Seattle Symphony Music Director in the 2010-2011 season. He will then assume the title of Conductor Laureate and return to conduct the Orchestra for several weeks each season beginning with the 2011-2012 season.
Other Musical Activities
Various festivals have taken place under Schwarz’s leadership to celebrate the works of specific composers, including a Mozart festival in honor of the composer’s 250th birthday, and two Shostakovich festivals. In Spring 2009, Seattle Symphony Orchestra participated in a region-wide Seattle Celebrates Bernstein Festival. Schwarz recreated a Leonard Bernstein Young People’s Concert for symphony audiences and concluded the season with performances of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Symphony No. 3, Age of Anxiety.
During his tenure with Mostly Mozart Festival (1982-2001), Schwarz conducted a large repertoire, including many early Mozart operas in concert form. His appearances with Mostly Mozart have continued their prestige as New York's favorite summer festival, and brought them a large television viewing audience on the PBS network as well as an international profile with tours. He led the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in debuts at Tanglewood and Ravinia festivals, as well as nine years of residencies in Tokyo at Tokyu Bunkamura’s Orchard Hall. Further expanding his relationship with Tokyu Bunkamura, Schwarz became Artistic Advisor to Tokyu Bunkamura’s Orchard Hall, conducting six programs annually with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1994 to 1998. He currently also serves as Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina.
Gerard Schwarz first conducted opera with the Washington Opera at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Since then he has appeared with several opera companies and festivals, including the San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Kirov Opera (at St. Petersburg's historic Mariinsky Theatre), Juilliard Opera Theatre and Mostly Mozart Festival, the latter of which included the USA premiere of Strauss’ version of Idomeneo. In 1983, he led the American premiere of Wagner’s second opera Das Liebesverbot and Wagner’s version of Gluck’s Iphigenia in Aulis in 1984, both for Waterloo Festival.
In January 1986, Schwarz made his Seattle Opera debut in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. In subsequent seasons he has led Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni; Weber’s Der Freischütz; Strauss’ Salome, Ariadne auf Naxos, Elektra, and Der Rosenkavalier; Verdi’s Falstaff and La traviata; Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer; Beethoven’s Fidelio; Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, among others. In 2010, he led the world premiere of Daron Aric Hagan’s opera Amelia with Seattle Opera to great acclaim.
Schwarz continues to guest conduct around the world and has appeared with many of great orchestras and pre-eminent soloists of our time. As a conductor and passionate music education advocate, he has assisted in launching the careers of many young artists and fostered artistic growth in communities throughout the world.
Recordings & TV
Schwarz has an extensive discography of some 260 releases with Naxos, Delos, EMI, Koch, New World, Nonesuch, Reference Recording, RLPO Classics, Columbia/Sony and RCA, primarily with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. His many recordings with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra have been devoted to music of American composers such as Howard Hanson, Aaron Copland, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Walter Piston, William Schuman, Alan Hovhaness, David Diamond, Paul Creston, as well as music of Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Béla Bartók, Maurice Ravel, Robert Schumann, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Wagner.
He has also recorded extensively with other orchestras, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, The Juilliard Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and New York Chamber Symphony. His recent recording activity includes all the Mahler symphonies and Strauss tone poems with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition, he has made numerous recordings for the Milken Archive for American Jewish Music, including several with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s first CD recorded entirely in Benaroya Hall, an all-William Schuman disc that includes his Symphonies Nos. 4 and 9, was released in May 2005 on the Naxos label. From 2005 to 2010, Schwarz and Seattle Symphony Orchestra released the remaining Schuman symphonies and, in 2010, Schuman’s Symphony No. 8 was released, completing the series.
Schwarz’s first recording of music by Howard Hanson was a mainstay on the Billboard’s classical music best-selling list for 41 weeks, including six weeks at number three. It was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Best Classical Album of 1989, and earned a 1989 Record of the Year honor from Stereo Review. The next three recordings featuring Hanson’s music appeared on Billboard’s best selling charts and each earned Grammy nominations. In 2007, Schwarz released a recording of Hanson’s complete opera Merry Mount with Seattle Symphony Orchestra and distinguished vocalists. He has received two Record of the Year Awards and a Mumms Ovation Award. Maestro Schwarz’s recording of the Mount St. Helens Symphony by Alan Hovhaness, debuted on Billboard's chart at No. 17 and rose quickly to No. 5.
Recent recording highlights with Seattle Symphony Orchestra include the release of Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s first self-produced recording of Holiday Classics; Samuel Jones’ Concerto for Tuba & Orchestra and Symphony No. 3; Bright Sheng’s The Phoenix, Tibetan Swing, Red Silk Dance, H’un (Lacertaions): In memoriam 1966–1976; Mahler’s Symphony No. 8; Arthur Foote’s Francesca da Rimini and other works; Deems Taylor’s complete opera Peter Ibbetson; and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major and Spohr’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major.
In addition to his many appearances on the Live from Lincoln Center series, Gerard Schwarz’s television credits include a 1984 KCTS TV/Seattle (PBS) broadcast of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2; Front Row Center, a KING TV/Seattle (NBC) award-winning 1985 broadcast featuring Copland’s Billy the Kid Suite; A Grand Night, PBS’s March 1988 celebration of the performing arts, for which he served as music director; two KCTS broadcasts of his acclaimed educational concerts titled Musically Speaking; a nationally telecast performance in France with the Orchestre Philharmonique; A Romantic Evening, a broadcast on KCTS in February 1993, which received a Northwest Regional Emmy Award; a live broadcast by KCTS of the Gala Opening Night Concert in Benaroya Hall on September 12, 1998; and an August 1999 National PBS TV Broadcast of Seattle Symphony: Home at Last, that presented the Gala Opening Night Concert in Benaroya Hall with additional interviews and information hosted by National Public Radio commentator Susan Stamberg.
Under Schwarz’s leadership, Seattle Symphony Orchestra has received 12 Grammy nominations. It was recognized nationally for its adventurous programming both in 1996 and 2004, when it received the First Place Award for Programming of Contemporary Music from ASCAP. Schwarz and Seattle Symphony Orchestra also received additional ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming in 1990, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2006. In 1991, the Symphony was awarded the ASCAP John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music. In 2002, ASCAP honored Schwarz with its Concert Music Award. According to ASCAP, Schwarz “exemplifies the ideal American conductor. ASCAP honors his leadership and commitment to bring the music of our time to audiences everywhere, through his concerts and recordings.”
Under the direction of Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony Orchestra won two Emmy Awards for its first two self-produced television specials, Seattle Symphony From Benaroya Hall in 2007, and Seattle Symphony From Benaroya Hall: Brahms, Kernis and Kodály in 2008. In 2002, Schwarz was nominated for a primetime Emmy for his Live from Lincoln Center performance of Mozart’s Requiem, which was broadcast on PBS. A Romantic Evening, a broadcast on KCTS in February 1993, received a Northwest Regional Emmy Award.
Schwarz has received a number of other awards, including being named 1994 Conductor of the Year by Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, the first American to receive this award. In April 2003, the Pacific Northwest Branch of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences gave the Maestro its first “IMPACT” lifetime achievement award. In January 2004, Schwarz was appointed to the NEA National Council on the Arts. In September 2006 he received a Mayor’s Arts Award, given by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels for extraordinary achievement and contribution in the arts. In 2009, Schwarz received Seattle’s First Citizen Award and the Key to the City of Greensboro and, in 2010, he received the ArtsFund Award of King and Pierce counties.
In 1989, Schwarz received the Ditson Conductor's Award from Columbia University for his commitment to the performance of American music. He received an honorary Doctorate of Music from The Juilliard School, and other honorary degrees from the Fairleigh Dickinson University, University of Puget Sound, Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts. In 2001 he was named Honorary Fellow of John Moores University, Liverpool.
This interview was recorded on the telephone on February 4, 1988.
Portions (along with recordings) were used aboard Northwest Airlines
as part of their in-flight entertainment package during April through June
of 1988. Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1992
and 1997, on WNUR in 2007, and on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in
2008. The transcription was posted on this website in 2013.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.