Last year, conductor Gerard Schwarz, formerly the music director of the Seattle Symphony, assembled a pick-up orchestra of some of the leading principal players from around the country — for a four-day recording session in New York City. The purpose was to create, in one extended sitting, an entire eight-part series of classical music pieces — from repertory mainstays to contemporary works. The project recalls the days of Leonard Bernstein’s educational TV shows and Young People’s Concerts — complete with “entry-level” commentary and demonstrations of musical bits. But this time, much of the money and many of the players come from outside New York. (A smart move — local favorites from different cities will have their boosters — like, well, here). And in a digital move that Bernstein would have grasped immediately, extended versions of the series will be available online and on DVD. (That’s the series trailer, above.)
The All-Star Orchestra includes many musicians Schwarz has played with over the years — including the DSO’s associate concertmaster, Emanuelle Boisvert (left — who I believe can be briefly glimpsed in the video, ponytailed, in the back, on the left at .48). The New York Times described the initial recording session as something akin to ‘music camp’ — as old friends and fellow conservatory students met up again after many years. The series starts Sunday at 1 pm on KERA Channel 13. Each episode will take a theme and offer a mix of pieces. Sunday’s episode, “Music for the Theater,” includes music from Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Ravel’s Daphnis and Choe and Bright Sheng’s Prelude to Black Swan.