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 Internationally recognized for his moving performances, innovative programming and extensive catalogue of recordings, American conductor Gerard Schwarz serves as Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina and Jack Benaroya Conductor Laureate of the Seattle 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 after an acclaimed 26 years. The success of Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony helped raise the profile of the city of Seattle into that of a progressive leader of art and culture. Maestro Schwarz was instrumental in the building of Benaroya Hall, spearheading efforts that resulted in an acoustically superb new home for the Seattle Symphony. During his tenure as Music Director, the Orchestra amassed a critically acclaimed discography of more than 140 recordings; created numerous television programs and concert broadcasts resulting in two Emmy Awards; made major strides in music education programs including new series and the successful Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center; instituted regular programming of innovative themed festival weeks; and dramatically increased audience attendance and classical subscription weeks. Schwarz’s final season in Seattle was emblematic of the conductor’s passionate dedication and support for contemporary music, with a total of 22 world premieres, 18 of these premieres being a part of the Gund/Simonyi Farewell Commissions, an unprecedented commissioning initiative celebrating his farewell season as Music Director.

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 in North Carolina, one of this country’s foremost training programs for young musicians, Schwarz programmed a record nine world premieres for the recent 50th Anniversary Season. Accomplishments during his tenure include expanding the Festival's audiences to the largest in its history, incorporating a composer in residence program, developing three new concert series and increasing collaboration with the Appalachian Summer Festival where he serves as Artistic Partner for Symphonic Music Programming.

A prolific recording artist, Schwarz’s total discography numbers more than 329 on labels such as Naxos, Delos, EMI, Koch, New World, Nonesuch, Reference Recording, RLPO Classics, Columbia/Sony and RCA. 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. The conductor has a number of releases scheduled for 2011 on three different labels, including four albums of works by Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, as well as the highly-anticipated re-release of the complete Howard Hanson Symphonies on Naxos, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf for Brilliance Audio and Mahler’s Symphonies No. 3 and No. 10 on Artek. The Hanson cycle, first released on Delos, was a mainstay on the Billboard’s classical music best-selling list for 41 weeks, including six weeks at number three; earned Grammy nominations, and was named 1989 Record of the Year by Stereo Review. The new Russian series on Naxos has been acclaimed as “a high point in the extensive Schwarz/Seattle discography” (Classics Today), “very fine” (The Guardian) and “a powerhouse in Russian Romantic repertoire” (Music Web International). In addition to his numerous recordings with the Seattle Symphony, he has also recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Tokyo Philharmonic, Czech and Royal Liverpool Philharmonics, London Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra National de France, The Juilliard Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Symphony and New York Chamber Orchestra. 

 

The Maestro’s long-standing commitment to education will continue through a series of television projects now in development. A gifted composer and arranger, Schwarz has in recent years expanded his compositional activities. His Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano was called a work of “sophistication and intelligence” by critic R.M. Campbell. Earlier works, including In Memoriam and Rudolf and Jeanette (dedicated to the memory of his grandparents who perished in the Holocaust) were both recorded by Naxos; and Human Spirit, a composition for children’s choir and orchestra, and his duos for violin and cello was called “redolent of the gentle humanism central to much of the music Schwarz loves to conduct” by the Seattle Times. His arrangements of suites from Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande and Webern’s Langsamer Satz are programmed in concerts worldwide. Commissions are currently in process for the Cornell University Wind Ensemble, a symphony in three movements for David Gannett set to premiere in 2012 at the Eastern Music Festival; a clarinet and string quintet for the clarinettist Jon Manasse; and the completion of his four duos for violin and cello composed for Maria Larionoff and Julian Schwarz. 

 

A sought-after guest conductor, Schwarz has led orchestras throughout the world including Berlin Radio Symphony, Academy St. Martin in the Fields, Swedish Radio Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Bruckner Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Tokyo Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre Nationale de France, London Symphony, the symphony orchestras of Melbourne and Sydney, The National Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Montreal Symphony and the Saint Louis Symphony. He is also know for his operatic performances in addition to his concert work, having appeared with the Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Kirov Opera, Juilliard Opera and Mostly Mozart Festival conducting the operas of Wagner, Janacek, Strauss, Mozart, Bizet, Weber, Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky, Beethoven and Gluck. 

 

Born in America to Viennese parents, Schwarz began studying music at age five and soon focused on the trumpet. A graduate of both New York City's High School of Performing Arts and The Juilliard School of Music, he 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, where he presided over sold-out houses, developed the orchestra’s international touring, maintained a nine year residency in Japan, considerably expanded its Mozart repertoire and through its televised Live from Lincoln Center appearances earned several Emmy nominations. His tenure as Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra initiated the long-standing partnership between the orchestra and Classic FM, expanded recordings on the RLPO Live label, initiated a new partnership with Avie records, created the enormously popular Sunday matinee Musically Speaking concert series which remains the orchestra’s fastest growing audience to this day, led highly acclaimed tours to Spain and Prague and brought the orchestra to National Television in BBC Proms broadcasts. As Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and New York Chamber Symphony he expanded concert series and audiences, made award-winning recordings and championed new works. In addition he served as Artistic Advisor to the Tokyo Philharmonic.

In his nearly five decades as a respected classical musician and conductor, Schwarz has received hundreds of honors and accolades. Over the years, he has received 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, including from his alma mater, The Juilliard School. In 2002 the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers honored Schwarz with its Concert Music Award and in 2003 the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences gave Schwarz its first “IMPACT” lifetime achievement award. Active in music advocacy on a national and state level, he served on the National Council of the Arts and is currently Chairman of the Board of Young Musicians Excelling, an organization in Washington State which supports music education in the Pacific Northwest. Most recently, the City of Seattle recognized his outstanding achievements by naming 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.

Photo Credit: Robin Bartholick