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Gerard Schwarz - The New Trumpet

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Listened to this 1972 Nonesuch lp yesterday from the "New" angle and found it "interesting". Listened to it today from the "Trumpet" angle and got kinda "HOLY SHIT" about it.

This passage from the liners is interesting, I think, from all kinds of angles (bold added):

Many of the above (referring to various mutes) were used primarily in American popular music and jazz, and it is only recently (with the renascence of the trumpet virtuoso and the serious composer's growing interest in timbre as a compositional statement, that the vast resources of the modern trumpet are beginning to be explored in new music.

Other than a 1955 piece by Peter Maxwell Davies that is about "normal" notes and conventions of line, everything else on here is, in one form another, based on timbre first, everything else second. One piece is solo, the other for trumpet & tape. What makes it such a fascinating listen is that Schwarz's virtuosity in the "classical" sense is not sacrificed even a whit. If anything, it comes to the fore more playing this kind of "new music" than it does in "traditional" "classical".

Of course, in jazz, we've had Lester Bowie, Bill Dixon, Olu Dara, a.o. working the trumpet like this, and their antecedents go back to the probable beginning of the music (and probably even before that, before there were trumpets, if you cut to the chase about it), and their goal was most likely not to use timbre as a "compositional statement", more like a personal statement, which is a whole 'nother thing.

At least it is until one begins thinking of "art", after which "personal" begins expanding into "personal reality as found in a broader context", and even sometimes becomes "objective statement apart from personal realities", which to me gets on a slippery slope towards a nihilism of vanity (the really philosophy savvy will no doubt know the right name for that, whatever it is), a sort of I don't exist, therefore I am ALL that exists affirmation of vacuity that is really, I think, more trouble - and less use - than it's worth. To anybody.

Anyway...the playing on this album is not any of that. This guy is feeling this music, I think. There's nothing glib or effect-ish going on (compare the ongoing musicality of these performances to, say, Wynton's playing on something like The Magic Hour, where the effects don't sound like they're about the music, the sound like they're about the effects of the music...and I think that Schwarz & Marsalis both had a teacher in common,, so...GIGO proven again? And I don't mean to pick on Wynton, but dammit, he does it SO frequently, and he's such a damn fine superior trumpet player and such a damn poor musician...sigh...). Schwarz' attention to the finer points of phrasing, of line, of time, in even the most abstract statements of "sound" are about as zoned-in as you could want. Above all else, this is really, really good trumpet playing. I think it leaves the music itself with more meat on its bones than it probably went on the stand with, if you know what I mean. And that gives it something in common with so much jazz - you leave it better than you found it.

So, if you like to listen to sound as sound (and so many people do, that seems to have been an overall esthetic trend in cultures both "serious" and "popular" for a good long while now (and in some cultures, seemingly eternally). here is a record to check out.

$_57.JPG

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And I don't mean to pick on Wynton, but dammit, ... he's such a damn fine superior trumpet player and such a damn poor musician...sigh....

Probably the most cogent comment I've ever read about Wynton.

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Well, if you like that quote, you may well like this record at least as much!

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I remember the record and agree with your comments.


If you have any interest, this is a delightful record:

51521MpVcML._SS280.jpg

A great bit of Americana.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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Schwarz was one of those guys known to be pretty much by name only from back in the day...all the trumpet majors knew the name and dropped it (appropriately, as it turns out). I see that his accomplishments began early (I think he was under 25 in 1972) and have both continued and broadened. Definitely somebody I plan on looking into further, especially as a trumpet player.

Nonesuch was such a fun label back then. The stuff I'm just now getting around to is as much fun as the stuff I did get around to, sometimes more so!

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Gerard Schwarz acquired an excellent reputation as the director/conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2011.

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He was principal trumpet in the NY Phil before taking up conducting and plays the astonishing opening trumpet solo on the NY Phil recording of Elliot Carter's Symphony for Three Orchestras (with Boulez). Apparently Carter admired Schwarz and wanted to write something that would stretch him, which it certainly does. IIRC the opening is meant to evoke the opening of a Hart Crane poem with seagulls swooping around the Brooklyn Bridge. And the trumpet solo does a lot of swooping...

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With name misspelled on the lp, he appeared on Ornette's Science Fiction sessions.

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He has had an excellent career, especially leading the Seattle Orchestra. I enjoy his Schuman symphonies on Naxos (previously on Delos?), and works by many other American composers.

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Cat played a helluva trumpet, that's all I know.

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Gerard Schwarz acquired an excellent reputation as the director/conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2011.

Not so much:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/arts/music/16waki.html?_r=0

Times was mostly a hit piece, LK. Schwarz could be a hardass, possibly imperious on occasion, but isn't that his job? Case dismissed btw--

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/symphony-violinists-lawsuit-dismissed/

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Case-against-Seattle-Symphony-dismissed-1262642.php

Filed two years ago, the suit alleged that Kaman endured "emotional distress arising out of hostile environment and harassment ... over a long and extended period of time." The violinist, who has anxiety disorder that developed in his late teens, said in the suit that he has suffered "persistent and severe discrimination." Within two years after Gerard Schwarz became music director of the orchestra, according to the suit, Schwarz began a long-term attempt to fire Kaman.

Without having examined the medical records etc, if above is the case... is violinist in full time symphony orchestra really the appropriate occupation?

And maybe-- just maybe-- any musician who left Seattle would, because of GS, have a # of better-than-previous professional opportunities?

Meanwhile, pretty much any GS conducted album is at least worth hearing & if one can snag his American orchestral series' recordings cheap (or find at library), they're estimable if, in my case, I usually prefer more modernist fare.

also--

Edited by MomsMobley

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Moms -- Leaving aside the human relations-managerial aspects of Schwarz's time in Seattle, my impression is that as a conductor he was/is a routiner -- and I do own a fair number of his recordings, the William Schuman symphonies set in particular. Terrific trumpeter, though.

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Moms -- Leaving aside the human relations-managerial aspects of Schwarz's time in Seattle, my impression is that as a conductor he was/is a routiner -- and I do own a fair number of his recordings, the William Schuman symphonies set in particular. Terrific trumpeter, though.

Yeah, who knows but the question is, how much could he ultimately do with a band like Seattle? I did, years ago, hear him do Mozart etc in New York and he was very good but of course anyone damn well should be. Aside from some quasi-'juicy' content in the NYT piece, I think some motivation stemmed from grief on that side also. But you know what a snakepit etc...

Also, this Hindemith recording is excellent--

http://www.amazon.com/Hindemith-Nobilissima-Visione-Pieces-Orchestra/dp/B00KQ31IZ2

Edited by MomsMobley

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FWIW, Greg Sandow on a 1998 Schwarz Mostly Mozart performance of Richard Strauss's version of Mozart's "Idomeneo":

And now a word about the performance. Maybe I wish the tenor in the title role had sounded less boyish -- Idomeneo, after all, is a king -- and that he had more strength in his lower range, where much of his music lies. But he sang well, and in any case he and the other singers (Angelika Kirchschlager, Olga Makarina, and Christine Brewer, nicely chosen for the other leading roles) weren’t the problem.
onepix.gifWhat almost killed the evening was the conductor, Gerard Schwarz, who’s been music director of Mostly Mozart for 16 years. In his favor, I can say that he kept the soloists, chorus and orchestra together and moved everything along at the proper speed.
onepix.gifBut in his hands the music had no line, no motion from place to place. It had no color, only the most routine kind of clarity, and no sense of Mozart’s style. Mr. Schwarz didn’t even breathe or phrase with the singers, giving them no support at all, as if to him they were just some minor element in an otherwise orchestral texture. Sometimes he’d demonstrate his control by emphasizing details -- accented notes, or momentary counter-melodies, all of which seemed pointless in a performance with no tone or shape, no strong contrast between loud music and soft, and sometimes in fast passages (like the final chorus) not much rhythm.
onepix.gifWhy, I might ask, should someone with so little to offer be entrusted with a major musical event, let alone one that so clearly demands a point of view? But there’s a larger issue.
onepix.gifFor years, Mostly Mozart hasn’t mattered very much. People bought tickets, and that, it seemed, was all its planners cared about. The performances mostly were routine.
onepix.gifLately, though, Lincoln Center’s programmers, Jane Moss and Hanako Yamaguchi, have revived the artistic spark that created the series in the first place. Within a week, I’ve heard not just "Idomeneo," but heartwarming and deeply original performances by Emmanuel Ax (playing Chopin’s second concerto on a period piano, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) and by the deeply original Latvian-born violinist Gidon Kremer, with an irrepressible ensemble of 20-something string players from the Baltic states, which he calls KREMERata BALTICA.
onepix.gifIn a festival of this emerging quality, Schwarz -- once known for running chamber orchestras in New York, but now not much respected outside Seattle, where he leads the Seattle Symphony -- wouldn’t be invited to conduct. That he should be music director is, quite simply, astonishing.

Wall Street Journal, August 11, 1998

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Anybody besides me and Chuck heard the record in the OP? That's what I was recommending, not the guy's conducting resume.

Not miffed, just muffed. :g

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FWIW, Greg Sandow on a 1998 Schwarz Mostly Mozart performance of Richard Strauss's version of Mozart's "Idomeneo":

Wall Street Journal, August 11, 1998

LK-- Sandow is a fucking crank just more than little embittered that, uh... nobody is playing his compositions. And yeah, good to great composers have also been interesting, sometimes weird, critics also but Virgil Thomson he ain't, let alone Berlioz.

I won't dignify Sandow's schtick but running down list of conductors he's ambushed on slim, often fatuous, evidence but Schwarz ain't the only one.

Also, no comment, from Sandow's website-- but maybe he'll help Anthony Braxton with his interplanetary aspirations etc?

If you Google me, or read my Wikipedia entry, you might find that for a while I was involved in UFO research. I’d call myself a believer who demands scientific proof, but that’s a story for another time.

Edited by MomsMobley

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Moms -- If you think that Sandow, crank though he may be, was the only one who had it up there with Schwarz at Mostly Mozart, think again.

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Moms -- If you think that Sandow, crank though he may be, was the only one who had it up there with Schwarz at Mostly Mozart, think again.

Nobody was saying Schwarz was, say, Rene Jacobs, but he's certainly a more than competent Mozartean; is it possible-- even probable there were 'off' nights & on? Of course.

But look at the orchestral situation in New York-- who has been pleasing, and who has pleased the musicians, besides Levine? AND you saw what Sandow-- out of nowhere then, the world's great "moralist" (sic)-- tried to do to him.

Hint: maybe its "major" institution New York musicians who are as much the problem as the conductors, though, to be sure, I've been less than pleased a # of choices etc.

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Moms -- I think we both loathe Alex Ross but even a stopped clock etc.

"A Little Late-Night Music"

by Alex Ross

The New Yorker, August 29, 2005.

"A decade ago, the Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center’s venerable summertime series, was offering some of the dullest concerts in the Western Hemisphere. I remember a performance of Mozart’s Flute Concerto in D, with Jean-Pierre Rampal as the soloist and Gerard Schwarz conducting the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, which was positively bureaucratic in its self-satisfied mediocrity, as if it were being piped in from a department of motor vehicles in Leonid Brezhnev’s Russia. I briefly considered abandoning music criticism for cat-sitting."

P.S. To support my broader point about Schwarz's work at Mostly Mozart generally not being well regarded, if I know my boy Alex, he wouldn't have been that bitchy about Schwarz if he didn't think that a lot of people agreed with him.

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Moms -- I think we both loathe Alex Ross but even a stopped clock etc.

"A Little Late-Night Music"

by Alex Ross

The New Yorker, August 29, 2005.

"A decade ago, the Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center’s venerable summertime series, was offering some of the dullest concerts in the Western Hemisphere. I remember a performance of Mozart’s Flute Concerto in D, with Jean-Pierre Rampal as the soloist and Gerard Schwarz conducting the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, which was positively bureaucratic in its self-satisfied mediocrity, as if it were being piped in from a department of motor vehicles in Leonid Brezhnev’s Russia. I briefly considered abandoning music criticism for cat-sitting."

P.S. To support my broader point about Schwarz's work at Mostly Mozart generally not being well regarded, if I know my boy Alex, he wouldn't have been that bitchy about Schwarz if he didn't think that a lot of people agreed with him.

Is there an ** exciting ** version of the Mozart flute concertos? Maybe I only saw 'em good nights-- symphonies, overtures, maybe Masonic music warm up?-- late '90s but I thought they were fine-- albeit not in the style I most prefer in Mozart. Even taking Ross at face value, a combination of conductor & musician lassitude seems likely explanation.

And, not to put Schwarz on the same level but look what "you" (Chicago, not LK personally) did to Jean Martinon & Rafael Kubelik... And, as I suggested, nearly over "major" NYC orchestra except the Met gets ragged on, perhaps deservedly but...

***

Sandow sidenote, from his Fischer-Dieskau memorial

And yet… strengths can also be weaknesses, and one could say that Fischer-Dieskau’s tricks with volume make his singing fussy, especially in Bach, where often I wish he’d just let the music speak for itself.

http://www.gregsandow.com/old/fdieskau.htm

even with scores unseen, I suspect that's something ** everyone ** can agree upon: that Sandow's music is best left to speak for itself.

(I've run hot/cold DF-D but finally you gotta say he was a real artist, take or leave or choose wisely etc but I'd NEVER use that old (hack) saw against the man in any repertoire.)

Edited by MomsMobley

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Anybody besides me and Chuck heard the record in the OP? That's what I was recommending, not the guy's conducting resume.

Not miffed, just muffed. :g

I've got it, but haven't heard it in years. Recall really enjoying it, especially the duet with Oppens.

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Moms -- "let the music speak for itself" is a lazy-ass phrase, but IMO F-D, like Lizzie Blackhead, did often err on the side of fussiness and/or a mannered "lecture/demonstration" mode of interpretation. In Lizzie's case, Walter Legge might have been significantly responsible; supposedly the happy couple thoroughly scoped out most everything she sang beforehand.

Again, as I'm sure you know, such cavils about the work of both F-D and Lizzie, right or wrong, have been made quite commonly for many years. BTW, much early F-D, like his St. Matthew Passion with Fritz Lehman and some Bach cantatas from the '50s on EMI, is quite something IMO. Another F-D gem is his Schoeck Notturno with the Juilliard Quartet.

The Mozart Flute Concerti are not going to be exciting works in anyone's hands, but this recording is quite stylish IIRC:

http://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Flute-Concertos-Nos-Concerto/dp/B0000CDJKB

About Kubelik and Martinon, it was mostly the Tribune's Claudia Cassidy who took out Kubelik (she'd earlier done the same with Desire Defauw), and it was board politics plus Martinon's own managerial gaffes, and his basic unsuitability, for all his conductorial gifts, to handle a more or less Germanic orchestra, that did him in.

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Anybody besides me and Chuck heard the record in the OP? That's what I was recommending, not the guy's conducting resume.

Not miffed, just muffed. :g

I've got it, but haven't heard it in years. Recall really enjoying it, especially the duet with Oppens.

I'm going to have a hard time ever listening to it again. I'll keep thinking that this guy went on and conducted Mozart as a part of his living and, Whhhhhhhheeeehhhh, the goes The New Trumpet Erection.

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