As symphony orchestras struggle to deal with the restrictions and dangers of the novel coronavirus, KCTS 9 will present a blast from the past: two full-orchestra performances by the All-Star Orchestra, led by longtime Seattle Symphony maestro Gerard Schwarz. Recorded last year, they’re the latest episodes from the All-Star Orchestra and they’ll air this month as a welcome reminder of a time when it was possible to make music without masks and onstage distancing.
“Maybe next year we’ll be able to come together again,” Schwarz said in a telephone interview, “but for now, I feel just terribly for all the musicians who are unable to play together. At least we have these programs.”
The first All-Star concert, “From Italy and Hungary with Love,” airs at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, with Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony, Kodály’s “Dances of Galánta” and Hovhaness’ “Prayer of St. Gregory.”
The following week, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, “Musical Miracles” will offer Handel’s “Water Music” and Haydn’s “Miracle” Symphony, plus Augusta Read Thomas’ “Plea for Peace.”
“I feel so lucky,” says Schwarz of the two concerts, “that we can actually offer these programs that are alive and real. Today, the virus protocols require special air filtration, masks and distancing for the players, with bags placed around the bells of wind instruments, and a special protector around the flute aperture to stop the spread of aerosols. It’s surreal — a different world — but we will get through this.”
Schwarz is familiar to Seattle music lovers for his 26 years as music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, seasons that saw the building of Benaroya Hall and the establishment of a lengthy discography on the Delos label. He departed in 2011, and now is music director of the All-Star Orchestra, Eastern Music Festival, Palm Beach Symphony, and Mozart Orchestra of New York. Schwarz also is a composer, and a professor at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
The All-Star Orchestra, founded in 2012, draws its players from the principals and other top instrumentalists of the country’s finest orchestras — New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle among them. Thus far, the All-Stars have recorded 16 programs aired nationwide on 225 public television stations, and worldwide via internet streaming; the programs have won seven Emmy Awards.