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Gerard Schwarz 
Ask the Artist 

Conversing with a Conductor
Seattle Symphony Music Director Gerard Schwarz Responds to Your Questions


Grammy-nominated production team Victor and Marina Ledin will answer visitors in May.  As series producers for Naxos American Classics, they have the inside track on American Music at Naxos.  Submit your enquiries to or at the bottom of the page!
Q. Who is your favourite American composer?

I wish I could name just a single composer, but that would not be possible.  If you look at the composers
being released by Naxos, whether it be Creston, Piston, Diamond, etc., these are amongst my favourites.

Q. I really appreciated your performance with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in January 2004.  I am an adult student learning piano at the moment.  Would you mind answering the following questions for me?  What's the basic requirement to be a conductor?  Where can I learn the skills to be a conductor?  What made you want to be a conductor?
, Hong Kong

A. The basic requirement to be a conductor is a broad music knowledge, leadership qualities and inspirational artistic qualities.  The skills you need to be a conductor you learn through a very deep study of music, and either playing in an orchestra or going to a specialist school to study conducting.  What made me want to be a conductor was simply my love of making music.

Q. How did you become involved with the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music?  How many recordings have you made for the archive?

A. I became involved with the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music through the invitation of Neil Levin, the archive's Artistic Director.  I am not sure how many recordings I made for the archive, but it is probably around ten.

Q. You’re noted as one of the most distinguished advocates for the music of Howard Hanson.  I suspect you agree with me that one of his most inexplicably neglected works is the opera Merry Mount.  The only recording of it is the Naxos rendition of the Metropolitan Opera’s radio broadcast of the world premiere.  That recording, of course, dates from the 1930s – and isn’t available in the United States.  You’ve made a fine recording of the Merry Mount Suite.  My question is:  may we hope that you’ll eventually record the complete opera?

A. We did a wonderful performance of Merry Mount and recorded it, as a live recording, and it's my hope that Naxos will release it one of these days.

Q. I’ve attended several of your concerts in Liverpool
and have been impressed by your wide-ranging repertoire and the response of the orchestra to you.  I would be particularly interested to know which large scale Romantic works are particular favourites of yours--and any plans that you can reveal concerning them.
, UK

A. I do have a wide repertoire, but I have certainly focused on the music of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler here in Liverpool.  I have a tremendous love of the music of Strauss, including the operas, having just done a run of 'Ariadnes' with the Seattle Opera.  All I can reveal about these works is that they strike a very familiar and comfortable chord in my soul, probably due to my Viennese-style upbringing.

Q. What is the trickiest thing about conducting, and what is the most challenging piece you've conducted?

A. The trickiest thing about conducting is finding a balance between clarity and expressivity, and the most difficult pieces I have probably ever conducted are the Ives '4th Symphony' and the Elliot Carter 'Double Concerto'.

Q. What makes a conductor a good leader that the musicians trust?
, Canada

A. I think that one of the primary qualities that a conductor has to have is artistic integrity. Obviously, general leadership abilities and a very deep knowledge of music are crucial.  Hopefully, musicians will put their trust in those conductors who help them perform great concerts.

What's your question for Victor and Marina Ledin?

Producers for the acclaimed Naxos American Classics series and twice-nominated for a GRAMMY®, Victor and Marina Ledin of Encore Consultants garner respect throughout the classical industry.  In addition to their roles as classical producers, the pair have worked extensively on delicately restoring historical recordings and contributing in-depth, scholarly notes on countless CDs.  Their recordings of works by Gottschalk, Barber and Confrey have received both critical and public acclaim.

Submit your questions for Victor and Marina Ledin and view the answers next month on



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