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David DeBoor Canfield
Fanfare, March 2018

…Schwarz succeeds brilliantly in all three works. …every gesture and nuance, every dynamic shading and caressed phrase combine to produce a most memorable reading of Mussorgsky’s masterpiece. The rather impish gnome gives way to a most soulful reading of “Il vecchio Castello,” which in turn leads to one of the liveliest traversals of “Tuileries” I can recall. The euphonium solo of “BydÅ‚o,” performed by Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic, could not have been more suave, nor could the several famous trumpet solos have been better brought to life than they are by David Bilger, principal trumpeter of the Philadelphia Orchestra. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, January 2018

Conductor Gerard Schwarz’s vision of bringing together the top classical players in America is realized again in these two recent installments of The All-Star Orchestra. The new programs feature works by Modest Mussorgsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Jan Sibelius, as well as Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, Alan Hovhaness and Eugene Goossens. Compositions by master symphonists such as these are memorable—even iconic—in their own ways, and the performances captured here are resplendent with a vitality rarely encountered anywhere other than in a live concert setting. © 2018 Scene Magazine

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2017

The CD catalogue is certainly awash with outstanding performances of Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, but this DVD is special. However one views the work, it is in essence a score full of orchestral virtuosity, and here we have an ensemble formed from North America’s most outstanding musicians who take the listener into realms of brilliance that are to my knowledge unsurpassed on disc. Yet it is in the pure beauty of sound, particularly in the woodwind, that we move into a magical world of sound. With this level of technical skill, Gerard Schwarz, can take the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks at a mercurial tempo that creates a mood of sheer delight, while the heavy brass have their big moment when we reach the final Great Gate of Kiev. Special praise for Lino Gomez’s alto saxophone and Whitney Crockett’s bassoon in their respective solos. While we are still recovering from such solo and corporate magnificence, Schwarz launches us in to four excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, the speed of fingers on strings in the fight scene—The Death of Tybalt—having to be seen to be believed. I came back down to earth with the Sibelius Second Symphony, and here I miss that special sound we hear from Nordic orchestras, and no measure of beauty, that is on offer here, can replace that ingredient. As I said in this month’s review of Schwarz’s Elgar DVD (Naxos 2.110562), this series of discs is aimed at those listeners on the periphery of the classics, with highly informative spoken introductions that give the background to the works being performed, and in that sphere I fervently recommend the disc. But to the hardcore collector, I beg you to wallow in the virtuosity on offer here, the sound is of a very high quality, and as we do not see a multitude of microphones, the balance has been achieved in the correct way within the orchestra itself. The filming is excellent. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Richard Haskell
The WholeNote, October 2017

…“Russian Treasures” and “Northern Lights,” features Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet and the Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius. Prior to each performance, Schwarz provides an informal commentary, while various members of the orchestra offer their thoughts on the music as well, all of which makes for an engaging personal touch—and the myriad of effective camera angles throughout gives the ensemble a strong sense of presence. The performances of all three works are uniformly excellent. The individual movements from Pictures are finely crafted, while the familiar segments from the ballet—Capulets and Montagues, Portrait of the Young Juliet, Minuet and Death of Tybalt, are in no small way aided by the warm strings, a full and well-rounded brass section and woodwinds with impeccable clarity. Sibelius’ grand and expansive symphony from 1902 is treated with much aplomb, from the gentle opening movement to the jubilant finale. © 2017 The WholeNote Read complete review, September 2017

ALL-STAR ORCHESTRA (THE): Program 13: Russian Treasures / Program 14: Northern Lights (G. Schwarz) (NTSC) 2.110561
ALL-STAR ORCHESTRA (THE): Program 15: British Enigmas / Program 16: Mysterious Mountain (G. Schwarz) (NTSC) 2.110562

The recordings of The All-Star Orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz remain excellent ways for people unfamiliar with classical music to learn about it in an enjoyable rather than strictly educational way. These DVDs are not as groundbreaking as the Bernstein concerts that are their musical and educational heritage, but they are uniformly well-produced, well-played and packed with commentary that can help make classical music as understandable and vibrant in the 21st century as Bernstein’s TV shows made it in the 20th. © 2017 Read complete review

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