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Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, November 2011

this is certainly well worth hearing, both as a meditation on contemporary composers’ love for their predecessors and as a varied collection of short, listener-friendly new pieces.

The recorded sound is as good as ever from Naxos’ exemplary Seattle recordings, close and full and presenting a rich, characterful orchestra at its best.

If you want a grab-bag of five-to-ten minute samples of seven American composers’ wares, this is a really excellent and extremely accessible introduction. Read complete review

David W Moore
American Record Guide, November 2011

…an attractive collection of pieces based on other pieces. Thank you for the commissions, Mr Schwarz! The orchestra seems to be enjoying the variety of styles, and so do I.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

WQXR (New York), August 2011

David Schiff’s five-minute whirl through Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite…makes clever use of rock and West African rhythms and instruments... Completely different is Bright Sheng’s Black Swan, which is modeled after Brahms’s Intermezzo No. 2 for piano and doesn’t stray too far from the original, capturing its serenity and autumnal tone.

David Stock’s Plenty of Horn, based on Jeremiah Clarke’s famous Prince of Denmark March, takes a more fragmented approach to its source material. The impressionistic Rubies by John Harbison is a romantic gloss on Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear” while Aaron Jay Kernis was the only composer represented with one of his own pieces, an orchestration of his ethereal string quartet Musica Celestis.

The recording closes with a work composed by Gerard Schwarz himself at the request of the Canadian Brass who premiered it at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. Schwarz, a former trumpet player, takes three movements from Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 9 and turns it into a vibrant concerto for brass quintet and orchestra.

All of these pieces were previously featured on a 2006 anthology issued by Hear Music, the Starbucks record label. Their sheer ingenuity makes this re-release more than welcome., August 2011

A new Naxos CD called Echoes deliberately mixes the old and new in ways chosen by conductor Gerard Schwarz, whose Concerto for Brass Quintet and Orchestra (after Handel) is the longest work here and the climax of a CD that includes six other compositions in which contemporary composers consider and reconsider older models. The choice of those models is as interesting as some of the works themselves. David Schiff (born 1945) bases Infernal on Stravinsky; Bright Sheng (born 1955) bases Black Swan on Brahms; and David Stock (born 1939) takes Plenty of Horn loosely from Jeremiah Clarke. But the models, or initial influences, of the other composers are a bit more surprising. For John Harbison (born 1938), Rubies is “after Thelonius Monk”; for Samuel Jones (born 1935), Benediction is based on the only piece for which Peter C. Lutkin (1858–1931) is known today, The Lord Bless You and Keep You (which virtually every church choir sings). The seventh work on this CD, and the only one not written in 2006, is Musica Celestis (1991) by Aaron Jay Kernis (born 1960) and is simply designated “version for strings”—Kernis originally wrote the work for string quartet. All the pieces on this CD are short; only the Schwarz concerto lasts more than 10 minutes. The composers use their models in many different ways, sometimes seeking similar sonority, sometimes using the older composers’ harmonic language, sometimes creating something new that is based at best loosely on what was written before. Except for the theme of transformation of older composers’ works for the 20th and 21st centuries, there is nothing in particular that unifies this disc, which is best regarded as a sampler of the styles of some rather well-known contemporary composers. The CD gets a (+++) rating for exposing listeners to an uneven but mostly worthwhile set of short works that collectively show the many ways in which today’s composers build on, or around, the legacy of those who came before.

James Manheim, July 2011

This album has been released in different forms, including a regular appearance in the catalog of the Naxos label and a turn in the spotlight backed by the mighty marketing apparatus of the Starbucks coffeehouse chain. It thus has been made to serve several different purposes and can be evaluated in various ways. The album offers pieces by seven contemporary composers, including Seattle Symphony conductor Gerard Schwarz himself, that are somehow based on preexisting works. As a vehicle for getting classical music and the names of contemporary composers into the hands of coffee drinkers who may hear it over their frappuccinos, it works fairly well. The sequence of events is musically varied, with fresh but crowd-pleasing selections. David Schiff’s somewhat rock-flavored treatment of the “Infernal Dance” from Stravinsky’s Firebird makes an attention-grabbing opening. David Stock’s Plenty of Horn, based on the familiar Trumpet Voluntary of Jeremiah Clarke, gives even the absolute novice a likely place to hang his or her hat but treats its model in a novel way, assembling the melody from fragments and layers of register. As an examination of how classical models are “echoed” in contemporary music the album is less successful. There are certainly pieces of individual interest; in addition to those mentioned thus far, one might add John Harbison’s Rubies, a startling classical rethinking of a jazz composition, Thelonious Monk’s Rubies. This work deserves wider exposure, for it is situated right at the spot where classical music and jazz diverge but maintain certain ties. Some of the other works are close to being straight arrangements, however, and the program as a whole doesn’t make a coherent statement. Nevertheless, Schwarz, Starbucks, and the Seattle Symphony deserve credit for going beyond the usual formula of classical encore favorites as an introductory disc.

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