In 2013, veteran conductor Gerard Schwarz organized the first-ever All-Star Orchestra, a group of musicians gathered from more than 30 of this country’s top orchestras. During four concentrated days in New York City, the musicians taped performances of familiar classics and contemporary works; the performances were shown the following year during an eight-part series on public television and made available on DVD.
So successful was this venture, including its receipt of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Broadcasting Award and three Emmy Awards, that the All-Star Orchestra is back for a second season on selected public television stations, beginning Oct. 1. Naxos of America has already released these new performances on a two-DVD set that is available online or in stores for $19.99. Anyone who missed the first season can stream it on-line at thirteen.org/programs/all-star-orchestra.
Representing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the second season is violist Weijing Wang; she joined the CSO after serving as acting associate principal violist of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (2009-12) and principal violist of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra (2007-09). A native of Shanghai, she moved to the United States in 2004 and studied with Li-Kuo Chang, the CSO’s assistant principal violist, at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.
Wang traveled in August 2014 to the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, a part of the State University of New York, where she participated in one of the two days of the orchestra’s taping. Among the works she performed are Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben.
Wang spoke with Sounds and Stories about the experience:
How were you chosen for the All-Star Orchestra?
[The CSO’s] principal percussionist Cynthia Yeh gave my contact information to the personnel manager of that orchestra. I think she knows a couple of musicians from that orchestra, and she knew that they were looking for more violists.
You came in and had one day of taping and left. What was that like?
Actually, that was a very, very nice experience. All the players are from those big orchestras and are all fantastic. The recording process was extremely easy, and the music was very good repertoire. So the whole process was very compact but also very interesting and exciting.
Had you worked with Gerard Schwarz before?
No, that was my first time. His communication with the musicians was fantastic. I felt that the music was really easy under his baton. He is extremely knowledgeable and has some very nice and interesting musical ideas about the repertoire. I personally feel honored to have worked with him.
Did you know any of the other All-Star players?
I worked with the St. Louis Symphony for three years, and there were a couple of people from there who were also in the All-Star Orchestra. So that was really nice to have a reunion with past colleagues.
You joined the Chicago Symphony in 2012. Are you feeling comfortable in the orchestra as you begin this latest season?
Yes, extremely comfortable. I mean Chicago was the first city I lived in after I left home, so I consider that my second hometown. I’m extremely happy with the city, and the orchestra was the dream job that I always wanted. So I feel very fortunate and have a very happy life here.
Were there any surprises for you after moving from your previous orchestras to the CSO?
The biggest transition was the workload, and, actually, it’s getting heavier and heavier. But it was nice for me, because I started with kind of the lowest [level], and the transition from Phoenix to St. Louis prepared me.
Kyle MacMillan, former classical music critic of the Denver Post, is a Chicago-based arts writer.
TOP: Gerard Schwarz leads the All-Star Orchestra, a group of musicians gathered from more than 30 of this country’s top orchestras. | Photo: Steve Sherman