PORT ANGELES — September has brought a set of experiences Steve Schermer, a Seattle musician raised in Port Angeles, never predicted.
Schermer plays the double bass, an instrument almost as tall as he is; he performs with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra among other ensembles around Seattle.
Last December he joined the Port Angeles Symphony to celebrate its 90th anniversary season. For this occasion, award-winning Seattle composer Sarah L. Bassingthwaighte created the Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra, featuring Schermer as the soloist. Together with the symphony and conductor and artistic director Jonathan Pasternack, Schermer reveled in his hometown’s long history of music-making.
Then, on Sept. 5, Schermer and Pasternack collaborated again — in England, with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Bassingthwaighte raised the funds to produce the project, and the Port Angeles Symphony board sent Pasternack to London to conduct the ensemble. He, Schermer and Bassingthwaighte experienced the joy of making a recording of the Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra.
With the 52-player LSO, “we did it all in one session, with Steve, who played magnificently,” Pasternack said.
“We had four hours scheduled with the orchestra, and we finished 40 minutes early.”
Schermer, back home in Seattle this week, is still marveling at what happened.
“First, this was such a rare opportunity. For myself and most other career orchestral players, it is almost unheard of to get the opportunity to record a concerto, written specifically for you, and with a group like the London Symphony Orchestra,” he said.
“I have spent thousands of hours in all sorts of recording sessions throughout my career, and as a result I am fully aware of the wide-ranging responses one can receive from an orchestra in situations like this. And so I was greatly relieved when they showed themselves to be a very thoughtful and kind group, who really threw themselves behind the project.”
St. Luke’s, the LSO’s venue on Old Street in London, was the space for the video recording, which Pasternack said will be produced for distribution in 2024. Fernando Arias of the ARIA Classics label is the producer and a friend of Pasternack.
“It sounds amazing. It really, really worked,” the conductor said of the recording.
The LSO played with its signature brilliance, Pasternack added. The orchestra’s virtuosity made him feel completely free, he added, to create stunning music with very little rehearsal.
Pasternack, in his ninth season conducting the Port Angeles Symphony, worked with the LSO in 2008. Together they recorded the music of Brahms and Bartok for Pasternack’s critically acclaimed debut on the Naxos label.
Also this summer, Pasternack traveled to the Czech Republic for the seventh time, to conduct and record Strauss’ violin concerto with Franziska Pietsch and the Moravian Philharmonic. That work will be released next year on ARIA Classics as well, along with Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, which Pietsch and Pasternack will record in Spain early in 2024.
As for the Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra, the journey to London was the culmination of a process that began with the commission of the piece for the Port Angeles Symphony’s milestone year. The recording with the LSO will bring international attention to the work, said Pasternack. “And the name of the Port Angeles Symphony will always go with it.”
This week the conductor is back home now, rehearsing his orchestra for the Sept. 30 Family Pops concert, the first performance of the 91st season. The symphony will take the stage at 7 p.m. in the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center. Ticket information is found at portangelessymphonyorg.
“I was very happy for Steve,” he added of the trip to London.
“He is getting the kind of exposure that his artistry truly deserves.”