Thursday, November 30, 2017

Xian Zhang conducts NJSO 2018 Winter Festival Jan 11-14

NJSO with Xian Zhang at NJPAC 008 bow - credit Fred Stucker

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Music Director Xian Zhang conducts a pair of NJSO premieres in the first program of the 2018 Winter Festival, “America, Inspiring.” The program—presented January 11–14 in Englewood, Newark and New Brunswick—features Chinese-American composer Chen Yi’s Ge Xu and Respighi’s Fountains of Rome.

In a nod to Zhang’s own journey to America and New Jersey, she leads Respighi’s Pines of Rome—a work she conducted in her first-ever performances with the NJSO in 2010. Chinese pianist George Li, the 22-year-old silver medalist of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, performs Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto.

Performances take place on Thursday, January 11, at 7:30 pm at bergenPAC in Englewood; Saturday, January 13, at 8 pm at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark; and Sunday, January 14, at 3 pm at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick.

The 2018 Winter Festival highlights the myriad ways America has inspired not only those who call it home but also those who have visited its welcoming shores. Leveraging the power of art to transcend differences, a series of NJSO Accents and special events further explore the immigrant experience and how foreign artists have illustrated American inspiration in their work.

NJSO Accent events during the Festival’s first weekend include two post-concert talkbacks with NJSO musicians. On January 11, members of the Orchestra’s international roster of musicians describe their own journeys to the United States and New Jersey. On January 14, Principal Bassoon Robert Wagner discusses the NJSO’s efforts to reach out to the many diverse communities in the Garden State.

A pre-concert wine tasting on January 13 features wine and music expert Ron Merlino. Tickets for this Accent event are $15; reservations are required. More information is available

For more information on the Winter Festival and related events, visit


Tickets start at $20 and are available for purchase online at or by phone at 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476).


Get the most from the Winter Festival with a Festival Pass! For just $150, you get a prime seat for any—or all—of the nine Festival concerts, a ticket to one of the chamber music concerts, complimentary entry to either wine tasting and a reserved front-row seat for all Festival Accent events.


Winter Festival Week I – America, Inspiring: Respighi & Prokofiev

Thu, Jan 11, at 7:30 pm | bergenPAC in Englewood

Sat, Jan 13, at 8 pm | NJPAC in Newark

Sun, Jan 14, at 3 pm | State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick

Xian Zhang, conductor

George Li, piano

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

CHEN YI Ge Xu (NJSO Premiere)

PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3

RESPIGHI Fountains of Rome (NJSO Premiere)

RESPIGHI Pines of Rome


Talkback—Thu, Jan 11, after the concert

Listen as members of the NJSO’s international roster of musicians describe their own journeys to the US and New Jersey in the opening panel of the Winter Festival, America, Inspiring.

Wine Tasting—Sat, Jan 13, before the concert

Join wine and music expert Ron Merlino in an exclusive tasting of wines made of old-world grapes in new-world soil. $15 for the tasting, reservations required.

Talkback—Sun, Jan 14, after the concert

Principal Bassoon Robert Wagner discusses the NJSO's efforts to reach out to the many diverse communities in the Garden State.

Full concert information is available at


Xian Zhang, conductor

In an acclaimed first season as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Xian Zhang “clearly made her mark,” NJ Advance Media writes. “Now it’s time to see how high [the Orchestra] can soar.” Zhang continues her tenure in 2017–18 with performances of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Mahler’s First Symphony and Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, among others.

In September 2016, Zhang assumed the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra; the season culminated in a televised BBC Proms performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, anticipating the start of a two-year project devoted to the composer’s complete symphonies. Her 2017–18 BBC NOW season includes a concert tour of Wales. Zhang is also Conductor Emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following completion of her tenure as Music Director from 2009–16.

Forthcoming engagements include returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orquesta Nacional de España and Savonlinna Opera Festival, as well as debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and NAC Orchestra, Ottawa. Zhang is a regular conductor of the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras; recent highlights include her debut with The Cleveland Orchestra and a gala concert with Renée Fleming and the China NCPA Orchestra.

Born in Dandong, China, Zhang made her professional debut conducting The Marriage of Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees and serving one year on its conducting faculty before moving to the United States in 1998. She was appointed the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, then became its Associate Conductor and first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair.

George Li, piano

Pianist George Li possesses brilliant virtuosity and effortless grace far beyond his years. He captured the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition and was the recipient of the 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant. Recent and upcoming concerto highlights include performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel, San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas, Hamburg Philharmonic with Manfred Honeck, a tour of Asia with the London Symphony Orchestra with Giandrea Noseda, St. Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, Philharmonia Orchestra with Long Yu, Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Mälmo Symphony, Verbier Festival Orchestra, DSO Berlin, Seattle Symphony, Utah Symphony, Sydney Symphony and Frankfurt Radio Symphony. He frequently appears with the Mariinsky Orchestra with Valery Gergiev.

Recital highlights include Carnegie Hall, Davies Hall in San Francisco, the Mariinsky Theatre, Munich’s Gasteig, the Louvre, Seoul Arts Center, Tokyo’s Asahi Hall and Musashino Hall, NCPA Beijing, Ravinia Festival, Lanaudiere Festival, Edinburgh Festival and Montreaux Festival.

An active chamber musician, Li has performed chamber music with James Ehnes, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Benjamin Beilman, Kian Soltani, Pablo Ferrandez and Daniel Lozakovich.

Li is an exclusive Warner Classics recording artist; his debut album, released in October 2017, was recorded live from the Mariinsky. Li gave his first public performance at Boston’s Steinway Hall at the age of 10 and, in 2011, performed for President Barack Obama at the White House in an evening honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Among his many prizes, he was the first-prize winner of the 2010 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and a recipient of the 2012 Gilmore Young Artist Award.

Li is currently in the Harvard University/New England Conservatory joint program, studying with Wha Kyung Byun.

2018 WINTER FESTIVAL: America, Inspiring

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Xian Zhang present the 2018 Winter Festival—“America, Inspiring”—in January at eight venues across the state. The Festival celebrates foreign artists and composers whose experiences connect them to the nation’s legacy as a source of inspiration and beacon of ideals for people from all over the world.

Spanning three weekends, January 11–28, the Winter Festival includes orchestral performances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown and bergenPAC in Englewood. The NJSO Chamber Players perform a special chamber music concert at St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church in Rumson and Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit.

WEEK II: America, Inspiring: Ravel & Rachmaninoff

Fri, Jan 19, at 8 pm | Richardson Auditorium in Princeton

Sat, Jan 20, at 8 pm | State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick

Sun, Jan 21, at 3 pm | NJPAC in Newark

Andrew Constantine, conductor

Terrence Wilson, piano

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

MARTINŮ Thunderbolt P-47 (NJSO Premiere)

RAVEL Piano Concerto in G Major

RACHMANINOFF Symphonic Dances


Panel Discussion—Fri, Jan 19, at 6:45 pm and Sun, Jan 21, at 1:45 pm

Host Naomi Lewin and a panel of experts discuss the political climate in Europe that drove so many of the Winter Festival's composers to come to America.

Wine Tasting—Sat, Jan 20, before the concert

Join wine and music expert Ron Merlino in an exclusive tasting of wines made of old-world grapes in new-world soil. $15 for the tasting, reservations required.

Performance & Painting—Sun, Jan 21, after the concert

Watch creative inspiration in action as artist Ken Ahlering ( paints in response to a performance by the NJSO Chamber Players.

Full concert information is available at

America, Inspiring: Special Chamber Music Concert

Tue, Jan 23, at 3 pm | St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church in Rumson

Thu, Jan 25, at 7:30 pm | Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit


Eric Wyrick, violin

Brennan Sweet, violin

David Blinn, viola

Na-Young Baek, cello

TAN DUN Eight Colors for String Quartet

BARTÓK String Quartet No. 2

DVOŘÁK String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American”


JAN 25 TICKETS: $45 | $20

A free pre-concert reception begins at 2 pm on Jan 23.

Full concert information is available at

WEEK III: America, Inspiring: Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony

Fri, Jan 26, at 8 pm                           NJPAC in Newark

Sat, Jan 27, at 8 pm                          Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank

Sun, Jan 28, at 3 pm                        Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown

Xian Zhang, conductor

Chloë Hanslip, violin

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

BRITTEN Simple Symphony

KORNGOLD Violin Concerto

DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”


Prelude Performance—Fri, Jan 26, before the concert

Come early and hear the Anne Lieberson Ensemble from the NJSO's Youth Orchestras perform a selection inspired by the Winter Festival.

Poetry Reading—Sun, Jan 28, after the concert

Poets Maria Gillan and Patrick Rosal reflect on their own immigrant experiences in the closing event of the Winter Festival.

Full concert information is available at

The Jan 27 performance is generously sponsored by Bank of America.


Inspired by the concerts and designed to inspire audiences, NJSO Accents are pre- or post-concert events that complement the concert experience and provide audience members with more opportunities to personally connect with the music and music makers.


Named “a vital, artistically significant musical organization” by The Wall Street Journal, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra embodies that vitality through its statewide presence and critically acclaimed performances, education partnerships and unparalleled access to music and the Orchestra’s superb musicians.

Music Director Xian Zhang—a “dynamic podium presence” The New York Times has praised for her “technical abilities, musicianship and maturity”—continues her acclaimed leadership of the NJSO. The Orchestra presents classical, pops and family programs, as well as outdoor summer concerts and special events. Embracing its legacy as a statewide orchestra, the NJSO is the resident orchestra of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and regularly performs at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown and bergenPAC in Englewood. Partnerships with New Jersey arts organizations, universities and civic organizations remain a key element of the Orchestra’s statewide identity.

In addition to its lauded artistic programming, the NJSO presents a suite of education and community engagement programs that promote meaningful, lifelong engagement with live music. Programs include school-time Concerts for Young People, NJSO Youth Orchestras family of student ensembles and El Sistema-inspired NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project). NJSO musicians annually perform original chamber music programs at community events in a variety of settings statewide.

For more information about the NJSO, visit or email Tickets are available for purchase by phone 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476) or on the Orchestra’s website.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s programs are made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, along with many other foundations, corporations and individual donors.

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