Friday, August 24, 2018

Xian Zhang leads Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony October 5-7

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

Music Director Xian Zhang leads Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the US premiere of Kate Whitley’s Speak Out for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s 2018–19 opening weekend, October 5–7 in Newark and New Brunswick.

Performances take place on October 5 at 7:30 pm and October 7 at 3 pm at NJPAC in Newark and October 6 at 8 pm at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick.

The pairing of Beethoven’s masterwork with Whitley’s setting of Malala Yousafzai’s speech to the United Nations advocating every girl’s right to an education encapsulates many of the season’s major themes, including diverse musical voices bridging cultures and traditions. The NJSO celebrates the voices of its own communities, through Newark Voices—a community choir based in Newark that will the Montclair State University Chorale, all under the direction of Heather J. Buchanan, for Beethoven’s masterwork with Zhang. Vocal soloists include soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop, tenor Lorenzo Decaro and baritone Reginald D. Smith Jr.

The New Jersey Youth Choruses, under the direction of Trish Joyce, and Montclair State University Singers sing text from Yousafzai’s speech in Speak Out.

Zhang led the world premiere of Speak Out with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on International Women’s Day in 2017. The Guardian wrote: “Kate Whitley’s Speak Out honoured Malala [Yousafzai’s] historic call for worldwide access to education; on the podium, Xian Zhang made the music blaze with colour.”

The NJSO hosts an Opening Night Celebration, “Ode to Joy,” on October 5 at NJPAC. Full gala information is available at

The Orchestra presents #ChoraleYou, the first NJSO Accent event of the season, following the October 7 performance. Concertgoers can join members of the massed choirs to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” conducted by Buchanan. More information is available at

Concert tickets start at $20 and are available for purchase at or 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476).


Zhang Conducts Beethoven 9

Fri, Oct 5, at 7:30 pm | NJPAC in Newark

Sat, Oct 6, at 8 pm | State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick

Sun, Oct 7, at 3 pm | NJPAC in Newark

Xian Zhang, conductor

Mary Elizabeth Williams, soprano

Elizabeth Bishop, mezzo-soprano

Lorenzo Decaro, tenor

Reginald D. Smith Jr., baritone

Montclair State University Singers | Heather J. Buchanan, director

Montclair State University Chorale | Heather J. Buchanan, director

Newark Voices | Heather J. Buchanan, conductor

New Jersey Youth Choruses | Trish Joyce, artistic director

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

KATE WHITLEY Speak Out (US Premiere)

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9, “Choral”

Additional concert information and artist bios are available at


#ChoraleYou – Oct 7 after the concert

Join with other concertgoers and members of the massed choirs to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” conducted by Heather J. Buchanan.


The NJSO hosts an Opening Night Celebration on October 5 at NJPAC. The gala evening includes a pre-concert cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres and an open bar at 5:30 pm; a post-concert dinner offers opportunities to meet and mingle with Xian Zhang, musicians and special guests. Complimentary valet parking will be provided for all gala attendees. The gala is sponsored by Investors Bank.

Full gala information is available at


Xian Zhang’s contract as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has been extended until the 2023–24 season, to include the Orchestra’s 100th anniversary in 2022.

Of her final concerts in 2017–18, conducting Mahler’s First Symphony, wrote: “From the opening bars, Zhang imbued the work with majesty, creating the alpine atmospherics that the score calls for. The off-stage horns sounded perfect and the deep pull of Mahler’s music was in full effect. Zhang made the swooping waltzes of the second movement come to life and gave the bluesy, jazzy third movement an elegant light touch. The final movement was big and bold; the horns stood up in the grand finale and made beautiful, clarion sounds. The brass section of the NJSO has never sounded better. The NJPAC audience was on its feet at the end. This is now Zhang’s orchestra—how far can she take it between now and 2024?”

Since September 2016, Zhang has held the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra. She also holds the post of Conductor Emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following her tenure as Music Director from 2009–16.

Last season included returns to Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orquesta Nacional de España, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, San Francisco Symphony and NAC Orchestra, Ottawa. 2018–19 sees her debuts with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Sydney Symphony and the orchestra of Royal Stockholm Opera.

Born in Dandong, China, Zhang made her professional conducting debut at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She was appointed as the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair.


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 Center for the Arts 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, led by José Luis Domínguez; 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 through the NJSO Community Partners program.

For more information about the NJSO, visit or email Tickets are available for purchase by phone at 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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