NJSO Announces 2016-17 Season with New Music Director Xian Zhang

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and next Music Director Xian Zhang announce the Orchestra's programs for the 2016-17 concert season, Zhang's first at the helm of the NJSO. Fulfilling its mission as a statewide orchestra, the NJSO brings subscription programs to venues in Newark, New Brunswick, Princeton, Morristown, Red Bank and Englewood, with 14 weeks of subscription classical programs, five pops weekends and three family concerts, as well as special concerts.

Zhang says: "The 2016-17 season-my first as music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra-is colorful and exciting, and I take great pride in it. The season features a lot of big orchestral works and powerful soloists. I think each program has to stand very strongly by itself; each piece of a concert must be strong, interesting and attractive to the audience."

Season highlights include Zhang's first concerts as NJSO Music Director, featuring a trio of Tchaikovsky scores: Symphony No. 5, Piano Concerto No. 1 and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin. The Orchestra celebrates the new music director's arrival at a gala event at NJPAC in Newark on November 5, when Zhang conducts a program featuring Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Haydn's Symphony No. 102 and Adagio from Piano Trio No. 40 and Strauss' Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. Special event packages include a pre-concert cocktail party and a post-concert gala dinner.

Press are anticipating Zhang's first season with the NJSO. WQXR placed her arrival in New Jersey in the top two of its classical stories to watch in 2016. The New York Times calls Zhang "a fast-rising Chinese American star," and The Bergen Record writes: "When Xian Zhang, newly appointed conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, takes up the baton for her four-year term in September, she will bring a résumé matched by few in her field. And a back story matched by no one."

The Star-Ledger writes: "Her last performances with the orchestra in May drew raves, including from our own critic, who wrote that Zhang 'infuses scores with vitality and detail.'" In its rave review of that appearance, the paper called Zhang "a thrilling leader who has already established a strong rapport with the orchestra. ...What can [hold an audience] is the way that Zhang infuses scores with vitality and detail and the highly engaged playing of the NJSO."

Zhang conducts seven classical subscription weeks, leading the Orchestra in masterworks and gems of the repertoire. She cites as particular favorites a November program of linked works by Haydn and Beethoven and an April program featuring Ravel's Bólero, Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto, Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals and Tan Dun's Internet Symphony No. 1, "Eroica."

The season features works that will be new to NJSO audiences. The Orchestra performs for the first time Tan Dun's Internet Symphony No. 1, "Eroica"; Lilburn's Aotearoa Overture; Piazzolla's The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto.

Other highlights include Grieg's Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony, Elgar's Enigma Variations, Handel's Messiah; Beethoven's Third and Seventh Symphonies and Violin Concerto and Schubert's Ninth Symphony, "Great."

The 2017 Winter Festival focuses on the musicianship of the legendary violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman. Serving as the Festival's Artistic Director, Zukerman solos in some of the repertoire's most prized works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Bach across three performances in all six of the NJSO's halls across the state; he also conducts the Orchestra in the festival's bookends, with Venezuelan conductor Christian Vásquez leading the middle program. Offstage, Zukerman will mentor young musicians through an innovative residency with the NJSO's education and community engagement programs.

Zukerman says: "In a festival, you can experiment with different centuries of music in a very short time. I'm delighted to be coming to work with the NJSO to make music all around the state. In a concise three weekends, we will present great music [of different eras] in concerts across New Jersey. Working with the NJSO gives the opportunity to tour the state, and I think bringing music to the people, instead of the other way around, is important and an incredible journey."

For the season's opening weekend, NJSO favorite Sarah Chang brings her "characteristic athleticism and firepower" (The Star-Ledger) to a sparkling pair of showpieces-Piazzolla's The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and Ravel's Tzigane. The program also features Bernstein's On the Town: Three Dance Episodes and Copland's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.

The blockbuster season finale features Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony and pairs Zhang and pianist Yefim Bronfman for Brahms' Second Piano Concerto. "Fima [Bronfman] has such power," Zhang says, "and I am looking forward to finishing the season with him. Shostakovich's Fifth is a fantastic, fulfilling symphony."

The NJSO welcomes an international roster of guest artists in the 2016-17 season, including violinists Sarah Chang and Jennifer Koh and pianists Yefim Bronfman, Kirill Gerstein, Inon Barnatan and Lukáš Vondrá?ek. Guest conductors include Teddy Abrams, Gemma New, Hans Graf and David Danzmayr.

Continuing the Orchestra's tradition of highlighting its own musicians, Concertmaster Eric Wyrick and Principal Cello Jonathan Spitz perform Beethoven's Triple Concerto with pianist Pedja Muzijevic; Principal Tuba Derek Fenstermacher performs Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto.

The NJSO's five-concert pops series in Newark and New Brunswick includes screenings of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony with live orchestral accompaniment; Broadway veteran Michael Cavanaugh (of Movin' Out fame) performing Elton John and classic rock hits; a Valentine's "Dancing & Romancing" program featuring song and dance standards from the golden age of Hollywood musicals, and a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's best duets. The NJSO's Red Bank pops series expands to three concerts, including the Raiders of the Lost Ark, "Dancing & Romancing" and "Ella & Louis" programs.

NJSO Education & Community Engagement Conductor Jeffrey Grogan and Associate Conductor Gemma New lead the Orchestra's three-concert family series in the Victoria Theater at NJPAC in Newark; each concert has two showtimes and features special pre-concert events designed to bring young concertgoers closer to the music and music makers.

The NJSO partners with the Montclair State University Singers for Handel's Messiah and welcomes Princeton Youth Ballet for a dance-inspired family concert. The Orchestra presents programs in collaboration with NJPAC, the State Theatre and McCarter Theatre.

The Orchestra continues the NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute-a partnership between the Edward T. Cone Foundation, Princeton University and the NJSO. Promising graduate-level composers will have their work rehearsed by the NJSO and guest conductor David Robertson, participate in master classes with Institute Director Steven Mackey and receive feedback from NJSO musicians. The Institute will provide sessions with industry leaders in publishing, licensing, promotion and music preparation to give participants a foundation for a successful career in composition. It concludes with an NJSO performance of the participants' works.


Subscriptions are now on sale for the 2016-17 season. Full information on ticket packages for each series and venue is available at www.njsymphony.org/subscribe; subscriptions are available for purchase online or by phone at 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476). Single tickets will go on sale in August.

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