New Jersey orchestra set for concert to mark Year of the Pig
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will ring in the Year of the Pig at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey, in the United States, on Feb 2.
The NJSO, under the baton of its music director Zhang Xian, will present a broad range of music celebrating both Eastern and Western traditions, including premieres of Chinese composers Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture and Tan Dun’s The Triple Resurrection.
Separately, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, which was launched in 1988 by dancer-choreographer Nai-Ni Chen, formerly a principal dancer of Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Company, will give a performance choreographed to the Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. And the Peking University Alumni Chorus, the New York Festival Singers and Starry Arts Group Children’s Chorus will join in the concert for works, including Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, the Anvil Chorus from Verdi’s Il Trovatore, the Jasmine Chorus from Puccini’s Turandot and traditional Chinese songs.
Speaking about the show, Zhang, who was born in Dandong, Liaoning province, and studied piano at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, from age 11, says: “Our first Chinese New Year concert is a big part of the NJSO’s effort toward boosting community relations.
“Spring Festival is an opportunity to deepen our connections not only with the Chinese community but also with the general public throughout the state, coming together to celebrate a very old tradition.”
Zhang moved to the US in 1998 to complete her doctoral studies at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, where she took first prize at the Maazel/Vilar Conductors’ Competition in 2002 and became American conductor Lorin Maazel’s assistant at the New York Philharmonic later that year, and the philharmonic’s assistant conductor in 2004.
In 2016, Zhang was appointed music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. And she became the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’ first female principal guest conductor of 2015.
Before that, she was the music director of the Sioux City (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra from 2005 to 2007. She has been the music director of Milan’s Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra since 2009.
When Zhang was preparing for the concert, she wanted to bring Eastern and Western music together. So the event mixes dragon dances, traditional Chinese folk songs, modern music and very well-known Western opera excerpts.
As for the two premieres, she says that the Spring Festival Overture is a classic piece and very popular in China. It was selected to be broadcast in space on China’s first lunar probe Chang’e-1.
Meanwhile, the NJSO has performed many pieces by award-winning composer Tan over the years. And the Triple Resurrection will be a festive showpiece for two soloists of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra — concertmaster Eric Wyrick and principal cellist Jonathan Spitz — besides local pianist Min Kwon.
Speaking about the show, Chen says: “Musically, it will be very attractive for the audience; and visually, this concert will be very colorful and vibrant,” adding that when people walk into the lobby of the concert hall, they will immediately experience the culture firsthand, with Chinese calligraphy, dancing, solo performances by young Chinese musicians and a children’s choir singing Chinese traditional songs.