The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra today announced Xian Zhang as the Orchestra’s 14th music director, effective September 1, 2016. Zhang, the internationally renowned Chinese-American conductor who has been music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since 2009, will lead the Orchestra in seven subscription classical programs in her first season as music director.
Zhang, who joins the NJSO for a four-year term, succeeds NJSO Music Director Jacques Lacombe, who departs the Orchestra in June 2016 following a critically acclaimed six-year tenure. The announcement concludes an extensive search led by a special search committee comprised of NJSO musicians, board members, administrative staff and community leaders.
Zhang next appears with the NJSO in April, leading performances of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Barber’s Violin Concerto with Jennifer Frautschi April 7–10 in Newark, Red Bank and Morristown.
The NJSO welcomed Zhang to New Jersey with a series of special events with patrons, media, Orchestra members, key artistic partners and state and community leaders yesterday and today.
“We are thrilled to announce that Xian Zhang will join the NJSO as the Orchestra’s next music director,” NJSO Board of Trustees Co-Chair Ruth C. Lipper says. “The deep connection she already has forged with NJSO audiences and musicians has been palpable at each of her frequent guest conducting engagements with the Orchestra, and we are excited to bring her combination of world-class musicianship and powerful leadership to our concert halls and communities across the state.”
Zhang says: “I remember there was an instant connection the first time I conducted the NJSO. And ever since then, every time we collaborated, these musicians impressed me with their commitment, intelligence and musicianship.
“I am proud to become the leader of an orchestra that shares my belief in the power of music to transform lives both in and outside of the concert hall. The NJSO’s mission to bring music that touches the hearts and engage with communities and students throughout the state of New Jersey is one I fully embrace. I am looking forward to getting to know our musicians, patrons, artistic partners and the students in our education programs.”
In a rave review of her latest guest appearance in New Jersey this May, The Star-Ledger praised Zhang’s artistry and relationship with the NJSO, writing: “Zhang once again proved a thrilling leader who has already established a strong rapport with the orchestra. The program showed her interacting with the orchestra in a variety of contexts … In each one, her innate musicality and ability to communicate intention with clarity invested every gesture. Nothing seemed extraneous or glossed over, even as her whole body seemed to contract and release with explosive energy.
“What can [hold an audience] is the way that Zhang infuses scores with vitality and detail and the highly engaged playing of the NJSO,” the paper continued.
This April, Zhang leads performances of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Barber’s Violin Concerto with Jennifer Frautschi. Concerts take place on Thursday, April 7, at 1:30 pm and Friday, April 8, at 8 pm at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark; Saturday, April 9, at 8 pm at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank and Sunday, April 10, at 3 pm at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown.
NJSO Board of Trustees Co-Chair Stephen Sichak Jr. says: “Xian Zhang is a world-renowned leader both on and off the podium, and we are proud to officially welcome her to the NJSO, where her guest appearances have captivated audiences, musicians and critics alike. She embodies and values the core tenants that stand at the heart of the NJSO mission—a passion for both artistic excellence and community engagement. She is eager to deepen her relationship with the Orchestra, our artistic partners, patrons and the many students our education programs reach; we know she will inspire them all.”
“I am so happy that Xian Zhang has been appointed our next music director,” NJSO Concertmaster Eric Wyrick says. “We strive to develop artistic connections at the NJSO, and during her many guest appearances, Xian has become quite an orchestra favorite. My performance of Brahms’ Double Concerto with Principal Cello Jonathan Spitz under Xian last year was the artistic highlight of my season, and I believe we forged a bond that will flourish over the seasons we will play together.”
Zhang was appointed the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair. The New York Times hailed Zhang’s performances, writing in 2009: “Her incisive gestures elicit vivid performances from musicians who have seen it all, and her passionate musicality reflects the boundless energy that has propelled her improbable journey from a small town in China to the Philharmonic, where, as associate conductor, she is a rising star.”
For more information on the NJSO’s next music director, including a digital press kit with high-resolution photos, visit website.