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Xian Zhang Conducts Beethoven at NJSO
by Sherri Rase      |   follow us...

   
photo courtesy of NJSO
NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang
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New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s (NJSO) season is shining with programs like “Zhang Conducts Beethoven,” performed during the weekend of October 12–15, in locations around New Jersey, including not only NJPAC, where performances began and ended, but also the Richardson Auditorium in Princeton and the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. This program deserved the wide distribution–magnificent and beautifully varied from start to delightful finish!
The program began with contemporary American composer Aaron Kernis’ “Musica celestas” in its NJSO premiere. Taking his cue from the medieval meaning of the phrase, Kernis created the ethereal sound of angels singing in the scintillating vibration of the voices of the strings. There are wide open lyrical passages that take full advantage of the robust strings. There are modern spacious harmonies that take this medieval flavor to a timeless space with a feeling of sparkling light and uplifting joy. This became the perfect piece to whet our appetite for what was to come.
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra, Opus 33 rounded out the first act with its charming elegance providing Tchaikovsky’s rapturous take on Mozart, a major hero in his pantheon. This is work is a stylish take on old-school theme and variation and it has Mozart’s sublime sense of play weaving through, it with Tchaikovsky’s grand surge of theme coming as a nod to Mozart’s “Le Nozze de Figaro” at one point. Cellist Alban Gerhardt took us by storm with his virtuosity and we will look forward to hearing him again.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony Number Six in F Major, “Pastoral,” Opus 68 was everything I could have wanted it to be. Patrick Chamberlain, Director of Artistic Planning, treated us to a pre concert discussion that featured Gerhardt. Chamberlain clued us in that each of these pieces is a departure for its composer that is not like any of the work before or afterward. This is certainly true of Beethoven, who seems to glower in all of the pictures we see of him. His intensity is brought to bear with a gentle hand in the Pastoral, which has been a favorite of mine since childhood. In Xian Zhang’s hands, this living symphony becomes even more vibrantly delightful and even spiritual as we experience the thrilling trilling of the tympany during the storm that even Disney recognized had to be made immortal. Beethoven is the supreme architect of music and this piece shows that brilliance in the same abundance that Nature shows in Spring.
Looking for the most awesome Holiday gift ever? Reserve your choice seats now at www.njsymphony.org. Avoid the rush, the time is now!

 

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