When the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra takes the stage for its 2018-2019 season, its musical selections and performers will reflect the themes of diversity, community and the ability to convey thoughts, ideas and stories through music.
“I think story telling is a very big part of why we have music,” said Music Director Xian Zhang, who introduced details of the season earlier this week. “I believe music came, a large part of it, from words, and from people’s need and urge to sing. And when we sing, what do we sing with? Words.” Zhang will be this week’s featured guest on A Tempo, hosted by Rachel Katz, Saturday at 7 pm.
Titled “Music Speaks,” the season will kick off with the US premiere of Kate Whitley’s Speak Out, based on a speech by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who survived an attempt on her life by the Taliban intended to silence her efforts to promote education for girls. The work will be paired with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
The NJSO’s Winter Festival will feature music reflecting the power of words and stories, such as Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks, tracing a poet’s recovery from a life-threatening illness, Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, and Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony.
Other performances will range from new works, including a cello concerto by Andrew Norman, an NJSO co-commission, and Amjad Ali Kahn’s Samaagam: A Concerto for Sarod, Concertante Group and String Orchestra, to staples of the classical repertoire including Mozart and Beethoven piano concertos, Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Handel's Messiah and Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony.
In addition, the NJSO will begin a collaboration with the Sphinx Organization, which works to expand opportunities to Black and Latino musicians, to feature winners of the annual Sphinx Competition during its season. Next year, Sphinx winner Annelle Gregory will perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins with NJSO Concertmaster Eric Wyrick. The orchestra will also launch a new chorus, called Newark Voices, that will be open to residents of the city and the state and perform at various concerts throughout the season.