The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s annual Winter Festival features guest artists Emanuel Ax, Daniil Trifonov and Dawn Upshaw with each hosting a weekend of performances in venues throughout the state.
The theme of the 2019 event is “Music Speaks,” focusing on music inspired by poetry.
“Poetry is a great theme because so many works of music are inspired by it,” NJSO Musical Director Xian Zhang. “And I’m quite proud that we are presenting three artists who are as good as it gets within one month.”
Zhang, who became the nearly 100-year-old orchestra’s first female musical director in 2015, will conduct the orchestra during all of the performances.
Each guest artist appears with the orchestra three times during a weekend. Every show will include an “NJSO Accent” event pre- or post- performance. These free additional programs are meant to enrich the concertgoers’ experiences and to allow them to more personally connect with the material.
“I always look forward to this intense period of music making,” said Zhang, whose work with NJSO has consistently garnered critical raves and who recently extended her contract through the 2023-24 season.. “It’s a chance for us to shine.”
Ax, a Grammy Award-winning classical pianist, will perform Piano Concerto No. 22 during the festival’s first weekend — at Bergen Performing Arts Center Jan. 10, New Jersey Performing Arts Center Jan. 12 and State Theatre New Jersey Jan. 13. The program also features Tchaikovsky’s Manfred symphony, which was inspired by the Lord Byron three-act dramatic poem of the same name.
Ax, a native of Poland who now lives in Canada, was one of 72 pianists Dutch recording label Philips Records included in its 1999 200-CD box set “Great Pianists of the 20th Century.” He was joined on the list by Arthur Rubinstein, Alicia de Larrocha, Wilhelm Kempff and Rosalyn Tureck. Ax’s loyal fans call themselves, “Manny Ax Maniacs.”
Soprano Upshaw offers the NJSO premiere of Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks,” music inspired by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s collection written while he was treated for cancer. Upshaw and Schneider’s album of the same name won the two Grammy awards — for Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Engineered Album, Classical — in 2014.
The program also includes Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, which was inspired by a child’s vision of heaven. Performances are scheduled for Richardson Auditorium Jan. 18; Count Basie Center for the Arts Jan. 19; and New Jersey Performing Arts Center Jan. 20.
Pianist Trifonov, Musical America‘s 2019 Artist of the Year, performs Schumann’s Piano Program during the Festival’s third and final weekend – at New Jersey Performing Arts Center Jan. 25; State Theatre New Jersey Jan. 26; and Mayo Performing Arts Center Jan. 27. The program includes Scriabin’s “The Poem of Ecstasy,” a symphonic poem written in the early 1900s which is played as a single movement.
New York Classical Review put the 27-year-old virtuoso’s “Decades” program at Carnegie Hall in May to its list of the 10 best classical performances of 2018, writing that “Every performance of Daniil Trifonov cements his growing legacy as an artist of historical greatness, and this journey through music from different decades of the 20th century was a pinnacle.”
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents 2019 Winter Festival — “Music Speaks”
Six venues- Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood; New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark; State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick; Richardson Auditorium, Princeton; Count Basie Center for the Arts, Red Bank; and Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown.
For a complete schedule: njsymphony.org/winterfestival.
Tickets start at $20. Passes for tickets to all nine events are $150. For details: njsymphony.org or 1.800.ALLEGRO
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