Review: Rare spotlight on tuba in NJSO program

Posted on: April 13, 2017

“A mix of old and new, familiar and obscure marked the concert performed over the weekend by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra,” writes James C. Taylor in Wednesday’s (4/12) Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.). “The program began with NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang leading the company premiere of Tan Dun’s ‘Internet Symphony No. 1.’ Commissioned in 2008 by YouTube and Google, this four-movement piece was assembled, rehearsed and premiered online—but it works just fine in a concert hall…. Next up … was another piece performed for the first time by the NJSO, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1954 Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra. The soloist was NJSO’s principal tuba player, Derek Fenstermacher…. In the second movement … [the tuba’s] quirky sounds became expressive music—as if the class clown suddenly turned into a sincere suitor. Fenstermacher played the tuba in such a manner that you forgot the low notes that came before it (to say nothing of the instrument’s ungainly size) and just heard the sweet melodies; it almost sounded as if they were emanating from a jazz sax…. Zhang smoothly melded these sounds with the orchestral passages.” Also on the program were Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals and Ravel’s Bolero.

Posted April 13, 2017