Review: New Jersey Symphony premiere of Whitley’s “Speak Out,” plus massive Beethoven 9

Posted on: October 10, 2018

“The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra opened its 96th season Friday night … with the U.S. premiere of British composer Kate Whitley’s ‘Speak Out,’ ” writes James C. Taylor in Monday’s (10/8) Star Ledger (Newark, N.J.). “This 10-minute piece … sets Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 U.N. speech to music for orchestra and chorus…. This earnest, well-intentioned choral work … had the virtue on Friday night of having been conducted by the same maestra who led its world premiere at the International Women’s Day Concert in Wales last year: NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang. Zhang kept the balances clear between voices and instruments, as well as making sure the piece had a firm, propulsive forward motion…. Zhang led her orchestra and four different choruses in a mammoth rendering of Beethoven’s 9th symphony [with] the Montclair State University Singers, the Montclair University Chorale and the Newark Voices…. The buildup to the epic finale felt earned…. There was no way … to know when this concert was planned months ago how topical it would be this weekend to hear women’s voices…. Zhang made both lasting music, from the ‘Ode to Joy’ to … Whitley’s new piece, sound vibrant and relevant right now.”

Posted October 10, 2018