Review: New Jersey Symphony’s “Samaagam,” with three sarod soloists

Posted on: April 10, 2019

“Rudyard Kipling famously wrote, ‘East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,’ ” writes James C. Taylor in Tuesday’s (4/9) Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.). “Well, Xian Zhang (no stranger to east or west) clearly feels otherwise and this weekend here in the Garden State she aimed to prove Kipling wrong. The occasion? The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s first performance of Amjad Ali Khan’s ‘Samaagam,’ a 2008 concerto…. Khan was present for the premiere Friday night at NJPAC, along with two of his sons; all three of them playing the sarod, a plucked string instrument considered to be a cousin of the sitar…. There are … moments in ‘Samaagam’ [that] recall Copland’s ‘Rodeo’ with the ease with which simple folk melodies can take on new richness when orchestrated for symphonic forces…. Zhang—who has conducted the piece before… made a convincing case…. You could hear west and east ‘flowing together,’ especially in the big rhythmic finale … so that you felt the full force of both bands. Credit Zhang also for pairing this NJSO premiere with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1888 symphonic suite, ‘Scheherazade,’ [which] shows how musicians in the 19th century attempted to bridge east and west.”

Posted April 10, 2019

In photo: Led by Music Director Xian Zhang, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed Amjad Ali Khan’s 2008 “Samaagam” concerto with the composer and two of his sons on April 5, 2019 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Photo courtesy Fred Stucker