Review: New Jersey Symphony launches season with Michael Abels premiere, Roumain, Beethoven

Posted on: October 13, 2021

“Since becoming the music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in 2016, the dynamic conductor Xian Zhang has worked steadily to reflect diversity and inclusion,” writes Anthony Tommasini in Saturday’s (10/12) New York Times. “These priorities were in evidence on Friday when, 557 days after its last full orchestra concert (because of the pandemic), the New Jersey Symphony opened its new season at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center…. The program opened with the premiere of Michael Abels’s ‘Emerge.’ Best known for his scores for the contemporary horror films ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us,’ Abels describes this eight-minute piece as suggesting a group of highly trained musicians getting back together after a long break, a scenario that speaks to the moment. It begins with an evocation of an orchestra tuning up. We hear the oboe playing a single pitch of A, which the other instruments pick up on…. Finally, the musicians team up in passages of mellow lyricism, skittish bursts, manic scales, all leading to a brassy, celebratory coda.” Also on the program were Daniel Bernard Roumain’s 2002 “Voodoo Violin Concerto” with Roumain as soloist (Roumain was appointed the orchestra’s Resident Artistic Catalyst in May), and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.