Review: New Jersey Symphony performs music by Nokuthula Ngwenyama, Christopher Rouse, Mozart, Rossini

Posted on: April 14, 2022

At the New Jersey Symphony on Friday, Xian Zhang conducted Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony and Rossini’s Overture to William Tell, “but what was really noteworthy was … what was brand new to Garden State audiences,” writes James C. Taylor in Thursday’s (4/14) Star Ledger (Newark, NJ). “Zhang has … consistently [programmed] contemporary American composers.… Of real interest was the Bassoon Concerto of Christopher Rouse [in its] East Coast premiere…. Instantly, the music grabbed you… It has range, and soloist Robert Wagner (the Jersey band’s principal) made Rouse’s music come alive…. The program opened with a short work by another American composer, Nokuthula Ngwenyama…. ‘Primal Message,’ … for percussion, harp and strings, … called to mind the western scores of Elmer Bernstein and Jerome Moross. One theme seemed to reference James Horner’s classic ‘Legends of the Fall’ soundtrack. Zhang gave this piece the same passion she gave to Mozart and Rossini…. At curtain call, Zhang announced that the composer was already onstage and had in fact played viola with the symphony. Ngwenyama … took a bow. It was … a reminder: Great new musicians are among us, hiding in plain sight. Brava to Zhang and the NJS for giving them a chance to be seen and heard.”