XIAN ZHANG conductor
RUBÉN RENGEL violin
JANNINA NORPOTH violin
DANA KELLEY viola
THOMAS MESA cello
NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
YURI ALVES director
IGOR ALVES producer
TIM MARTYN audio producer
Join us for the world premiere of Daniel Bernard Roumain’s i am a white person who ____ Black people, a new NJSO commission. Soloists from the Sphinx Organization take center stage for Michael Abels’ Delights & Dances. Abels has risen to national attention with his stirring scores for Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning film Get Out and Us. This program includes audience favorites Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major, K. 136.
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Composer’s Note: i am a white person who _____ Black people
This work was commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Xian Zhang, Music Director, for the opening of the 2020-21 virtual NJSO season. It was composed during a series of overlapping crises in our lives: a pandemic; a global fight for social justice; the effects and awareness of climate change; an array or economic collapses; and the tyranny of an electoral process under siege by a president and his party. As a Black, Haitian-American composer, every commission offers a choice.
The titles of my work often speak to my feelings and (political) position. With i am a white person who _____ Black people, I am extending what has traditionally been my choice given to any white person: how do you see me and other BIPOC people, and what choice of word or phrase best reflect your opinion of Black people? Your choice, in part, reflects who you are.
The music reflects a kind of deliberate dance among all these brilliant musicians, safely and physically distanced on stage for the premiere, in a time when making music might mean ending a life. Every note and every breath, then, becomes urgent, passing, and precious. We all need to be cautious about the choices we have made and will make, and in this, yes, Black Lives Matter, and always have and will.
Alive and here,
Notes on the Program
After seven months away from the stage, how does an orchestra come back? How do we celebrate the collective joy and catharsis that comes with a return to communal music making? How do we acknowledge that our world has changed drastically—that our community has been ravaged by a deadly virus that’s still in our midst, that our country and industry are in the midst of a long overdue reckoning around institutionalized racism, and that this initial return to the NJPAC is only a baby step along a journey that culminates in the NJSO’s ultimate emergence in a new normal?
This program offers no answers but points a way to a brighter future, while acknowledging the difficult past and uncertain present. We begin with a new work, commissioned especially for the opening of NJSO Virtual 2020–21 from Black, Haitian-American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, entitled i am a white person who _____ Black people. Scored for socially distanced strings, timpani and percussion, Roumain provides the following note about the work:
From Roumain, we head Mahler’s achingly beautiful Adagietto from Symphony No. 5—scored only for strings and harp. In the context of the full symphony, it’s a balm and respite from the intensity of the surrounding movements. However, when excerpted, in the course of its 11 minutes, it seems to carry our collective griefs, fears, longings and hopes through pain and, ultimately, to hope. We offer this work as a tribute to those within our communities who have been afflicted by COVID-19 in hopes that it provides some measure of consolation to the pain that they’ve endured.
After the raw emotion of Mahler comes the unmistakable joie de vivre and sublimity of Mozart. While an early work (he was just 16!) originally written as background music, this Divertimento offers assurances that only Mozart can. In a world where the unthinkable happens daily, hearing music in which the dominant resolves to the tonic, the allegiance to form is perfect, and the dissonances are no more than momentary suggests that this too shall pass and that our orchestras and the music that we play shall endure this crisis.
But it’s illusory to suggest that we won’t be changed by this moment. As we look to the future of our art form and industry, we’re reckoning with systemic racism across all facets of the orchestral field—our repertoire, our audition system, our board composition are all built on implicit biases and privilege. Michael Abels (who has received national attention for his film scores to Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us) composed his Delights & Dances for the 10th anniversary of the Sphinx Organization, “dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts” and an ongoing NJSO partner. A showpiece for solo string quartet with accompanying string orchestra, our four soloists—all affiliated with Sphinx—trade riffs and themes with jazz, Latin, blues and bluegrass influences, ending in a dazzling pyrotechnic display of passion and virtuosity reaffirming that the future of orchestras and classical music can indeed be a bright one, if we collectively commit to it.
– Patrick Chamberlain, NJSO Director of Artistic Planning
About the Artists
XIAN ZHANG conductor
Xian Zhang is music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Since taking up this position, she has commissioned works from such composers as Thomas Adès, Qigang Chen, Christopher Rouse, Tyshawn Sorey, Vivian Li, Gary Morgan, Christian McBride and Paquito D’Rivera. She is responsible for introducing an annual Lunar New Year Celebration concert to the orchestra and will remain at the helm of the Orchestra through and beyond its 100th anniversary in 2022.
The acclaim she has been receiving for her work in New Jersey has resulted in a strong North American career, with upcoming engagements including Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. Last season, she performed with the Dallas, Baltimore, Montreal, Ottawa (NAC) symphony orchestras. Planned weeks with Chicago Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony have been postponed a season. In August 2019, she returned to Los Angeles Philharmonic to conduct the world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s The Observatory and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Zhang’s European engagements this season and next include London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra (Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde), Warsaw Philharmonic and MDR Leipzig. Last season, she conducted the Orchestre National de Lyon at the Paris Philharmonie (Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique) and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as part of La Folle Journée festival in Nantes.
In the opera world, this season Zhang will conduct Tosca for Cincinnati Opera and La Traviata for Oslo Opera. Her debuts with Santa Fe opera (world premiere of Huang Ruo’s M. Butterfly in August 2020) and The Metropolitan Opera (La Bohème in spring 2021) have been impacted by COVID-19. Previous opera engagements have included Nabucco with Welsh National Opera, Otello with Savonlinna Festival, La Traviata for Den Norske Opera (Oslo), La Bohème for English National Opera and La forza del destino with National Opera in Washington DC.
Zhang holds the positions of principal guest conductor of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and conductor emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following a hugely successful period from 2009–16 as music director. She has previously served as principal guest conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales and was the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra. In 2002, she won first prize in the Maazel-Vilar Conductor's Competition. She was appointed New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their associate conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair.
RUBÉN RENGEL violin
Praised as an “excellent soloist” of “great virtuosity” (NY Concert Review), with performances depicted as “thrilling” (Boston Globe), violinist Rubén Rengel is quickly gaining recognition as a remarkably gifted artist. Rengel was the winner of the Robert F. Smith Prize at the 2018 Sphinx Competition, 2014 Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition, 2019 Sallie Shepherd Perkins Prize, 2013 Anna Y. Tringas Award and 2011 Juan Bautista Plaza National Violin Competition of Venezuela.
He has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Detroit, Houston, Vermont and Venezuela Symphonies, among others. As an avid chamber musician, he has collaborated with Joseph Silverstein, Pamela Frank, Peter Wiley, David Shifrin, Joel Krosnick, Timothy Eddy and Gilbert Kalish. Rengel is a former member of the Autana Trio, prize winners at the 2015 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.
Rengel has attended music festivals such as Music@Menlo, the Perlman Music Program, Aspen Music Festival and School, Meadowmount School of Music and New York String Orchestra Seminar.
In addition to classical music, Rengel has extensive experience performing Venezuelan folk music and jazz. This has allowed him to develop important abilities in the area of improvisation, and he has recorded and toured with distinguished Venezuelan ensembles. He also has a strong interest in the art of conducting and enjoys performing as a violist.
Community engagement and education are important components in Rengel’s activities. He has participated in programs with Street Symphony, Da Camera Houston’s Young Artist Program, Sphinx Organization, Cleveland School of the Arts, Cleveland Institute of Music, Shepherd School of Music, Music@Menlo and Perlman Music Program. Rengel has taught master classes at the North Carolina School of the Arts and Longy School of Music of Bard College, and he was a teaching assistant of Jan Mark Sloman, Patricia McCarty and Kathryn Lucktenberg at the Meadowmount School of Music.
Rengel is currently pursuing a Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music as a student of Mark Steinberg. He earned a master’s degree at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University as a student of Paul Kantor, and a bachelor’s degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music as a student of Jaime Laredo. His previous education was centered at the Emil Friedman Conservatory and School in Caracas, where he studied with Iván Pérez Núñez.
Rengel plays on a 1723 Carlo Bergonzi violin on loan from a generous collection, and he is a Kun Shoulder Rest Featured Artist.
JANNINA NORPOTH violin
Grammy-nominated violinist Jannina Norpoth made her debut as a soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at age 14. Since then she has built a career as an innovative collaborative artist with a passion for contemporary music, genre bending and improvisation; a sought-after arranger and orchestrator, and an advocate for a more inclusive and versatile landscape in classical music. Her ensemble PUBLIQuartet, is widely recognized for their trailblazing programming and practice, receiving the 2019 Visionary Artist Award from Chamber Music America and the 2015 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. PUBLIQuartet has been an Artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Sawdust in New York City, and made headlines for improvising a live soundtrack for the final presidential debate of 2016 on The Colbert Report.
Norpoth has performed internationally, including appearances on Lincoln Center’s “Great Performers” Series, Kennedy Center’s “Arts Across America,” Mostly Mozart Festival, Composers Now, Women of the World Festival at The Apollo Theater, Detroit Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, The Ecstatic Music Festival, VH1’s Save the Music and SNL. She has been featured alongside acclaimed musicians James Carter, Nadia Sirota, Regina Carter, Marcus Belgrave, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Pharell, Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, My Brightest Diamond and many others.
Norpoth is a sought-after arranger in the classical and non-classical worlds. Praised by Strad Magazine for her ability to write a transcription “so natural sounding that it could have been the composer’s original version,” recent commissions include an adaptation of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha” for the Volcano Theatre Company in Toronto, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony and the Knights. She is currently collaborating with the Dream Unfinished to create new settings of American folk songs to be performed throughout New York City at early voting sites. Norpoth has arranged/recorded strings for Grammy-winning producers Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis and Bryce Goggin and for artists Keyshia Cole, Keri Hilson, Black Dahlia Murder, Akron Family, John Legend and her own ensembles PUBLIQuartet and HOLLANDS.
DANA KELLEY viola
Violist Dana Kelley is an artistic director and member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Praised for her rich and beautiful tone, she has been a top prizewinner in the Sphinx Music Competition, Irving M. Klein International String Competition, M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition and Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. She also serves on the viola faculty of the Mannes School of Music at the New School.
Kelley’s performance schedule has brought her to many prestigious venues and festivals, including multiple recitals at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Recital Hall at New York’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Ravinia Festival and Bravo! Vail. She has collaborated with artists such as Ralph Kirshbaum, Nobuko Imai and Miriam Fried; pianists Leon Fleisher, Anne-Marie MacDermott and Misha Dichter and Astrid Schween of the Juilliard String Quartet.
She participated in Ravinia’s Steans Musicians on Tour and frequently performs with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, A Far Cry and the Knights chamber orchestras.
Kelley received an Artist Diploma in String Quartet Studies with the Argus String Quartet as the 2017-2019 Graduate Quartet in Residence at The Juilliard School. Dana was a 2014–16 Fellow in Ensemble Connect—a performance and teaching program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and The Weill Music Institute. She received her Bachelor’s of Music from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, studying violin with Cornelia Heard and viola with Kathryn Plummer, and completed her Master of Music degree at the New England Conservatory as a student of Kim Kashkashian.
THOMAS MESA cello
The Cuban-American cellist Thomas Mesa has established himself as one of the most charismatic, innovative and engaging performers of his generation. Mesa was the winner of the $50,000 First Prize in the 2016 Sphinx Competition, the Thaviu Competition for String Performance (Chicago, 2013), the Astral Artists 2017 National Auditions and the Alhambra Orchestra Concerto Competition. He has appeared as soloist with orchestras in the United States and Mexico, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, Santa Barbara Symphony, Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, which received this rave review from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “A listener with closed eyes would have been hard pressed to distinguish [Mesa’s] shapely, expressive performance from that of another gifted artist two or three times his age.”
As a recitalist, appearances include the Mainly Mozart Festival, The Academy of Arts and Letters in NYC, Bargemusic, University of Miami’s Signature Series, Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, Columbia University, Flagler Museum, Carnegie Hall, the US Supreme Court, Heifetz Institute, California Center for the Arts, Meadowmount School of Music, Strad for Lunch Series, International Beethoven Project, Perlman Music Program Alumni Recital and universities nationwide.
As a recording artist, Mesa was featured on the Grammy-nominated album Bonhoeffer with the multiple Grammy-winning group The Crossing Choir. He has appeared with them as soloist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, Longwood Gardens, The Winter Garden (broadcast on WNYC) and the Theological Seminary in New York City. Mesa and The Crossing also collaborated on the American premiere of Astralis for choir and solo cello by renowned composer Wolfgang Rihm and have more collaborations/premieres scheduled for future seasons. Other recording projects include the piano and cello works of Brahms, Beethoven, a whole album dedicated to the music of Debussy, and a special project in collaboration with PARMA Recordings in a “Call for Scores” that will bring together and record new works for solo cello and cello/piano. This project will include an album release concert at the DiMenna Center in New York City, and the album will be available on all commercial streaming platforms.
About the Filmmakers
YURI ALVES director
Yuri Alves is a self-taught, award-winning filmmaker who has written and directed films, primetime television programs and commercial projects in the US and Europe. Alves was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Portuguese parents, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, where he grew up fascinated by cinema; in high school, Alves began creating narrative and documentary films including the “world’s first” 9/11 documentary, recognized by the First Lady. Alves has gone on to write and direct television, commercials and short films in the US and Europe. Yuri Alves directed two primetime dramatic series, starring actor Diogo Morgado (The Bible), “Tempo Final” (2010) and “Filha da Lei” (2017), both to critical acclaim. Alves’ films have screened at over 100 film festivals worldwide, including Raindance, HBO Latino Film Festival and at Lincoln Center and Tribeca Cinemas, and have earned 20 awards, including at the ECU European Film Festival, Black Maria Film Festival, IndieFest and more. Alves’ most renowned shorts include Grind, On the Cusp and Exit Road and are available on Amazon Prime. In 2018, Alves’ feature screenplay Ironbound was a semi-finalist at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Alves is the co-founder and Creative Director of DreamPlay Media, and earlier, he served as head of production at Fox Digital Studios in Los Angeles. Alves earned a bachelor’s degree in media arts from New Jersey City University and is represented by the commercial agency Brawler Los Angeles. Alves splits his residence between Los Angeles, New Jersey and Portugal. For more, visit yurialves.com.
IGOR ALVES producer
Igor Alves is an award-winning multimedia producer, media executive, innovation consultant and proud dad to Rafael Filipe. Alves is the CEO and managing producer at DreamPlay Media, a boutique creative media company, co-founded with his brother, filmmaker Yuri Alves. Company clients include Prudential, Rutgers University, Red Bull, Nike, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Audible, New Jersey Devils, AeroFarms, NJIT, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, City of Newark and more. The company’s DreamPlay Films division has produced seven award-winning short films, including GRIND, On the Cusp, Echoes of Fado and Exit Road; organized sold-out events, and is in development of feature films and series. In 2018, DreamPlay created DreamPlay TV (beta), a locally-inspired, cinematic storytelling network, launched in Newark, NJ.
Alves is also the Director of Operations at 24horas – Portuguese Daily Newspaper, the only Portuguese language daily publication in North America, based in Newark. Alves recently founded Boldinary Group, a positive impact strategy and design consultancy.
Earlier, Alves served as the lead ethnic media specialist for the U.S. 2010 Census in the NY/NJ region, and he taught classes in communications, social activism, and media. He possesses 20 years of non-profit leadership experience, including with the American Red Cross, NJ SEEDS and the Boy Scouts of America. Alves holds a master's degree in Global Affairs and Economics from Rutgers University-Newark, where he also received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Igor was born in Brazil and grew up in an immigrant neighborhood of Newark, NJ—a city and state he has long championed.
DreamPlay Films develops and produces narrative and documentary films, television programming and more. DreamPlay Films is a division of DreamPlay Media, an original and creative media company, based in Newark, NJ. For more, visit dreamplayfilms.com | dreamplaymedia.com.
TIM MARTYN audio engineer
Phoenix Audio is the website and home of NYC based audio producer/engineer Tim Martyn. Martyn is a six-time Grammy award recipient, including the 2019 and 2014 awards for Best Engineered Classical Album. In a career spanning more than 30 years he has worked as engineer and producer with a wide variety of artists, from Yo-Yo Ma and Renée Fleming to James Taylor and John Williams. Martyn holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance from The Juilliard School.
In 1985, Martyn was appointed director of audio for the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood festival, a position he still holds today. He has engineered, produced and consulted for several top American orchestras, including the NJSO, New York Philharmonic and the Chicago, Boston, Baltimore and Milwaukee Symphonies. In 2017, Martyn joined the Metropolitan Opera as music producer, and he oversees several of the Met’s Live in HD cinema productions each season. He has produced and engineered projects for RCA/BMG, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Sony Classical and EMI/Angel, among others. He founded Classic Sound Inc. in New York City in 1987, and Phoenix Audio in 2001, as classical remote recording and post-production facilities.
Recent projects include the “Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood” (PBS Great Performances), the operas La Bohème, Semiramide, Aida, Adriana Loucouvreur, Carmen and La Fille du Régiment for the Metropolitan Opera, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti, Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks with Dawn Upshaw and the Australian and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras (winner 2014 Grammy Award) , Renée Fleming’s Guilty Pleasures (Decca), WNET Great Performances Carnegie Hall at 120 with Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Gil Shaham, Audra McDonald and the NY Philharmonic, Journey to the New World with guitarist Sharon Isbin and violinist Mark O’Connor (winner 2010 Grammy Award), Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 with Evgeny Kissin and Vladimir Ashkenazy (winner 2010 Grammy Award), Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Sarah Chang and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (EMI), the Carnegie Hall Schubert Recital with Kissin and James Levine (Sony/BMG) and Mozart Piano Concertos with Jonathan Biss and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (EMI). Recent post-production credits include the complete Beethoven piano concertos with Kissin and Sir Colin Davis with the London Symphony Orchestra (EMI), Renée Fleming’s Homage album of opera arias with Valery Gergiyev and the Mariinsky Orchestra (Decca), Mozart and Schumann piano concertos with Evgeny Kissin and Sir Colin Davis with the London Symphony Orchestra (EMI) and Kissin’s solo Russian piano album (Sony/BMG). Kissin’s solo album won the 2005 Grammy Award (Best Classical Performance without Orchestra). Martyn won the 2009 Canadian JUNO Award for Classical Album of the Year (Solo/Chamber Music) for the album Homage with violinist James Ehnes.
Martyn has served on the Recording Academy NY Chapter Board of Governors and on the teaching faculties of the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Tanglewood Music Center.
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