Jan 14, 2021

Still & Dvořák: An NJSO Concert Film

Produced by DreamPlay Films

Virtual Performance Information

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Notes on the Program

William Grant Still is one of the finest American composers. His music reflects craftsmanship, emotion and one of the hallmarks that separates the great composers from the merely good—his music couldn’t have been written by anyone else. And yet, as a Black man writing in the 1940s and 50s, decades of discrimination and structural racism in orchestras and the broader classical music ecosystem mean that audiences don’t know his music nearly as well as that of his contemporaries and equals—Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein. Originally written as a movement of his 1943 Suite for Violin and Piano, Mother and Child was later arranged for string orchestra by the composer. This work, a gentle and rocking lullaby alternates between major and minor and reflects the tension and complexity but, ultimately, the surety of parental love.

Love of a different kind reflects in Puccini’s I Cristantemi, a rare non-operatic foray from the great man of the theater. Allegedly written in a one-night burst of traumatic inspiration on hearing of the death of a friend, Puccini crafted this haunting elegy, using music to reflect what words could not. In a similar form to Still’s Mother and Child (mournful opening, B section with more motion and agitation, return to opening material), this work speaks to all who have known love and loss.

Deep River, among the most haunting and poignant of the canonic African American spirituals, provides a balm to the pain and grief of I Cristantemi. Samuel Colridge-Taylor’s arrangement (transcribed for violin and piano by Maud Powell), evokes songful longing to “cross over into campground” into a home “over Jordan.” Coleridge-Taylor, a Black British composer, arranged many traditional spirituals, writing “What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk music, Dvořák for the Bohemian and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro Melodies.” In this performance, Music Director Xian Zhang makes her NJSO debut as a pianist, joining Concertmaster Eric Wyrick.

Our journey of love, loss and hope reaches its apex with Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings. A work of pure joy, its five movements reflect a sunny effervescence—in the words of conductor Misha Rachlevsky, “the remarkable thing about Dvořák’s Serenade is that this ‘cloudless goodness’ is fully sufficient for sustaining meaningful communication for nearly half an hour of music.” The Serenade is a relatively early work, pre-dating the famed Symphonies 7–9, the Cello Concerto and the Slavonic Dances, but it encapsulates the endless melody, folk influences and special nostalgia in a way that only Dvořák can.

Our program tonight charts that emotional journey from the deep abiding pathos of familial love, to the shock and despair from the loss of someone close, to the fervent desire to reach the “Promised land where all is peace,” to the ultimate exultation of “cloudless goodness.” This is a journey we’ve been on these past months as individuals, communities and a nation as we’ve navigated the horrors of a global pandemic, a long overdue reckoning on racial injustice and an assault on the very foundations of our democracy. We’re not there yet—we may not even be close. But this music suggests that we must keep striving.

– Patrick Chamberlain, NJSO Associate Vice President 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.



Violinist Eric Wyrick is Concertmaster of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and has been an Orpheus Chamber Orchestra member and frequent leader since 1988.

Born in New York City, Wyrick started playing the violin at 4 years old. He attended The Juilliard Pre-College Division and later The Juilliard School, studying with Dorothy DeLay. His varied orchestral career began with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic at the age of 14. He has been Concertmaster of the American Symphony, Eos and L’opera Francais de New York, as well as the Christmas String Seminar under the direction of Alexander Schneider.

Wyrick has appeared as a soloist with the Danish Radio Orchestra, Orchestre de Toulouse, Hudson Valley Philharmonic and San Angelo Symphony Orchestra. In annual New Jersey Symphony solo appearances, he has brought unusual and new violin repertoire to New Jersey stages, performing concertos of Ferruccio Busoni, Darryl Kubian, Edward T. Cone and Prokofiev, among others. In addition, Wyrick has had several solo television appearances including the “Dance in America” presentation of Chausson’s Poème, and, as featured soloist, the BBC’s “Great Composers” Series.

An active chamber musician, Wyrick can be heard frequently with the NJSO Chamber Players and is a founding performer at the Bard Music Festival. He has recorded for Bridge Records, Vanguard and, with Orpheus, Deutsche Grammophon. He is the soloist on a recording of Kubian’s 3-2-1 Concerto for Acoustic and Electric Violin with the Orquesta Sinfonica of Michoacan, available online.

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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