Utah Symphony Rings in the New Year with Thrilling International Guest Artists in Two Consecutive Masterworks Weekends

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Dec. 31, 2018) — Ring in the New Year on January 4 and 5 with guest conductor Xian Zhang, whose “incisive gestures elicit vivid performances” (“The New York Times”), as she leads the orchestra in six dazzling pieces, including well-known melodies from “The Sleeping Beauty,” Joan Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman,” and lively Viennese waltzes. The celebratory music is a clever juxtaposition to Szymanowski’s lush and mysterious Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by concertmaster Madeline Adkins.

The following weekend, January 11 and 12, Canadians feature prominently on the program. 23-year-old Canadian piano sensation, Jan Lisiecki, brings a vibrant, poetic touch to his Utah Symphony debut in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a work of incredible emotional range by the young composer. Conductor Peter Oundjian concludes the program with Dvořák’s thrilling Symphony No. 7, a departure from his usual sunny, folk-themed melodies, and considered by many to be his finest symphony.


On January 4 and 5, Xian Zhang, Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, makes her Utah Symphony debut conducting American composer Joan Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” No. 1, Tchaikovsky’s Suite from “The Sleeping Beauty,” Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 performed by concertmaster Madeline Adkins, Johann Strauss Jr.’s Overture to “The Gypsy Baron” and “Bitte schön!”

Following an acclaimed second season as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Xian Zhang continues her tenure. In September 2016 she assumed the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra.

She spoke openly about the gender divide in classical music with “The Guardian” newspaper, and candidly answered the controversial question about the dearth women in classical music. “The more we ask these questions, the more people will get used to the idea of women conducting, and this will speed up the process of getting more women into the profession,” Ms. Zhang said in “The Guardian” piece. “We need to bring up the number of female conductors. There are not enough girls doing it well as professionals. Once there are more, then we can judge how good they are.”

A regular conductor of the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, in March 2017 Ms. Zhang made her debut with The Cleveland Orchestra, stepping in for an indisposed Semyon Bychkov. Born in Dandong, China, Xian Zhang made her professional debut conducting “Le nozze di Figaro” at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees, and served one year on its conducting faculty before moving to the United States in 1998. She was appointed as the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair.

Madeline Adkins joined the Utah Symphony as Concertmaster in 2016. She previously served as Associate Concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for 11 years, as well as Concertmaster of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra from 2008–16.

She performs on the “ex-Chardon” Guadagnini of 1782, graciously loaned by Gabrielle Israelievitch to perpetuate the legacy of her late husband, former Toronto Symphony concertmaster, Jacques Israelievitch. Currently, she serves as the Music Director of the NOVA Chamber Music Series, and programmed 10 women from six different countries on their current 41st season.

Adkins is vocal about her reasons to create more visibility for women in classical music. “There are over 3.5 billion women in the world, and it seems incredible to me that we as artists could possibly be content not representing the life experiences and emotions of half the Earth’s people. The female voice is so important in music, film, and literature,” she explained. “There’s a richness to art when it delves into the hearts and minds of all kinds of people around the world. Six countries is just a start, but as I discovered more and more amazing works of art by women, I was quite inspired.”

Grammy-winning contemporary American composer, concert pianist and conductor Ms. Tower was lauded by “The New Yorker” as “one of the most successful woman composers of all time. For several summers, she collaborated with Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley® Music Festival for an Emerging Quartets and Composers residency program.

Commissioned by the Houston Symphony, this first “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” has traditional, brass-heavy scoring, as in Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” But to this Ms. Tower adds extended and highly expressive percussion, including glockenspiel, marimba and chimes. It is the first in a six-part suite that Ms. Tower revised and unified in 1997. In 2014 the entirety of “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” was recognized for inclusion in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically or aesthetically important.”


Chinese-Canadian composer Vivian Fung’s 2011 composition “Dust Devils” will make its Utah premiere on the Abravanel Hall stage on January 11 and 12 in a program that includes Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 performed by Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7, led by guest conductor Peter Oundijian, music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

A dynamic presence in the conducting world, Peter Oundjian is renowned for his probing musicality, collaborative spirit, and engaging personality. 2017–18 marked Oundjian’s 14th and final season as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). His appointment in 2004 reinvigorated the Orchestra with recordings, tours, and acclaimed innovative programming, as well as extensive audience growth, significantly strengthening the ensemble’s presence in the world. From 2012 to 2018, Mr. Oundjian was Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO). Under his baton, the orchestra has enjoyed several successful tours including one to China, and has continued its relationship with Chandos Records. His 2018–19 season includes debuts with the Indianapolis and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras, and return engagements with the St. Louis, Baltimore, Atlanta, Utah, Colorado, and New World Symphonies as well as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He also completes his second season as Artistic Advisor of the Colorado Music Festival. Since 1981, he has been a visiting professor at the Yale School of Music, and was awarded the university’s Sanford Medal for distinguished service to music in 2013.

Just 23 years old, Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki has won acclaim for his extraordinary interpretive maturity, distinctive sound, and poetic sensibility. “The New York Times” has called him “a pianist who makes every note count.” Mr. Lisiecki’s insightful interpretations, refined technique, and natural affinity for art give him a musical voice that belies his age. Jan Lisiecki began piano lessons at the age of five and made his concerto debut four years later, while always rebuffing the label of “child prodigy.” His approach to music is a refreshing combination of dedication, skill, enthusiasm, and a realistic perspective on the career of a musician. “I might be lucky to have talent, but it is also about dedication and hard work,” says Mr. Lisiecki. The remarkable musician made his debut in the main auditorium at New York’s Carnegie Hall in January 2016 at the age of 20 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In its rave review, “The New York Times” noted that it was an “uncommonly sensitive performance”. Lisiecki is involved in charity work, donating his time and performance to such organizations as the David Foster Foundation, the Polish Humanitarian Organization, and the Wish Upon a Star Foundation. In 2012 he was named UNICEF Ambassador to Canada having been a National Youth Representative since 2008.

Scored for full orchestra, Vivian Fung’s “Dust Devils” received its world premiere in Greensboro, N.C. in 2011 with the Eastern Festival Orchestra directed by Gerard Schwarz.

On her website, Ms. Fung notes: “Dust Devils is the journey of emotional swirls in my mind, sometimes calm, but more often than not, full of raw and intense energy. The opening starts quite forcefully and darts back and forth, culminating in a fiery pounding of the timpani, which wanes and brings this section to mere silent breaths in the brass. A slow section ensues, filled with upward cascades of arpeggios that interrupt the ethereal atmosphere. An ominous eerie string section follows leading to a powerful chorale in the brass, which overtakes the music and brings the ten-minute work to an emphatic close.”