Xian Zhang
Conductor

“Zhang once again proved a thrilling leader. Her innate musicality and ability to communicate intention with clarity invested every gesture. Nothing seemed extraneous or glossed over, even as her whole body seemed to contract and release with explosive energy.” (The Star Ledger)

Contacts

Jane Brown +44 (0)20 3725 9129
Rose Hooks +44 (0)20 3725 9177

Biography

Music Director: Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi
Artistic Director: NJO / Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy
Music Director: New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (from 2016/17)
Principal Guest Conductor: BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales (from 2016/17)

 

Recently appointed Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, effective from the 2016/17 season, Xian Zhang has served as Music Director of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since September 2009 with highlights including their televised debut at the BBC Proms in 2013, with Joseph Calleja. From September 2016, Zhang takes on the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, thereby becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra.

A regular conductor with the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, Xian Zhang's recent highlights include her debut with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España as well as performances with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the BBC Proms and Orchestre National de Belgique where she will perform again this season.

Music Director: Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi
Artistic Director: NJO / Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy
Music Director: New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (from 2016/17)
Principal Guest Conductor: BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales (from 2016/17)

 

Recently appointed Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, effective from the 2016/17 season, Xian Zhang has served as Music Director of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since September 2009 with highlights including their televised debut at the BBC Proms in 2013, with Joseph Calleja. From September 2016, Zhang takes on the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, thereby becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra.

A regular conductor with the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, Xian Zhang's recent highlights include her debut with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España as well as performances with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the BBC Proms and Orchestre National de Belgique where she will perform again this season. 

Recent operatic performances include a return to English National Opera in October 2015 conducting La bohème, and her debut with Den Norske Opera in January 2016 conducting La traviata. Following Zhang's hugely successful production of Nabucco with Welsh National Opera in June 2014, which subsequently transferred to the Savonlinna Festival, she returned to the festival in summer 2016 to conduct Otello - marking her debut with the opera company itself.

A champion for Chinese composers, last season Zhang conducted Qigang Chen’s Iris Devoilee with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and National Centre for the Performing Arts where she will return in 2017, the world premiere of Qigang Chen’s Luan Tan with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in spring 2015 - a work commissioned by the orchestra - as well as Tan Dun's Resurrection Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Download Bio
uk

Video

 
 

Contacts

Jane Brown +44 (0)20 3725 9129
Rose Hooks +44 (0)20 3725 9177

Reviews

“The dynamic performances Ms. Zhang led on Friday proved that hers is a name worth memorizing. On the podium she is a pint-size bundle of energy, conducting with feet firmly grounded and big, purposeful motions of the torso and arms. In brief remarks from the stage, she also showed herself to be a natural communicator, brimming with enthusiasm and humor: a good choice for this orchestra, which takes its ambassadorial role seriously with concert series offered across the state and numerous outreach initiatives. The orchestra is also stocked with excellent players, and there were moments during Friday’s program when the sound reached a fullness and polish that would be the envy of better-known ensembles on the other side of the state lines.” (New York Times, April 2016)

“It is not easy to convey [Shostakovich’s] ambiguity to young people – but Xian Zhang succeeds in doing just that. Not only does the performance range on the level of a professional top orchestra, but it is also spot-on atmospherically. The opening movement evokes the voice of a tortured soul, the march music breaks in brutally, and the apotheosis with its hope for better times comes off to touching effect. The festival mood of the Allegretto is contorted into the grotesque, and the Largo begins like a reverie but tips over regularly into nightmarish episodes. The grim final movement with its machine music finally exposes the empty pathos of all party conference slogans.” (Tagesspiegel, August 2015)

“The dynamic performances Ms. Zhang led on Friday proved that hers is a name worth memorizing. On the podium she is a pint-size bundle of energy, conducting with feet firmly grounded and big, purposeful motions of the torso and arms. In brief remarks from the stage, she also showed herself to be a natural communicator, brimming with enthusiasm and humor: a good choice for this orchestra, which takes its ambassadorial role seriously with concert series offered across the state and numerous outreach initiatives. The orchestra is also stocked with excellent players, and there were moments during Friday’s program when the sound reached a fullness and polish that would be the envy of better-known ensembles on the other side of the state lines.” (New York Times, April 2016)

“It is not easy to convey [Shostakovich’s] ambiguity to young people – but Xian Zhang succeeds in doing just that. Not only does the performance range on the level of a professional top orchestra, but it is also spot-on atmospherically. The opening movement evokes the voice of a tortured soul, the march music breaks in brutally, and the apotheosis with its hope for better times comes off to touching effect. The festival mood of the Allegretto is contorted into the grotesque, and the Largo begins like a reverie but tips over regularly into nightmarish episodes. The grim final movement with its machine music finally exposes the empty pathos of all party conference slogans.” (Tagesspiegel, August 2015)

“Zhang and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales offered the contrast of red-blooded performances of Russian symphonies. Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony was steadier, tougher in character than usual. Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2 boasted well drilled playing and outgoing certainty of vision” (Financial Times, August 2015)

“The Rachmaninov was a thing of grand passions. Zhang pressed through it where some interpreters linger. The brass glared in places, though strings and woodwind were admirably sumptuous, the great clarinet solo in the third movement beautifully poised.” (The Guardian, August 2015)

“Rachmaninov Symphony no.2, Nick Breckenfield in ClassicalSouce said she conducted with “a romantic sweep starting from the opening’s growling double basses to the irrepressible high spirits of the final bars” (Classical Source, August 2015)

“Zhang once again proved a thrilling leader. Her innate musicality and ability to communicate intention with clarity invested every gesture. Nothing seemed extraneous or glossed over, even as her whole body seemed to contract and release with explosive energy.” (The Star Ledger, May 2015)

“Happily, in the hands of the conductor Xian Zhang, the thrust of the music made up for the directorial inadequacies. In an impressive company debut, Zhang’s credentials as music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi shone through: she drove things forward with a stirring dynamism but, just as importantly, let the dramatic pauses breathe with sound instinct, and was alert to the score’s intimate chamber-music qualities. WNO’s musicians played with great sensitivity.” (Opera, August 2014)

“A five-star musical performance, lovingly crafted by the fast-rising Chinese conductor Xian Zhang.” (Richard Morrison, The Times, June 2014)

“The good news is that there can be no complaints about the performance's musical quality, conducted with Muti-like dynamism agility and precision by Xian Zhang.  She drives an impressive cast.” (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, June 2014)

“Musically, the chorus and orchestra's triumph is paralleled by that of conductor Xian Zhang in her notable company debut. A dynamic presence in the pit.” (Rhian Evans, The Guardian, June 2014)

“A stupendous chorus and excellent cast were the real winners. Together they soared above dowdiness and kitsch to render entirely plausible the agonies of love, jealousy and confused loyalties, supported with admirable pace and panache by conductor Xian Zhang’s WNO Orchestra.” (Stephanie Power, The Independent, June 2014)

“Fortunately, Williams, the principals, the chorus and a marvellous orchestra conducted with vibrancy and passion by Xian Zhang, rose above it all.” (Mike Smith, Wales Online, June 2014)

“An exciting, heart-on-sleeve Verdian, Zhang powered her way through the overture to La Forza del Destino and delivered the Act I Prelude to La traviata with a finely judged combination of passion and restraint…. The second half was given over to Tchaikovsky's Manfred, the final instalment of the Proms' survey of his complete symphonies. Zhang's in-your-face approach worked wonders here. The first movement, which can sound stentorian, crackled with electricity. She was reckless with speeds, lurched through the first movement coda, and brought the scherzo to a standstill before launching the trio – though each time she got away with it. This is a terrific orchestra, too: what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in dynamism. The single encore, the gallop from Rossini's William Tell overture, was hair-raising.” (Tim Ashley, The Guardian, September 2013)

“The pleasant surprise of the concert was the excellence of the Orchestra Sinfonia di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and its pocket-sized dynamo of a Chinese conductor Xian Zhang, who made it clear that she – yes, she, o ye of little faith – meant business from the first crisp downbeat of the Overture to La Forza del Destino. The second half of the programme was devoted to Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony. It’s a work bloated with the rhetoric of Weltschmerz, which can easily seem both pretentious and banal. But Xian and her Italians played it here with such impressive commitment and precision that it revealed its nobler aspects, notably in a stirring final movement which ran the gamut from daimonic bravado to deathbed resignation.” (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, September 2013)

“Zhang's eloquent and unhurried approach to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5 was evident from its brooding opening. Without losing any of the excitement of its frequent climatic points her disciplined approach to the more martial sections was contrasted with thoughtful and well-executed rubato. Zhang's modulated approach to tempi allowed space for her to highlight counter-melody and other details lost in more frenetic readings.” (Martin Duffy, The Age (Melbourne), March 2013) 

“Zhang turns into a volatile force of nature when facing the orchestra, her vast repertoire of lively gestures and precise cues drawing forth a disciplined and nuanced MSO performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Always bracing and boisterous, Zhang's account emphasised in equal measure the work's majestic refinement and more sombre, reflective passages.  Nevertheless, it was the final item on the program that gave the best indication of Zhang's musicality and talent, the enveloping drama and lush sentiment of Tchaikovsky's expansive Fifth Symphony realised in vivid detail and the work's yearning passion recognised as a source of overarching coherence.” (Eamonn Kelly, The Australian, March 2013)

Morning from Grieg’s Peer Gynt is so familiar to many concert goers that they expect nothing new, nothing exciting. Yet Xian Zhang led the orchestra in such a delicate, yet highly accurate and emotionally contrasting interpretation that not only the opening, but all four pieces felt as exciting, fresh and intense as a young morning.” (Stuttgarter Zeitung, February 2013)

“This concert was one to remember with the debut of Chinese conductor Xian Zhang, who proves that authority need not be contingent on gender, nationality, or physical stature... the main challenge is to energize the orchestra, to keep it emotionally present as consistently as possible. And she did...The performance had its little miracles. Throughout, the continuity was particularly strong because Zhang so clearly showed you where the music's hinges are.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2012)

“Zhang was at once commanding and exuberant, occasionally jumping or bending sharply at the waist to spur on the orchestra but often remaining fairly still – a riveting, dancer-like presence completely in the service of music, not showmanship.” (New Jersey Star-Ledger, February 2012)

“On Thursday in Music Hall, the gifted Chinese-born conductor Xian Zhang offered a sizzling interpretation of Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, and created a buzz in the audience that lasted long after the last notes had died away. She’s a dynamic presence on the podium, and she conducted most of her program from memory. The conductor projected intensity, flair and a fine musical mind as she led the orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture-Fantasie and Schumann’s Fourth Symphony in D Minor, the latter orchestrated by Mahler.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, February 2012)

“Musically, everything is held together extremely well by Xian Zhang... In the first two parts she guides the small groups of musicians and singers energetically through the complicated rhythmics. And in ‘Le Rossignol' Zhang is exemplary for precision and reservedness.” (Trouw, January 2012)

“The Chinese conductor Xian Zhang shows that she knows exactly how to put on the finishing touches with Stravinsky - whether they be peasant witticisms, crooked bass lines or the enchanting sound mixtures that come to play after the break in Le Rossignol.” (De Volkskrant, January 2012)

“From the first upbeat [Xian Zhang] exudes authority, and last night she took the LSO confidently through an attractive programme exploring diverse aspects of modernism. To Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin Suite she brought a combination of steely dynamism and Technicolor brilliance that Bartok's brutalist score demands… Best was Zemlinsky's The Mermaid… Zhang drew beautifully blended textures from wind and brass, relishing the darker shadows thrown by cor anglais and bass clarinet.” (London Evening Standard, November 2011)

“Zhang got real magic from divided muted-string reveries as well as love-chemistry between maiden and prince… thanks to the LSO and Zhang, a conductor who clearly does the orchestra good, for taking the plunge.” (The Arts Desk, November 2011)