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Female conductor opens flagship series

Media Release
14 January 2005

Female conductor opens flagship series

“[Xian Zhang] generates electricity… Here’s this tiny little thing who becomes a giant on the podium.”
[feature article, Cincinnati Enquirer]

Chinese conductor, Xian Zhang, made her début guest conducting appearance with the Auckland Philharmonia last year and was immediately re-engaged, to open the orchestra’s 2005 Vero Premier Series on Thursday 10 February. She also conducts the second concert in the series, on Thursday 17 February.

Xian Zhang’s energetic podium presence and superb conducting technique resulted in her winning (in 2002 at the age of just 29) the prestigious Maazel/Vilar Conductors’ Competition in New York. Competition judge Lorin Maazel travelled the world evaluating more than 250 conductors before the jury and he agreed on her as the clear winner. He later said, “Never before have I been so reluctant to see a musician leave the stage.” Recently Xian Zhang has been appointed Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. In May 2005 she makes her London Symphony début.

In the first 2005 Vero Premier Series concert, Xian Zhang conducts the Auckland Philharmonia and dynamic French-Cypriot pianist, Cyprien Katsaris. This colourful programme features Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.5, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.2, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.

The following week, New Zealand’s golden voiced soprano, Patricia Wright, is the soloist in Canteloube’s bewitching Songs of the Auvergne. Also on the programme are Brahms’ monumental Tragic Overture, and Tchaikovsky’s most-loved symphony, the Pathétique.

Telecom “Let’s Talk Music” at 7pm in the stalls of the concert venue (free to concert ticket holders).

Thursday 10 and Thursday 17 February – 8pm, Auckland Town Hall

Adult tickets from $23; concessions available (service fees apply). Phone the Ticketek Orchestra Hotline on 307 5139.

The Auckland Philharmonia receives major funding from Creative New Zealand and a major grant from Auckland City. END

(Full artist biographies follow.)


Xian Zhang, Conductor
First prize winner of the 2002 Maazel/Vilar International Conductors’ Competition, Xian Zhang has recently been appointed Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Her duties will include summer concerts, family concerts, Young People’s Concerts, and several collaborations with Maestro Maazel conducting works by Stravinsky, Britten and Turnage.
Xian Zhang has been Music Director of the Concert Orchestra at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Assistant Professor of Conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music, Conductor-in-Residence of the China Opera House and conductor of the Jin Fan Symphony Orchestra (all in Beijing), as well as Music Director of the Lucca Festival Orchestra at the Opera Theatre of Lucca during the summer of 2000.
Xian Zhang’s début guest conducting appearance with the Auckland Philharmonia last year resulted in an immediate re-engagement. In the words of the New Zealand Herald, “Zhang’s dashing baton illuminated this most translucent of Mozart’s scores [Symphony No.40] …”. Following her triumph with La Traviata at the Cincinnati Opera, she was invited to conduct Don Giovanni in 2004, then La Bohème in 2005, as well as several other productions to be determined. She made her début with the China Philharmonic in October 2004 and will début with the London Symphony in May 2005.
Born in Dandong, China, Xian Zhang started playing the piano at the age of four. After graduating with a major in piano from the High School Affiliate of the Central Conservatory of Music, her superior talent for conducting convinced the faculty to admit her to the conducting programme at the Central Conservatory. She subsequently received both the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from that conservatory and served one year on the conducting faculty before moving to the United States in 1998. At the age of 20, Xian Zhang made her professional conducting début directing performances of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing.

Cyprien Katsaris, Piano
Cyprien Katsaris, the French-Cypriot pianist and composer, was born in Marseilles in 1951. He spent his childhood in Cameroon where, at the age of four, he first began to play the piano with Marie-Gabrielle Louwerse.
A graduate of the Paris Conservatoire where he studied piano with Aline van Barentzen, Monique de la Bruchollerie and Jean Hubeau, Cyprien won the International Young Interpreters Rostrum-Unesco (Bratislava 1977), first prize in the International Cziffra Competition (Versailles 1974) and he was the only western-European prize winner at the 1972 Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Competition.
Cyprien’s major international career includes performances with the world’s greatest orchestras (such as the Berlin Philharmonic), conductors (such as Leonard Bernstein), and an extensive discography (Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin, Warsaw 1985; Grand Prix du Disque Franz Liszt, Budapest 1984 and 1989; British Music Retailers’ Association’s Award 1986).
In addition to the standard repertory, such as the Complete Concertos by Mozart, recorded live and performed in Salzburg and Vienna with Yoon K. Lee and the Salzburger Kammerphilharmonie, Cyprien has rediscovered long lost works such as the Liszt/Tchaikovsky Concerto in the Hungarian Style which he has recorded with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
In 1992, Japanese NHK TV produced with Cyprien a 13 programme series on Frédéric Chopin which included master classes and performances. On 17 October 1999, the New York concertgoers offered Cyprien a standing ovation in Carnegie Hall for his recital dedicated to Chopin, performed on the day of the 150th anniversary of his death.
Cyprien has been a member of the jury of the following International Competitions: Chopin (Warsaw 1990), Liszt (Utrecht 1996), Vendôme Prize (Paris 2000), and Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud-Ville de Paris (2001).
Appointed Artistic Director of the International Festival of Echternach in Luxembourg in 1977, Cyprien is Knight of Merit of Cameroon (1975), Artist of Unesco for Peace (1997), and Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (France 2000). In 2001 he received the Vermeil Medal of the City of Paris.
Cyprien is making his début with the Auckland Philharmonia.

Patricia Wright, Soprano
Patricia Wright began her vocal training in New Zealand with Dame Sister Mary Leo, and a QEII Arts Council Grant enabled her to further her studies in Australia with Dame Joan Hammond. She then gained further awards to study in London and Germany. While in the United Kingdom she won second prize in the Benson & Hedges Gold Award for Singers, and represented New Zealand in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Her critically acclaimed performances in lieder and oratorio led her to every major concert hall in Britain, and she made numerous BBC Radio 3 recordings.
Patricia has performed regularly with major orchestras, opera companies, festivals and choral societies in New Zealand, Australia, Britain and Ireland. Concert highlights include Beethoven’s Ninth, Mahler’s Fourth, Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, Capriccio, Die ägyptische Helena, Carmina Burana, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Pulcinella, Verdi’s Requiem, Bach’s Wedding Cantata and Cantata 51. Choral performances include The Messiah, Solemn Vespers, Sea Symphony, Nelson Mass, Child of Our Time, German Requiem, Mozart Requiem, St John’s and St Matthew’s Passions and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.
Opera repertoire includes the title role of Madama Butterfly, Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Norina in Don Pasquale, Gilda in Rigoletto, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Mimi in La Bohème, Nedda in Pagliacci, Alice Ford in Falstaff; Liù in Turandot, Nella in Gianni Schicchi, Clorinda in La Cenerentola, Despina in Così fan tutte, Micaela in Carmen, Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera, First Lady in The Magic Flute, and Magda in the concert performance of La Rondine.
Patricia’s recordings are Verdi Requiem with the NBR New Zealand Opera and the Auckland Philharmonia, Serenata (Atoll), Frank Bridge Songs (Pearl), Jane Austen Songs (Pearl), The Early Bridge (Pearl), Frank Bridge (Pearl), Rebecca Clarke (Guild), Arnold Bax (Continuum), Kenneth Young Symphony No.1 with the NZSO (Trust), and Hummel Missa Solemnis/Te Deum with the NZSO (Naxos).
Future public engagements include, in addition to Songs of the Auvergne with the Auckland Philharmonia, Golijov Songs with the Christchurch Symphony, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Auckland Choral Society, a Lieder Recital tour, Nelson Chamber Music Festival, three recording projects, and the role of Donna Anna in NBR New Zealand Opera’s 2005 production of Don Giovanni (Wellington and Auckland).
Patricia has been performing regularly with the Auckland Philharmonia since 1993.

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