The State Theatre of New Jersey (the STNJ) presented the Zurich Chamber Orchestra on March 21 at its renovated home in New Brunswick, NJ.
Beginning a new era, the venue has apparently dispensed with paper programs, relying instead on the fact that everyone now owns a state-of-the-art smart phone which has a Q-Code reader to access that event’s program.
For those of us without such a device, or still owning a device from a few years ago without such a utility, we were directed to text a number, and enter PROGRAM to access the information online. Luckily, for those with neither, Daniel Hope, the esteemed violin soloist, Music Director, and leader of the orchestra, introduced each piece played that evening via short, engaging introductions using a microphone from the stage.
The STNJ has been beautifully renovated, and the stage is a handsome, heavily wood-paneled affair which provides a rich, warm acoustic. The deep, moody sounds from this string orchestra may have disarmed many at first, but eventually became soothing, an alternative sound to the bright acoustic to which audiences hereabouts have become accustomed. The large orchestra filled the stage, and left nothing to be desired in toanal beauty or mastery of technique.
The program relied upon Mr. Hope’s violin playing, and splendid it was, focusing on a ravishing arrangement of Sir Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, a newly-discovered Mendelssohn violin Concerto in D Minor, MWV 03, a modern piece by a living composer, and the renowned classic Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky.
Sir Edward Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro began the evening beautifully, if a bit bombastically. Being from the UK, Mr. Hope favored British composers. Next was a ravishingly-played arrangement for string orchestra by Sir Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending. It was filled with perfect melody impeccably played. Indeed, Mr. Hope appears to possess complete mastery over his Guarneri violin even after decades of international stardom. The chamber orchestra played in kind, with gorgeous sound and complete mastery.
The program continued with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, newly discovered and first played by Yehudi Menuhin in 1952. Mr. Hope thrilled the hall with his virtuosity in the sparkling piece. The orchestra accompanied in kind.
The second half of the evening offered a modern work by Valentin Silvestrov, “Waltz of the Moment,” from his Silent Music. Daniel Hope informed us that he was set to record this piece in Ukraine, but the war cancelled that, and we were poignantly reminded of the unprovoked genocide inflicted upon Ukraine by Russia.
Mr. Hope informed us via introduction to Serenade for Strings that the notoriously sensitive to criticism composer actually was happy with his work. Beautifully realized by the strings onstage, it was impossible for those present not to be swept up into its enveloping aura. This piece ended the program, but audience acclaim recalled the ensemble twice, and they generously gifted us with encores by Copeland and Bernstein.
All told, a brilliant concert by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and its leader, Daniel Hope.
The State Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) is located at 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ. It has a season filled with events as varied as Patti LuPone, comedians, pop singers, and symphony orchestras. For information: