Abels: Emerge Premieres at NJ Symphony

“For our first public subscription concerts since the COVID-19 shut down, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra wanted to project a sense of catharsis, healing, joy, and wonder.” — Patrick Chamberlain

As the 2021-22 performance season begins and the concert world returns to live music, Patrick Chamberlain — NJSO Vice President of Artistic Planning — comments on the orchestra’s season-openning concerts which feature the premiere of Michael Abels’ new work Emerge. Co-commissioned with both the Detroit and National Symphonies, the nine-minute piece premieres on October 8 led by music director Xian Zhang, with a subsequent performance on the 10th.

Xian Zhang, photo: Benjamin Ealovega

Chamberlain continues. “We also wanted to create a program that shows that we aren’t simply returning as the same organization—we’ve redoubled our commitment to amplify a range of diverse voices and better reflect our communities on our stages. We asked the renowned composer Michael Abels to write a new work with the specific thought that it would be the first sounds our audiences would hear….”

Abels shares some insight into his latest orchestral work. “Emerge is a piece that imagines a group of highly trained musicians getting back together after a long break, remembering both the exhilaration and the discipline of performing together. The piece begins with a section that evokes a sunrise on a group of musicians all playing independently. They gradually all team up to play a powerful, energetic crescendo, but that dissipates into a softer section built on solo playing of bluesy phrases that keep happening in canon, rather than in unison. The middle of the piece is a placid, lyrical episode with graceful, independent string lines flowing underneath it. That kicks off a volley of rising scales back and forth between the strings and the winds. When the brass get involved, the strings are finally able to play a melody all together in unison above them. The scale volley becomes faster until it finally comes together, and this sets up an exuberant coda which, despite some shades of difficulty and frustration, is absolutely triumphant.”