February 9, 2024

Media highlights from Gemma New’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut with Seong-Jin Cho

WTTW wrote:

“Stepping up to the podium was the richly expressive Gemma New, principal conductor of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, who looks and moves like a superbly trained ballerina, and who was in impeccable control and communication with the musicians. And delivering a breathtaking, highly individualistic performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor was Seong-Jin Cho, the 29-year-old pianist born in Seoul, Korea, who has been a guest performer with countless world-renowned orchestras.”

“The final work on the program was the orchestra’s beautiful rendering of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor (‘Scottish’), which was inspired by the composer’s trip to Scotland. The symphony opened with a rich, subtly solemn and beautiful melody featuring the French horns, which were joined by the strings and winds, and marked by dramatic, ideally executed mood shifts. New led the orchestra with strength, clarity and grace.

Throughout, the CSO was in its usual top form. And while it might be far too late to even suggest this, I left the concert hoping that New might even be under serious consideration to be named the CSO’s new music director.”

BNN wrote: 

“In a night that Chicago's music lovers will remember for years to come, the esteemed Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) presented a program of works by Aaron Jay Kernis, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Felix Mendelssohn on February 9th, 2024. The glittering event marked the CSO debuts of two rising stars in the classical music world: conductor Gemma New and pianist Seong-Jin Cho.”

“As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra continues to innovate and inspire, the debuts of Gemma New and Seong-Jin Cho serve as a testament to the ensemble's commitment to nurturing young talent and pushing the boundaries of classical music.”

“As the final notes of Mendelssohn's ‘Scottish’ Symphony echoed through the hallowed halls of the Chicago Symphony Center, it became clear that the evening's performance had transcended the ordinary, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate enough to bear witness.”

Chicago Classical Review wrote:

“Currently in her ninth season as music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Canada, Gemma New is also principal conductor of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. She made a storybook Chicago debut in 2017 as a last-minute sub for Simone Young at the Grant Park Music Festival. The concert featured ‘Symphonia domestica,’ no less, and New’s assured direction of Richard Strauss’s epic tone-poem was impressive enough to result in her being invited back the following summer.

She led off her Orchestra Hall debut with Musica Celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis, heard in its belated CSO premiere. This transcription of the eponymous slow movement from the American composer’s 1990 String Quartet No. 1 remains Kernis’s most-played work, inspired by medieval music generally and Hildegard von Bingen particularly.

New is a graceful podium presence, and the youthful New Zealand native directed the strings with flowing, coaxing gestures in this 11-minute work. She had the score firmly in hand and drew out the serene Barber-like solace with a wide range of dynamics from the ethereal opening to the bustling middle section. New underlined the rapt, spiritual essence of this music and, with superb playing by the CSO strings, delivered the finest performance of the evening in Kernis’s radiant music.”