Xian Zhang new BBC National Orchestra of Wales conductor

Xiang Zhang Image copyright Benjamin Ealovega/BBC
Image caption Zhang performed at the BBC Proms in July 2015 with the BBC NOW

Xian Zhang has been unveiled as the new principal guest conductor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

She will join for three years and conduct around a dozen concerts a year, all over Wales and at the Proms.

The Chinese conductor is the first woman to be appointed to lead one of the BBC's orchestras.

Zhang, who has already conducted in two seasons with the orchestra, said: "They are a fantastic group of musicians who genuinely love making music".


She is a regular conductor in the United States and her native China but is currently living in Milan, where she is conductor with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.

Zhang, who will also become music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra next year, has been a regular conductor with the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras.

She has also been guest conductor with BBC NOW for two seasons, including a concert at the BBC Proms last July.

"I'm very honoured to take up this appointment," she told BBC Wales.

"I like working with orchestras I'm familiar with and I think for the orchestra it's better too. Sometimes it shortens the process of rehearsing and all of that."

She said it only takes a short time to know that the chemistry is right.

"I've enjoyed it from the very first rehearsal - they're very precise, very musical and very giving," she said.

"This orchestra is able to make wonderful colour in all kinds of repertoire - it's a fantastic group."

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Media captionXian Zhang told BBC Wales arts and media correspondent Huw Thomas about her appointment

Born in Dandong, China in 1973, Zhang made her professional debut conducting at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20.

On being the first woman on a BBC orchestra contract, she said: "There are much younger ladies in their 20s studying and working as conductors - they will come up.

"I'm very honoured to be one of the first which in a way brings me more pressure because I want to set a good record for the later ones. But I never really gave much thought to it - not until much later I got to be asked about it.

"Being asked is good actually. We should keep talking about this until one day the question naturally disappears when people see more women doing it. That day will make me very happy."

Her first concert will be next September in Cardiff and her first season will include music by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rimsky Korsakov and Berlioz.

BBC NOW will also perform at the BBC Proms and tour Wales.

Michael Garvey, BBC NOW director, said: "Our recent concerts with her in Swansea and the BBC Proms were so energised, balanced and refined we knew that an appointment would be the perfect fit."

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