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State Theatre New Jersey presents Sofia Phiharmonic Orchestra

originally published: 01/23/2024

State Theatre New Jersey presents Sofia Phiharmonic Orchestra

Photo by Vasilka Balevska

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra led by Principal Conductor Derek Gleeson on Saturday, February 17, 2024 at 7:00pm. The all-Beethoven program includes Coriolanus Overture, Piano Concerto No. 5, and Beethoven Symphony No. 7. Joining the orchestra for part of the program is pianist Ivaylo Vassilev. Tickets range from $25-$55.

In 1945 the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra became the national orchestra of Bulgaria and has long established itself as one of the leading cultural institutions, representative of the overall contemporary musical culture of the country. The repertoire of the Sofia Philharmonic comprises works from the entire historically available range of music—from classical to contemporary opuses, including premiere performances of numerous works by Bulgarian composers. The orchestra has garnered substantial recognition all over the world.

Tickets range from $25-$55 and are available for purchase online or by calling State Theatre Guest Services at 732-246-SHOW (7469) or visit online at State Theatre Guest Services, located at 15 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick NJ, is open by phone and email only, Tuesday through Friday from 11:00am to 5:00pm. For in-person purchases, Guest Services is open Tuesday through Friday from 12:00pm to 4:30pm. Additional ticket and transaction fees may apply.

Derek Gleeson, Principal ConductorIn 2020 Maestro Derek Gleeson was named principal conductor of the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. Born in Dublin, Ireland (a U.S./Irish dual citizen), Gleeson studied piano, percussion, composition, and conducting at the music conservatories of Dublin, London, and Vienna, and film scoring at the University of California, Los Angeles. By the age of 11, Gleeson was the recipient of many piano and percussion competition prizes within Ireland and Great Britain. At the age of 15 he represented Ireland as a conductor in the European Community Youth Orchestra, where he had the opportunity to perform at the leading European music festivals, such as Salzburg, Edinburgh, and Lucerne Festivals under the direction of Maestros Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Sir George Solti, and others. These early experiences directed him toward a career in conducting. In 1984 he was a first prize winner of the London Symphony Orchestra’s music scholarship.

As a Guest conductor, Maestro Gleeson conducted The London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Orchestras, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He was Music Director of the Rűckert Orchestra of Dublin (1990 through 1993), and since 1997, he has been permanent Music Director of The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra. An ardent champion of contemporary music, Gleeson has provided many premier performances of works by living composers, his own works also being performed in Europe and the U.S. In 2004, Gleeson's concert work titled "Buenos Aires" premiered in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His recordings as conductor include premieres of contemporary American and Irish composers with The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Bulgarica.

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Amongst others, Gleeson has conducted The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the RTE Concert Orchestra (Ireland's national broadcaster), The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra (Ireland), Orchestra Da Camera Fiorentina (Italy), The Brohuslav Martinu Philharmonic (Czech Republic) Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra (Czech Republic), Hradec Kralove Symphony Orchestra (Czech Republic), Czech National Symphony Orchestra, and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ivaylo Vassilev, Pianist - Ivaylo Vassilev was born in 2007 in Sofia and studied piano at the National Music School in Sofia with Professor Borislava Taneva, PhD. At the age of 16, he has earned an impressive collection of more than 30 prizes from international competitions from around the world. Vassilev has played in various piano festivals, amongst them 2023 Cliburn Junior Piano Festival (Dallas), Lancaster International Piano Festival (Lancaster, 2022), “Wunderkinder” (Toblach, Italy, 2018), “Musical Olympus” (St. Petersburg, 2019), and “Moscow Meets Friends” (Moscow, 2019). He has studied with world known pianists and pedagogues, including Konstantin Scherbakov, Dmitry Bashkirov, and Alexander Kobrin. He has performed at iconic halls around the world, such as the Great Hall and Rachmaninoff Hall of Moscow State Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Hall, the House of Music in Moscow, Symphonic Capella in St. Petersburg, and of course, Bulgaria Hall in Sofia. As a soloist he has performed with famous conductors, like Pavel Balev, Sascha Goetzel, Vyacheslav Valeev, Alexander Titov, Alexander Chernushenko, Mikhail Kirkhoff, Igor Lerman, and others, with many Bulgarian and Russian orchestras, including the four major Bulgarian ones—Sofia Philharmonic, Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra, Classic FM orchestra, and Varna Philharmonic, as well as with Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. His first album with Mozart and Shostakovich piano concertos was recorded and released in 2019 in St. Petersburg, as a special prize for winning the Golden Nutcracker Award.

After major renovations, State Theatre New Jersey celebrated its 100th Anniversary in December 2021 in a fully renovated theater including newly renovated lobbies, all new restrooms, upgraded HVAC systems, a new elevator for access to all levels, and brand-new theater seats. Originally built as a silent film and vaudeville palace, State Theatre’s historic significance was honored by PBS by featuring it in its documentary series, Treasures of New Jersey, in the fall of 2018. “Treasures of New Jersey: State Theatre New Jersey” can be streamed online.

Today, State Theatre is the largest performing arts center in Central New Jersey and has welcomed more than six million people through its doors since reopening as a nonprofit performing arts center in 1988. State Theatre New Jersey is a cornerstone of the cultural vitality of Middlesex County and averages a total economic impact on New Brunswick and the surrounding area of more than $18 million a year. The mainstage programs have featured high-caliber artists such as Diana Ross, Tom Jones, Kevin Hart, Ringo Starr, Melissa Etheridge, John Leguizamo, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Program offerings include Broadway, orchestra, family, dance, comedy, rock/pop, jazz, Performances for Schools, and Sensory-Friendly Performances.

State Theatre New Jersey’s programs are made possible by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.  

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