Xian Zhang has been appointed principal guest conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from September 2016. She is the first female conductor to hold a titled position with a BBC Orchestra. ‘I’m very honoured to be one of the first,’ says Zhang; ‘in a way it brings me more pressure because I want to set a good record for the later ones.’
Xian Zhang was born in Dandong, China, and made her professional debut at the Central Opera House in Beijing aged 20. After moving to the US in 1998 she joined the New York Philharmonic as assistant conductor, and was subsequently made associate conductor. She is currently serving as Music Director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.
She has already conducted the BBC NOW in two previous seasons, including an appearance at the 2015 BBC Proms, and praises the orchestra’s approach to making music. ‘They genuinely love making music, and are a natural team,’ she says; ‘they have some exceptional qualties that have really impressed me.’