"It has been my honor and privilege to serve as music director for the past two years," Zhang said in a statement quoted by the Journal. "My extremely overloaded schedule is taking a toll on me. I asked my manager to cancel concerts, even in China, in 2008. One must take steps to protect oneself when health and family are in line. I must cut down my traveling for next season."
Orchestra officials acknowledged that they had not been expecting Zhang to remain in Sioux City long, though they were a bit surprised by the suddenness of her departure. "We knew when we were contemplating hiring her that she would be in incredible demand worldwide and that her three-year contract might be the only one we would have," Board President Charese Yanney told the Journal. "We were preparing for a search a year from now. We will now accelerate the timeline. During Xian's search year [i.e., the year before she was hired], we had an amazing field of highly qualified candidates and I expect that will only grow with a new search."
Sioux City Symphony executive director Douglas Gerhart told the paper, "While [she had] a brief tenure, Xian has certainly demonstrated to all that the orchestra can perform remarkable concerts. The Sioux City Symphony is performing at the highest level in its illustrious 92-two year history."
Zhang, who took the top prize in the inaugural Maazel/Vilar International Conductors' Competition in 2002, was also responsible for the appointment of Jungho Kim as assistant conductor and director of education for the orchestra; Eunho Kim, his wife, was appointed concertmaster shortly afterwards. "Along with these appointments and several new members serving in key positions," Gerhart told the paper, "the Sioux City Symphony is a stronger orchestra than just a few years ago."
Her final concert with the orchestra will be an all-Beethoven program this Friday, May 18.