This week the San Francisco Symphony welcomes two dynamic young musicians to the stage of Davies Symphony Hall – Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbánski and American cellist Joshua Roman – both making return visits to the Symphony. Joshua Roman plays the Dvořák Cello Concerto in a program which includes Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, and Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra.
Krzysztof Urbánski last appeared with the Symphony just two weeks ago, prompting Jonathan Kosman (San Francisco Chronicle) to remark that he “takes to the the podium like a cross between Arturo Toscanini and Fred Astaire, turning each interpretive decision into a balletic piece of performance art”. Musical Toronto refers to his “compelling style that is both unique and bewitching”, but – far from being just a stylish conductor – this young Maestro also attracts rave reviews for his ability – “a musician of extraordinary intelligence and perception” says Kölner Stadtanzeiger. In June 2015, he was the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival – the first conductor ever to have received this prestigious award.
Now in his seventh season as Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Urbánski was this year appointed Honorary Guest Conductor of the Trondheim Symfoniorkester & Opera, following a four-season tenure as Chief Conductor and Artistic Leader of the Orchestra, which he held concurrently with the role of Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – a German radio orchestra based in Hamburg at the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall which is described as one of the largest and most acoustically advanced in the world.
Krzysztof Urbánski also guests with orchestras of the caliber of Staatskapelle Dresden, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Wiener Symphoniker, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics. Forthcoming debuts include those with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Orchestre de Paris.
Joshua Roman – cellist, composer and curator – is also regarded as a highly inspirational musician, described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as “A musician of imagination and expressive breadth”. In 2006, at the age of 22, he was appointed principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, a position which he held for two years before setting out on his career as a soloist, a career which has included appearances with orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, New World Symphony, Alabama Symphony and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Ecuador.
As a chamber musician, Joshua Roman has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including pianist Andrius Zlabys, conductor and pianist Christian Zacharias, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, New York’s JACK and Enso String quartets, Talea Ensemble, and composer, clarinetist and conductor Derek Bermel. Composer Mason Bates dedicated his Cello Concerto to Joshua Roman, who gave the work its world premiere with the Seattle Symphony in 2014. Joshua Roman has also premiered his own Cello Concerto, Awakening, with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently performed it with orchestras such as the New World and Seattle symphonies, as well as with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Among his other achievements, he has served as Alumnus-in-Residence at the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, is Artistic Director of TownMusic in Seattle, is a Creative Partner of the Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts, is the inaugural Artistic Advisor of a contemporary Seattle-based streaming channel to cultivate the next generation of classical audiences, and was a member of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors artists committee.
Twentieth-century composer and conductor, Witold Lutosławski, was regarded as one of Poland’s most outstanding composers. Widely respected during his lifetime, he was the recipient of a number of international awards, and held honorary degrees from sixteen universities. Not only did he make his musical mark in Poland, but in international circles as well, conducting in France, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Norway and Austria, and also carrying out engagements with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Orchestre de Paris, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony which he led on three different occasions. His last visit here was in 1993.
Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra was written at the request of conductor Witold Rowicki, who wanted a piece based on Polish folk music, to be performed by the Warsaw National Philharmonic which Rowicki had founded in 1950. It took Lutosławski four years to complete, but in the words of San Francisco Symphony program annotator James M Keller, it turned out to be “a brilliant orchestral showpiece …. a virtuoso vehicle for the ensemble as a whole”.
Krzysztof Urbánski leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artist Joshua Roman in a program of works by Dvořák, Mozart and Lutosławski, on October 19, 20 and 21. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
San Francisco Symphony Program notes:
Dvořák – Cello Concerto
Mozart – Overture to The Magic Flute
Lutosławski – Concerto for Orchestra