Urbanski Shows Control, Musicality, Connection

September 21, 2011 at 8:36 am | Posted in Concerts | Leave a comment

Krzysztof Urbanski made his debut as the new director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra last weekend with performances of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto (with Garrick Ohlsson), and Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla.

No one was really quite sure what to expect from this young and relatively unknown conductor. A few IWS members were on hand for the performances and came away with a sense that Urbanski was a good choice for the ISO.

IWS director Charles Conrad attended the Friday performance, and he wrote,

Fantastic concert tonight by the Indianapolis Symphony — Shostakovich #5 that was amazing. I am very impressed with new Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski. Dynamic range, especially in the strings, was more than I have ever heard before from the ISO.

Clarinetist Katherine Peters, who was on hand for the Saturday performance, wrote,

I wasn’t sure about Urbanski just because of all the hype and I’d never seen him before, so we bought tickets in the stage terrace so we had the orchestra’s view and could watch his conducting, which was great. It wasn’t necessarily the gestures and facials, although they were expressive, but it was the communicative nature of his conducting all the way through. Some conductors are flamboyant and flashy without actually being connected to the musicians in front of them, and it takes humility to communicate to everyone else on stage rather than drawing attention to oneself. There was a partnership taking place, they were presenting art together, and he, as the point man, was very clear on his intentions. I’ve not heard the ISO (which is not at all shabby, mind you!) play with that amount of vigor and inflection. The Glinka was fun and full of detail. And after intermission, Shostakovich… I literally said “wow” out loud after the last movement. It was brilliant. I appreciate that he was bold enough to make some of the very clear decisions that he did and competent enough to make them work so very well. And then, he was very gracious in his recognition of the musicians and his reluctant acceptance of applause, and it seemed sincere. I saw orchestra members welcome him onto the stage with fond smiles (not forced smiles) at the beginning and call him back for a bow at the end. Last reason for liking him: he walked past our usher in the connecting hallway at intermission, stopped, and shook his hand and introduced himself. No one else was around; the usher was so impressed that he told us about it. That’s class.

One problem with the concerts: Empty seats. A big, premiere concert like this ought to have been sold out each night, but there were still plenty of seats available when the baton dropped. This doesn’t bode well for the future of classical music in Indianapolis.

To learn more about Krzysztof Urbanski, check out krzysztofurbanski.com.

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