SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No 5 (Urbański)
It was ‘the worst of times’. In his excellent booklet note, conductor Krzysztof Urbański recounts the background to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, describing the work as ‘extremely tragic’ but finding its meaning layered, like one of those Russian dolls containing increasingly smaller replicas inside. A painting of a nervously smoking Shostakovich entitled 1937 by the Polish artist Dominika Suszczyńska adorns the cover of this incisive new recording with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. It certainly makes a powerful statement, not least in his treatment of the finale.
Urbański adopts similar tempos to Nelsons to begin with. In the first movement, the Elbphilharmonie strings really dig in (at 4’19”), with the piano entering in punchy mood (7’55”). There’s not the red-raw playing or corrosive brass of Kirill Kondrashin’s Moscow Philharmonic (on Melodiya’s indispensable set) but the Hamburgers still generate plenty of excitement, certainly more than the Russians in Gergiev’s rather cool reading. Urbański’s Scherzo is earthy rather than biting – ‘growly’ would be a good description – with only a slight pulling up for the oboe solo (5’29”) at the end. There’s a sense of flow to the Largo, the Hamburg strings not as opulent as Boston’s, which soar through the sweeping themes like something from a Prokofiev ballet. Urbański treats it as a hushed elegy, whispered at times, which means that when the climax comes, the poison of the string attack (9’20”) really stings.
The finale may divide listeners. Although it seems unlikely at the outset, Urbański is even swifter than Kondrashin, largely down to a very carefully gradated series of accelerandos which result in a furious pace. Urbański takes a political approach to the coda, describing the moment the strings take up ostinato As for 31 bars as ‘the victim’s brainwashing begins’. He doesn’t drag it out quite as much as Vasily Petrenko in Liverpool (‘weary deliberation’, according to David Gutman in these pages) but it’s a close thing. Urbański quotes Solomon Volkov’s Testimony in describing it as ‘a cudgel beating down on the Russian people’. It works for me, turning it into a bitter trudge, defiant to the end.
Mark Pullinger, Gramophone, 2018
Stravinsky The Rite of Spring (Gatti, Urbański)
…For more danger, try Krzysztof Urbański and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. Their new release contains not one but two performances: a CD made in December 2016 (before the new Elbphilharmonie opened) and then a concert filmed the following February which is added on a Blu ray disc. Two months apart, they’re remarkably similar, taken at a marginally more measured tempo than Gatti but feeling much more cataclysmic.
Urbański is quite the cool dude – hair spiked, tie not quite done up – and allows his bassoonist free rein to begin without any up beat, which he does with the longest held opening note I’ve heard, before coiling into a truly mournful wail. Urbański draws thrilling playing from his orchestra, which strikes me as a much more exciting partnership than Gatti’s with the RCO. There’s real grit and a sense that they are playing out of their skins, grinding out something urgent and earthy.
Mark Pullinger, Gramophone, March 2018
Urbanski turns in another dazzler with SF Symphony
There’s just no way around it: This month’s visits to Davies Symphony Hall by the magnificent young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski constitute the most exciting development on the San Francisco Symphony’s horizon in a good long while.
It’s not easy to write about Urbanski’s remarkable podium gifts without gushing, but let’s give it a try. His conducting combines a masterful precision of detail with a command of the broader expanse of even the most challenging repertoire. He seems to have inspired the Symphony musicians to remarkable feats of instrumental prowess even beyond what they normally muster. He brings a charismatic star power to every performance that makes him as thrilling to watch as to listen to.
OK, maybe just a little bit of gush.
Urbanski was back in Davies on Thursday, Oct. 19, for the second of two not quite back-to-back weeks with the orchestra. Just like before, he brought with him a landmark work of midcentury Polish music — in this case, Lutoslawski’s beautiful and sturdily built Concerto for Orchestra from 1954 — and once again that proved to be the high point of an evening studded with high points.
It was just last year that the young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski made a knockout debut with the San Francisco Symphony, leading the orchestra with a rare combination of dramatic intensity and kinetic flair. It was the kind of performance so striking that it left you not quite believing what you’d just witnessed.
Well, you can believe it, all right. Urbanski returned to Davies Symphony Hall on Friday night, Oct. 6, for the first of two nonconsecutive guest weeks with the orchestra, and it turns out his earlier appearance was no fluke at all.
Urbanski takes to the podium like a cross between Arturo Toscanini and Fred Astaire, turning each interpretive decision into a balletic piece of performance art. He makes music with taut physicality and shimmery lyricism, and he brings the orchestra into the dance with him so that the entire ensemble moves effortlessly as one.
The results, in music by Penderecki, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, were both intellectually probing (in a terrifying feat, Urbanski conducts even the most intricate orchestral works from memory) and sensuously direct.
The more we hear from this 35-year-old conductor, the more urgent it becomes to see what else he can do. (…)
Friday’s program opened with a daring, daunting rarity, Penderecki’s 1960 cri de coeur “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.” This is a piece more known about than known, one that figures in nearly every history of 20th century music without actually showing up in the concert hall (the Symphony has performed it only once before, in 1977 under Seiji Ozawa).
“Threnody” is scored in painstaking detail for 52 string players, and it’s full of unusual instrumental techniques that give the music a ghostly, agonizing surface. Shrieks, whispers and ominous clatters coalesce and disperse, in an expressive landscape that is somewhere between grief and accusation; famously, the piece ends with a giant, densely packed chord that seems to encompass every possible note.
It’s the kind of thing that can easily come off as mannered or even kitschy (especially at more than half a century’s remove), but Urbanski and the orchestra gave it a keen emotional specificity. After asking for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, Urbanski got the music under way with an almost gentle edge.
Soon enough, though, the performance grew increasingly intense and heartfelt. Just as Penderecki had to invent new notational symbols for some of his more striking instrumental effects, Urbanski seemed to have created a whole new podium lexicon for the occasion — from five-finger explosions to elaborate caressing maneuvers — and all of it bore audible fruit.
He and the orchestra proved no less dynamic after intermission, with a forceful and often raw-boned account of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. The epic first movement, which can register in the wrong hands as an overlong slog, charted a tersely compelling journey, and both the pile-driver rhythms of the second movement and the counterintuitive gaiety of the finale came through powerfully.
Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle, October, 2017
Die Münchner Philharmoniker unter Krzysztof Urbański
Wenn ein junger Dirigent weiß, was er will und das in Proben und auch bei der Aufführung mit origineller, klarer, unmissverständlicher Zeichensprache elegant vermitteln kann, dann geht ein Orchester präzise und leidenschaftlich mit. So war das auch Sonntagvormittag. Die Münchner Philharmoniker folgten – nicht zum ersten Mal – dem 35-jährigen Polen Krzysztof Urbański in der Philharmonie bei jedem Wink seines Stabs und jeder Geste seiner Hände.
Schon die dritte Leonoren-Ouvertüre war in ihrer Dramaturgie dynamisch fein gearbeitet. Wann je hat man die leisen Stellen so zurückgenommen und zugleich gefährlich lauernd wahrgenommen, wie hier? So klang das Ganze tatsächlich wie eine Zusammenfassung des dramatischen Geschehens von Ludwig van Beethovens “Fidelio”, kulminierend im berühmten Trompetensignal für die rettende Ankunft des Ministers. Am Ende beglückte die zweite Symphonie von Johannes Brahms dank eines stets bestechend natürlichen Flusses der Töne. Er verhinderte, dass die manchmal schwermütige, basslastige Musik allzu erdverhaftet klang. Trotz überlegen gestalteter Steigerungen und großer Ausbrüche bestachen auch hier die leisen Momente am meisten. Zauberhaft etwa gelang mit Luftigkeit und Eleganz das sanft-heitere “Allegretto grazioso”, bevor das finale “Allegro con spirito” tatsächlich vor Esprit nur so sprühte.
Klaus Kalchschmid, Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 2017
This is superb cello-playing and Krzysztof Urbański directs a vital and sensitive accompaniment (CD Sol Gabetta Live: Berliner Philharmoniker)
Rob Cowan, Gramophone, February 2017
Urbański has a compelling style that is both unique and bewitching. (His grace cast the focus on the moment rather than the direction. While the silence-haunted strings drop low in the bass, then ascend, he did not fall into the trap of being shamelessly lush and over the top. His intent was the focus on the venerable confessions of the silence which ended one minute at a time.) It was one of the most tender performances I’ve ever heard from the TSO.
Michael Vincent, Musical Toronto, October 2016
Guest conductor Krzysztof Urbanski coaxed some of the most subtle, beautiful sounds ever heard in Roy Thomson Hall out of a splendid, willing Toronto Symphony Orchestra Wednesday night in an extremely enjoyable evening at the symphony.
Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail, October 2016
The NDR Symphony Orchestra has recorded significant works of the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski with the Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski. The result is simply outstanding. Let’s be clear : this recording is a must! It’s addictive.
Manuel Stangorra, Klassik, July 2016
This young conductor has brought a new artistic perspective: different from what has been done in the past, Urbanski offers his own interpretation which is in a way very authentic… An extraordinary album.
Santiage Martin Bermudez, Scherzo, October 2016
The lightness of the textures, the transparency, the refined playing and an overall electrifying tension are the main characteristics of these impressive performances.
Remy Franck, Pizzicato Magazine
Krzysztof Urbański’s fresh, clear conducting style perfectly matches the orchestra’s [NDR Sinfonieorchester] culture.
Spiegel, March 2016
The fact that the communication with the Tonhalle Orchestra works so well already at his debut speaks for the technique of the podium star with wild hairstyle and clear visions.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, February 2016
Because the dynamic Urbanski animated the Munich Philharmonic from a sparkling pianissimo into a powerful, yet carefully measured eruption of sound; a magnificent game played on the edge of their seats.
KlassikInfo.de, February 2016
Urbanski dances through a potent Symphony debut
The young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski has a gorgeously expressive style of conducting.
Every conductor has to be part dancer — it’s in the job description — but few take to it as arrestingly as Krzysztof Urbanski, the expressive young Polish conductor who made a superb San Francisco Symphony debut in Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday night, Jan. 14.
As he led the orchestra through works by Beethoven and Dvorák, Urbanski’s lithe frame bent, fluttered and undulated with the music. He turned this way and that in elegant, sinuous motions; he did crisp stutter-steps and funky pirouettes; there were fleeting evocations of Baryshnikov, Astaire, Michael Jackson.
It was, quite simply, among the most gorgeous podium choreography I’ve ever seen.
Of course, none of that would matter if not for the fact that Urbanski, who is music director of the Indianapolis Symphony, also translates that bodily motion into sumptuous sound. The dance moves serve as cues and models for the orchestra, and the players responded as though eager to be part of the dance.
And Urbanski’s podium style has little to do the kind of extravagantly broad look-at-me gymnastics that is so often associated with physical conducting. On the contrary, he operates within a narrow space. But within that space he makes use of every bodily resource available — not just hands and arms, but also shoulders, hips, knees and feet (his left instep in particular gave some notably eloquent cues).
The result is that Urbanski, like a 12-fingered pianist, seems to have more tools available for shaping an orchestral texture than many conductors do. And the remarkable performance of Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony — fervent, full-bodied and poignant — that occupied the second half of Thursday’s concert showed what he could accomplish with that interpretive arsenal.
Both the opening movement and the slow introduction that preceded it sounded impossibly plush, with a dexterous blend of strings and woodwinds that still found room for a crisp rhythmic profile in the first theme.
Russ deLuna’s English horn solo in the slow movement was at once serene and ardent, phrased with a sense of tenderness and grace, yet Urbanski ensured that the orchestra matched every gesture. And the finale, which brought a reminder of how dazzling the Symphony’s brass players can sound at their best, added a vein of steely grandeur to the proceedings.
For the first half of the program, Urbanski and the orchestra forged a fluid partnership with pianist Emanuel Ax for a vigorous, shapely account of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. Ax was as dexterous and forthright a soloist as ever, bringing clarity and nuance to the outer movements and a winningly tentative pace to the slow movement. His encore, Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2, was a small miracle of pinpoint navigation.
Yet throughout it all, this was Urbanski’s night. His performance was a remarkable display of musical and balletic virtuosity, one we can only hope will be repeated.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, sfgate.com, 15.01.2016
Krzysztof Urbanski, with pianist Emanuel Ax, makes S.F. Symphony conducting debut
When it comes to orchestral music, it’s worth remembering that even the most familiar works can benefit from an infusion of fresh energy.
Enter Krzysztof Urbanski, who made a dazzling San Francisco Symphony debut Thursday night at Davies Symphony Hall.
Leading the orchestra in a pair of well-trodden warhorses — Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” and, with soloist Emanuel Ax, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, “Emperor” — the Polish conductor demonstrated why, at 33, he’s become one of the hottest young podium talents in the world today.
It isn’t just Urbanski’s movie-star good looks, although those were evident from the moment he strode onstage at Thursday’s concert (the first of three, continuing through Saturday.) Slim, shaggily coiffed and sporting a stylishly fitted suit, the youthful conductor exudes contemporary glamour.
Once the music started, though, Urbanski’s musical gifts simply dominated. Currently in his fifth season as music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra — he also serves as chief conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra in Norway — he presided over the evening’s works with a persuasive blend of vigor and refinement.
His expressive style — arms spread wide, he often seems to be physically gathering up the orchestra’s sections into a cohesive whole — yielded a tremendously buoyant reading of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. Urbanski shaped the first movement’s mellow horn themes and ebullient dance tunes with unerring focus. He eased into the Largo, letting the music breathe; the famous English horn solo was played with wistful grace by the always-impressive Russ deLuna.
The conductor took a painterly approach to the Scherzo, judiciously applying dabs of orchestral color and texture; the movement’s pastoral trio registered with particular flair. The finale bounded forward, surging with youthful energy and showcasing the Symphony’s woodwinds at their vibrant best.
The program’s first half was just as appealing. Urbanski had a formidable ally in Ax, whose characteristic brawn, precision and musical intelligence combined for a sublime performance of the “Emperor” concerto.
Beethoven’s score isn’t a museum piece for these artists; Urbanski’s crisp, streamlined conducting, paired with Ax’s crystalline passagework, made the opening Allegro sound both aristocratic and red-blooded. The central Adagio found Ax at his most expressive, dispatching each phrase with exquisite tenderness, and the finale brought an abundance of high spirits. Ax’s relaxed, graceful playing continued in the solo encore — a lithe, ideally paced traversal of a Chopin Ballade — but the pianist’s Beethoven remained a performance to treasure.
… As for Urbanski, here’s hoping the Symphony invites him back soon.
Georgia Rowe, dailydemocrat.com, mercury news.com, 15.01.2016
Benedetti, Urbanski and the LSO on top form in Szymanowski and Mussorgsky
…Our other guide on this occasion, conductor Krzysztof Urbanski, turned out to be equally reliable. When he’s not making musical jokes, Szymanowski’s music can get truly rhapsodic: there are passages of great sensuality, some of the composer’s unique ability to create a wave of sound that breaks over you, and some imposing orchestral climaxes. Urbanski is very young (and looks even younger), but conducts with extreme precision, and the London Symphony Orchestra seemed to respond accurately to every nuance from his baton.
The other pieces on the programme were both Russian and both very popular pieces. The curtain raiser was the overture to Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila. It’s a rowdy, upbeat number by nature, and Urbanski took it at blistering pace, showing off quite how slick the LSO strings can be. I found myself glad that unlike opera singers, violinists don’t need to breathe.
The second half of the concert consisted of Ravel’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Both Mussorgsky’s original and Ravel’s orchestration are works of genius – the original for its abundance of imagination and texture and the way it allows the listener to paint mental pictures of their own, and Ravel’s work for the sheer brilliance of its orchestral colouring. It’s a work that’s been a favourite since childhood and one of which I know every note, which always gives the worry that the performance may not live up to expectations. What happened was the exact opposite: Urbanski and the LSO were outstanding, making me fall in love with the work all over again.
When orchestral colours are so vivid, it takes a great deal of individual virtuosity and precision of ensemble timing to make them really shine at their brightest, and that’s exactly what the LSO gave. I lost count of the number of times where I felt that a phrase had really excited me, played just the way it should have been. Within the darkness of “Gnomus”, a hundred orchestral details came through clearly, especially cello phrases, the shimmer of cymbals and telling interventions from percussion of all sorts. The second promenade rang clarion clear from horn and trombones. The saxophone solo in “Il vecchio castello” slid sinuously around its dark background of bassoon and strings. But it was at “Bydło” that the performance really took off, with the tuba solo fabulously played and the following crescendo from the double basses leading the orchestra into a stunning crescendo and diminuendo – in fact, the double bassists, all nine of them seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely.
I won’t list every picture, but Urbanski continued to infuse each moment of the music with life and interest, until the joyous climax of “The Great Gate of Kiev”, where he showed true feel for the music’s dramatic sweep.
This was a concert which included both familiar and less played works, and in both, it showed the LSO absolutely on the top of their game. At 33, Urbanski is amongst the youngest cohort of top conductors and the prospect of seeing a lot more of him is exciting.
bachtrack.com,David Karlin, 4.05.2015
With Stylish Moves, a Youthful Maestro Makes a New York Debut Krzysztof Urbanski Leads the Philharmonic in Dvorak
For some of its disruptive energy, music relies on late replacements and unexpected first appearances. So here’s one to note: With the great Christoph von Dohnanyi recovering from the flu and unable to open “Dohnanyi/Dvorak: A Philharmonic Festival,” in stepped Krzysztof Urbanski, 32, for a sturdy, promising conducting debut on Thursday with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.
Already in his fourth season as music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Urbanski cut a dashing, nerveless figure in front of an orchestra featuring just six players younger than himself. Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony was Mr. Dohnanyi’s choice, but Mr. Urbanski also conducted it during his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic last May. In a taut, coherent reading, he brought such stylish moves as a scissoring downbeat, a head-butt for cross-rhythms and a jumping jack for climaxes that peaked midair. Unlike some of his peers, each signal had precise musical purpose, however showy it looked from the audience.
With that dance-floor presence and a clear beat, he got results, even if the Philharmonic’s playing was, at times, unusually ragged. Insisting that the strings use the full length of the bow, correcting wayward balances on the fly and allowing few passages to drift, he suggested mature structural understanding, and had the technical ability to bring it off, with a tease of woodwind detail here and an unexpected balance there.
The New York Times, David Allen, 5.12.2014
A mysterious conductor, young Krzysztof Urbański from Poland, has already gained international recognition at the age of 32. This evening he and the cellist Sol Gabetta débuted with Berliner Philharmoniker.
The talking was mostly about the young, incredible conductor, whose performance was indeed mysterious.
The world of classical music already knows him quite well and he has already performed in Berlin with Deutsche Symphonie Orchester. The swift development of his career can be compared to that of his peer, Gustavo Dudamel, who is now seen by philharmonic musicians as a real successor to Simon Rattle. Still, where the fiery Venezuelan goes headlong through the wall, the Pole presents charming pirouettes. Contrary to Dudamel, Urbański received thorough, classical music education. He understands very well, what he conducts.
Urbański resembles Rattle as regards pedantic care for details.
Statistically, I could hear the following conversations during the break: ladies believed that this young, attractive and affected conductor is simply charming and gentlemen found him irritating. I conclude from this that Urbański will be a very successful artist.
Berliner Morgenpost, 24.05.2014
Impressive début of a Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański with Berliner Philharmoniker.
The flutes and clarinets gently mimic the springs of a river. This is where Vltava by Bedřich Smetana originates from, chosen by the Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański (born in 1982), together with other Czech music, for his début with Berliner Philharmoniker. Undoubtedly, this young musician is really good at communicating the tempo to the orchestra and he has mastered the conducting technique. He has already been invited to collaborate with such orchestras, as London Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Münchner Philharmoniker. Richness of his gestures, like showing emphasis with the movements of his head or changing the poses rhythmically, constituted clear means of expression and he was able to make good use of them in music.
Urbański conducted very emotionally, as if he wanted to stroke the waves of Vltava. With the tempo strictly under control, Urbański danced a polka on the picturesque banks of the river and made a clear statement that the energy he presented on stage was derived directly from music and was not the goal in itself. The conductor was not showing off, nor was he faking it. This was a meeting with real art.
Der Tagesspiegel, 25.05.2014
Here was a direction that lifted the story several levels – an orchestra who knew how to play on the colourful sound banks this music is so widely known for and who delivered the “Urbański effect” in both timbre, precision and dynamics.
Urbański does just about everything right. Every movement was well-paced, with crunching climaxes, plenty of detail, and enough of an electric charge to give you a nice buzz heading out of the hall.
The Los Angeles Times, 01.2014
Urbański is undoubtedly a musician of extraordinary intelligence and perception, with a physical disposition that allows him to communicate his musical will in a way that is easily recognisable.
Kölner Stadtanzeiger, 10.2013
Krzysztof Urbański ‘s wonderful flair for sensual sounds was particularly obvious in the trimmed, silvery expressionism of Prokofiev’s many rhythmical and sound effects. Pictures from an Exhibition was fascinating and wonderfully depicted by the young Pole and his excellent troupe of musicians. The deep and remote effects were so exquisite and refined and each noble detail so delightfully savoured, that Mussorgsky’s work couldn’t have been better framed behind Ravel’s feat of orchestration.
Berlin Tagesspiegel, 08.2013
In Pictures from an Exhibition, he was indispensable. The short character pieces need a careful baton which Urbański delivered perfectly, with great overview, clear conducting and superb detail. The musicians followed him spellbound, combining their individual skills in this magnificent ensemble. A huge and fully earned round of applause ended the concert.
HNA online, 08.2013
The concert was impressive all round but it was in Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition that Urbański’s talent for balance and subtleties of sound really shone; in the ragged notes of Gnomus, in the tender pulse of The Old Castle the dark crescendo of Bydlo, the lashing of Baba-Yaga and finally, the luminous Great Gate of Kiev, he managed to convey the true spirit and sound of the Russian dances.
Berliner Zeitung, 08.2013
On the podium stands a phenomenon: Urbanski fascinates with spirit, heart and authority.
Kieler Nachrichten, 07.2013
It was The Rite of Spring that was the winner this evening… Urbanski’s “soldiers” sat focused on the edges of their chairs and conveyed a dose of musical magic… One could only raise one’s hat for the orchestra this evening. It will be a long time before I forget this concert.
Adresseavisen Trondheim, 05.2013
The dialogue between the soloist and orchestra was fluid, resulting in a truly great version of the work… [Urbański’s] interpretation was volcanic, dramatic and violent… an effective and brilliant performance.
Diario de Navarra, 01.2013
Without doubt, the precision and clarity of gestures of the young Polish conductor, perhaps due to the natural elegance of his youth, were not over-exaggerated and yet were still able to demonstrate his absolute control and talent to create a very well shaped interpretation.
La Verdad Murcia, 01.2013
Urbański sculpted the orchestral masses without overpowering the pianissimo moments, drawing from them instrumental accompaniment which offered every support and energy Gabetta could have needed. Their reading of Dvořák’s Concerto was exemplary, the orchestra proving as agile as the soloist in their joint expressive momentum.
Luxemburger Wort, 01.2013
Krzysztof Urbański conveys to the musicians a notion of flexible precision and constant concentration, but above all he is able to shape each musical moment so that it stands in a meaningful relation to the whole work. This worked well also in Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, which was performed with a compellingly nonchalant virtuosity.
Berliner Zeitung, 01.2013
Far from the stereotype of a grey-haired baton wizard, Urbański looks rather like a teen idol and his interpretations are fresh and sincere. He directs a clear gesture of his left hand to the orchestra: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s rock!” With pleasure! The DSO orchestra rarely shows such alertness, precision and virtuosity, as in the breakneck Lutosławski’s Concerto. It was a tempest, with no room for inertia or drowsiness.
Der Tagesspiegel, 7.01.2013
The young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański visited Berlin for the first time in his short international career, but surely not the last time. His performance was marvellous. He conducted this work from memory, rich in metric modulations as it is, and inspired the DSO to perform miracles. He was able to present both the primitive power and the innate elegance of this eclectic music. Urbański managed to capture attention with the minimum use of gestures, each meaningful, like the flutter of the left hand fingers that signalled a swift passage.
Krzysztof Urbański communicates to the instrumentalists his sound image with flexibility, precision and attentiveness. Above all, he notices each phrase and places it in a logical context of the whole piece.
Berliner Zeitung, 7.01.2013
At 31, Gustavo Dudamel is no longer the youngest music director of a major orchestra. Krzysztof Urbanski is, at least for now.
The 29-year-old Polish conductor, who made his West Coast debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Tuesday night, is supposed to begin his second season with the Indianapolis Symphony next week. But the orchestra is in stalled contract negotiations with its players, and the Sept. 14 opening concert is threatened.
This, instead, seems the moment for Indianapolis to do a Dudamel. Urbanski gives off a dashing rock star vibe and resembles a young Herbert von Karajan on the podium, and were the orchestra to throw every imaginable resource behind the band, perhaps the town would find more reason to support it.
The Hollywood Bowl is hardly a fair place to judge a young conductor. There can be so little morning rehearsal time that just reading through the full program is barely feasible. Amplification, even when it is well done (as it was Tuesday), changes balances. And by September, the orchestra’s spirit can sag. Just watch how quickly the players head for exits the second the show is over.
And yet, when a young conductor can triumph over these odds – as did Simon Rattle, making his U.S. debut here while still a teenager, as a young James Levine did in the early ’70s and as a 24-year-old Dudamel, himself, did for his first concert in the U.S. in 2005 – then you know you have something.
Urbanski made a statement from the very start of the evening. Coming on stage in a tight black suit and spiky haircut that could easily get him past the bouncers of any hip club in the city, he conducted Stravinsky’s spiky arrangement of the national anthem, slightly throwing off those among 6,500 present singing along, but also conveying a feeling of freshness.
Urbanski’s big piece was a very big piece, Shostakovich’s intensely serious 53-minute Tenth Symphony. He led the score from memory and with commanding control and concentration. Though of slight build, he has long arms, large hands and uses a long baton. All of that makes it seem as though he can almost reach out and touch the players to shape their sound. His baton work is rhythmically sharp, but his left hand remains suavely expressive.
No real interpretation may have been possible under Bowl circumstances, but Urbanski unhesitatingly entered into Shostakovich’s darkest corners and just as unhesitatingly released the score’s shocking violence. But he did not allow for vulgarity. A suave Shostakovich Tenth is both rare and refreshing.
Urbanski has already caught the attention of the music world, especially in Europe. He is on the radar of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic. The Indianapolis Symphony would be crazy to blow the opportunity Urbanski presents. If it does, someone else will snap him up in a second. I would if I ran an orchestra.
Los Angeles Times Music Critic, 5.09.2012
Krzysztof Urbański left no stone unturned in bringing this musical survey of [Holst’s] seven astrological planets to an emotional pitch no one prior on the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s podium has achieved…Urbański’s dynamic control was, once again, a marvel of subtlety.
To conduct the orchestra, there arrived a vivacious leader; Krzysztof Urbanski. He made a huge impression in his interpretation of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony.
Let’s face it: this is one of the most impressive leaders that we have seen since the departure of the unforgettable Yakov Kreizberg, and is the Music Director of the Indianpolis Symphony Orchestra.
Nice Matin, 10.2011
Urbanski displayed a fluid baton technique, briskly emphatic when necessary, signaling what he wanted in articulation and phrasing with an eloquent left hand. Conducting without scores (except in the concerto), he seemed to have all musical synapses firing in two works by Mendelssohn. The ideas he apparently brought to bear in the Hebrides Overture (“Fingal’s Cave”) and the Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”) were fresh and direct.
“Fingal’s Cave” sounded astonishingly like the product of a couple of years of working together, not the result of such limited mutual acquaintance. The gentle aspects of this paean to a seascape amid spectacular rocks that Mendelssohn visited off the Scottish coast got careful attention, making the stormy outbursts all the more impressive.
Indianapolis Star, 05.2011
He’s a fantastic talent, so together you wouldn’t believe it. His organisation in Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture was outstanding, and he pulled together the multifarious strands of Dvorak’s delightful Fifth Symphony to the extent that it sounded pretty coherent, even if it remains two symphonies short of the Seventh in its stature…Urbanski has seriously got something…
The Herald (Scotland), 10.2010
Krzystof Urbański charmed a harmonious, moving and intense lamentation out of the NDR-Sinfonieorchester. Krzystof Penderecki’s piece ‘Threnos – the victims of Hiroshima for 52 string instruments’ only lasts eight and a half minutes, but it captures all the hopelessness of a world in the face of the first atom bomb attack on a populated city. The young polish superstar Urbański conducted by heart, with precision and great depth of expression. He found the evocative gestures, which the previously unheard sounds of Penderecki conjure up. The music touched the heart.
Abendblat Hamburg, 11.2010
Character and flair
The Debut of the young polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski in the hr-Sendesaal
The debut of the young polish conductor, Krzysztof Urbanski, with the hr-Sinfonieorchester was one of the most memorable events of this new season. After his concert in the Frankfurter Funkhaus am Dornbusch, it was not hard to predict that this artist will have a remarkable career. Urbanski, the newly appointed chief conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra has all the qualities he will need in this career, in a concentrated form: he reveals character, has analytical flair and a clear rhythm technique, which really benefitted the three different works of the evening.
Johannes Brahms’ Tragic Overture in D minor op.81 was sensitively illuminated in its subtle sound, the interesting section-leading not hidden by the harmony. Urbanski’s interpretation (Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No.5) was relaxed, yet also determined. He had a very clearly structured sound and understood how to charm this from the orchestra. (…)
One left the hr-Sendesaal in the knowledge that they had experienced a great concert.
Harald Budweg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10.2010
Bringing Urbański to TSO may turn out to be a stroke of genius.
Despite his young age the 28-year-old Polish conductor has already been considered a genius.
Lars Erik Skjarseth ,Jan Ravnestad, www.nrk.no, 08.2010
Polish conductor makes impressive Chicago debut in music of his compatriots
Few would consider Witold Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra a rip-roaring audience favorite. Yet at the whirlwind conclusion of Wednesday night’s performance by the Grant Park Orchestra, the crowd of thousands stood and enthusiastically cheered conductor Krzysztof Urbanski, bringing the young Pole back for repeated curtain calls as if he were a rock star.
The 28-year-old maestro, who was making his Chicago debut, showed himself a commanding podium figure, drawing powerful and iridescent performances in a challenging program of Polish music. Urbanski led a taut and concentrated performance that brought out the drama, folk strain and sheer weirdness to superb effect. Urbanski displayed real musical leadership here, bringing a sense of the long line and overall structure, his clarity, dexterous balancing and wide dynamic range consistently ensuring that Lutoslawski’s kaleidoscopic scoring came across.
Lawrence A.Johnson,The Classical Review, 07.2010
Maestro conquers hearts of Orchestra and audience
Krzysztof Urbański from Poland conducted NDR Symphony Orchestra with great elegance and skill at concert in Laeiszhalle
Various miraculous means have been applied in order to revitalise the slightly rusty classics. Public media opt for choosing the most beautiful works, to persuade young people that granny’s favourites can be “cool.” The organisers, in turn, tempt the audience with soloists, who charm primarily with their youth, rather than interpretations. The results are sometimes rather disappointing; however, Krzysztof Urbański, born in 1982, was not the case.
When the young Polish Maestro with a smart hairstyle entered the stage in an easy, dance-like manner, ladies who regularly attend concerts of the NDR Symphony Orchestra were sceptical, but the captivating elegance of his movements, skill and precision of his right hand and the imaginative and vivid way in which his left hand shaped music, as well as the impeccable sound of the Orchestra under his baton, made miracles. The ladies quickly changed their minds. With gentlemen like him, classical music is heading for a safe future: a wizard of music, young, but with a serious approach to the artistic ethos, the Maestro conquered the hearts of the orchestra and the audience alike. This graduate of the F. Chopin Academy of Music was resolute and faithful to the stylistics, which could be admired in the two most popular symphonic works he performed.
Firstly, the strings sparkled in Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, the unofficial mourning anthem of the USA. This mystical piece was performed at the funerals of presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy; in September 2001 it helped express the emotions of the whole free world, shocked and at loss for words.
Urbański did not try to bring tears to the audience’s eyes – instead, he obtained delicate pianissimo that penetrated the hearts. Finally, the young artist, who conducted from memory, enchanted the audience with the three initial movements from Smetana’s cycle My Fatherland. The audience could almost see the pictures Urbański painted with sound: the Vyšehrad castle and merry springs of Vltawa – the Czech national symbols of hope.
kra, Die Welt, 01.2010
Urbański lead NDR Symphony Orchestra to the top
Hamburg. The Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański is young and charming, as if he had barely finished surfing before he entered the stage or headed to his conservatory classes rather than to a concert. Nevertheless, his second guest performance with the NDR Symphony Orchestra in the Laeiszhalle proved that it is first of all his conducting skills that make him shine from the conductor’s podium.
Totally unpretentious, with great precision of the beat and clear gestures, Urbański conveyed the musical message. At the same time, it could be sensed that throughout the performance and down to every detail, he knew perfectly well what he expected. Therefore, the musicians of the NDR Orchestra willingly allowed the 27-year-old novice to lead them to the artistic success.
Hamburger Abendblatt, 01.2010
What makes this young Polish conductor so exceptional that under his baton the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken-Kaiserslautern (DRP) achieves such a sonorous pianissimo, so intense twists of suspense, and so impeccable musical productions? At the first concert on Friday, the audience could hear music perfectly fitted into the acoustics of the Sendesaal Halberg Hall. (…)
First was the charming Leonore III Overture by Beethoven. The artists captured all the dramaturgy and nuances of expression. This piece contrasted with the lighter Symphony No. 4 (Italian) by Mendelssohn, a great challenge for any orchestra as it is very demanding for the strings and woodwinds. The dynamic interpretation was a pleasant surprise. The cooperation between the orchestra and the conductor was exceptionally close. A few seconds of confusion after the Finale: in accordance with the score, after a huge crescendo there are only a few final chords in full forte. Is that it? Not quite. There followed a very long ovation for the conductor and the orchestra.
Saarbrücker Zeitung, 10.2009
Stuttgart has a superstar!
At the end of his concert with the Radio Sinfonie-Orchester Stuttgart,
the 27-year-old guest Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański received an ovation. He filled his carefully chosen gestures with magical elegance and internal tension, and his charismatic thoroughness sufficed for the entire evening. At the same time, he avoided cheap tricks and superfluous dancing on the podium.
Above all, Urbański knew how to use the tool offered to him. Sunrise, Wind and Play of the waves of Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ allowed him to show the full quality of the orchestra’s line-up, the overlapping of the timbre of the wind section and the strings. The contradictions between the real and the magical world in Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’ were simply sublime. This young man will soon be fought over by the agencies. Also the radio musicians (with Andreas Röhn in the position of Kapelmeister) feted him.
Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 04.2009
…Krzysztof Urbański is a new acquaintance welcomed with joy. His perceptive ear and sensitivity, mixed in excellent proportions turned out to be his strong suit.
…A completely different kind of conductor than our main conductor, to whom we have grown accustomed. He pays much more attention to technical control and balanced interpretation.
…the concert was undoubtedly one of the most interesting events of the season.
Hakan Dahl, Göteborgs-Posten, 12.2008
“Take a good look at him. He is a man on the eve of celebrity.” That’s what the impresario Serge Diaghilev told Tamara Karsavina, who was dancing the title role in a new ballet called “The Firebird.” The man Diaghilev was telling her about was young composer Igor Stravinsky. But his words would apply equally well to the 25-year-old Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski.
Urbanski came out on top with this performance.
American Public Media, 05.2007