Posts Tagged ‘Krzysztof Urbanski’

Krzysztof Urbanski makes Berlin Philharmonic Debut

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

By Rebecca Schmid

If Krzysztof Urbanski’s debut with the Berlin Philharmonic late last month should serve as any indication, this is a conductor whom we can expect to hear again soon at the Philharmonie. The young Polish native, quickly on the rise on the both sides of the Atlantic, presided over an all-Czech program on May 25 in which his fluent virtuosity and wise modesty were equally on display.

In the opening movement of Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony, a less-often performed worked commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society in 1884, he managed to give fierce attacks before allowing the music to release into the players’ hands. When the light pours into this predominantly melancholy work with the entrance of a solo horn in the following Poco Allegro, Urbanski created a buoyancy that distracted from the work’s Brahmsian influence.

The Scherzo was furious but elegant through pounding dance-like rhythms, and he created a powerful tension in the apocalyptic moments of the final movement that recede again into melancholy. Curving his fingers into gallant gestures with his left hand while using the baton in his right hand to phrase with clear, sweeping movements, he kept the orchestra on its toes as the piece drew to a majestic close.

The Philharmonic’s dark strings, clean brass and chiselled woodwinds were at natural service of the drama, even more so than in two symphonic poems from Smetana’s Ma vlast cycle, which opened the evening. While the ripples of the Moldau emerged elegantly in the second poem, recalling Wagner’s music for the Rhine in the Ring cycle with the entrance of the brass, the soaring main melody evoking the composer’s Czech homeland sounded tense despite the violins’ rich tone (concert master Andreas Buschatz).

The following portrayal of the mythic figure of Sarka in the third poem bounded forth with authentic folk rhythms, elegant clarinet solos from Andreas Ottensamer, and frenzied strings but also gentle lyricism in the inner Moderato section. Urbanski at times danced on the podium but knew when to dig in with his baton, such as in the following fugal passage which he held together with fierce precision.

The evening’s most exciting bit of programming was Martinu’s First Cello Concerto featuring Sol Gabetta, whose visceral exchanges with the Philharmonic captured the chamber music underpinnings of the work, revised and expanded by the composer for full orchestra following its 1938 premiere. She was not afraid to draw harsh sounds from her instrument but also moved seamlessly into a gentle, lyric pianissimo during the cadenza-like passage that closes the first movement.

Picking up the melody of the winds that open the following Andante, she captured the music’s introspection while allowing her fiery personality to shine through. The orchestra’s strings created a gentle bed beneath her, Martinu’s harmonies shifting like shades of color in a watercolour painting.

Gabetta moved with playful ease through the freely conceived rhythms of the final movement while remaining on point with the orchestra’s pizzicati and fragmented responses. Her coordination with was so Urbanski natural as to be barely perceptible.