Q&A with Urbanski on the Cosmos Music Festival 

click to enlarge Krzysztof Urbanski
  • Krzysztof Urbanski

When thinking about an orchestra's concert season, music directors often include various festivals of sorts. A run of Beethoven's symphonies, a celebration of all American music, and so on. When thinking of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's 2015-16 season though, Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski had a different idea. Instead of honing in on an era, or a particular composer, his focus was celestial, and thus the Cosmos Music Festival was created. From January 22 through Feb. 6, the ISO will present music and activities all revolving around space. I caught up with Urbanski shortly after he got back from his highly successful debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra to talk about the upcoming festival.

NUVO: In the season announcement a few months back, you said the Cosmos Music Festival combines two of your biggest loves — music and science. When did your fascination with space begin?

Krzysztof Urbanski: At the age of 14 or 15 when I started to ask myself questions, think consciously, my attention was attracted by philosophy and cosmology. I was so fascinated about the universe and laws which control it. Every piece of information about the space was like a discovery. I believe that my love for science shaped my world outlook. I understood that only knowledge can give us the answers to the most important questions.

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NUVO: There are many TV shows, movies, and compositions about space and the universe. The subject of what is out there has been on our minds for a very long time. Why do you think we are so drawn to that subject?

Urbanski: I think what fascinates us the most is that our desire to possess all the knowledge about the universe cannot be fulfilled. We still cannot explore the space as we wish. We cannot receive proofs for many theories. There is still a mystery. It is fascinating but also frustrating.

NUVO: Do you see similarities between astronomy and music?

Urbanski: Actually I see a lot of similarities. Music is an abstract form of art, one could say it does not exist. Physically these are just dots on paper. For me as a conductor the most important task is to discover all relations and energy between the dots. In my opinion there is a special kind of gravity among them. Any piece of music is like a small universe and depending who creates it, it has less or more meaning.

NUVO: The first concert this coming weekend is comprised of music on the Golden Record, which was on the Voyager spacecrafts in 1977. One of the works, Beethoven Symphony No. 5, is well known by nearly everyone whether they like classical music or not. Does all of that factor into your study and interpretation of it? Do you think about how to keep it "fresh" to listeners?

Urbanski: When creating my interpretation it is not my goal to make a piece "fresh." Whenever I prepare myself for the concert I think of it as a premiere. I forget what I heard before and try to find my own key to the music. It is the only way to be honest with myself and with the audience.

NUVO: And lastly, the other work on that program is Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." It caused quite a stir at its premiere, and is now, safe to say, a very popular work. In your opinion, what is it about that piece that gets people so excited for it?

Urbanski: Forgive me but I will not explain that. Let me just invite you for the concert. You will definitely find it out yourself!


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