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Cellist Joshua Roman will sit in with Seattle Symphony

05.29.09
Joshua Roman
The Seattle Times

By Tom Keogh

Joshua Roman might be the former principal cellist for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, artistic director of Town Hall's unique TownMusic series and a busy soloist equally enthusiastic about standard repertoire and contemporary composers.

But on the street, he's faced with at least one hassle familiar to any young guy.

"What's annoying is getting carded," the boyish-looking 25-year-old says.

That hasn't stopped Roman from enjoying his vibrant, Morningside Heights neighborhood near Columbia University in New York City.

"It's cool, and recently became safe," Roman says by phone from his apartment. "There's lots of cheap, African and Thai food."

Despite what sounds like fast-growing roots back East, Roman spends a fair amount of time maintaining ties to the Seattle area's music community.

On Thursday and Saturday, Roman will appear with Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall, performing the world premiere of David Stock's Cello Concerto. On June 25, he'll wrap up the current season of TownMusic, performing with longtime collaborators in an "All Premieres" show.

Roman is coming off several memorable experiences of late.

"I just played in New York with a fantastic group, the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players," he says. "That is a heavyweight in chamber music experience. I also played a Bach solo at Carnegie Hall as part of the YouTube Symphony" — comprised of musicians from around the world selected by users of YouTube in an online vote.

The resulting, historic concert, streamed live on April 15, can still be seen on the site, with Roman's rich, burnished notes a highlight.

Roman looks forward to returning to Benaroya, where he auditioned for and won the Seattle Symphony's principal cellist chair in 2006. He left to become a soloist last year.

"I know the musicians and their styles," Roman says of his former symphony colleagues. "I'll be playing with a bunch of friends."

The full program, including the Stock premiere, includes the overture to Czech composer Bedøich Smetana's opera "The Bartered Bride," and Sergei Rachmaninov's final composition, "Symphonic Dances." James DePreist — director of conducting at the Juilliard School and laureate music director of the Oregon Symphony — will conduct.

Composer Stock, professor of music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, has served as composer-in-residence and guest conductor for the Seattle Symphony.

"It's an interesting piece," says Roman of Stock's Cello Concerto. "The first movement is soulful. The way he orchestrates, you get a landscape effect, like using a paintbrush to create large chords with separate notes. The second movement is fanfare, very exciting, with lots of cadenzas (virtuoso displays). The last movement is florid, with an improvisational feel."

The concerto was completed in 2001 and originally intended for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Roman met Stock in Seattle, and they have discussed the piece.

"There are no recordings of it, nothing to follow except sheet music," says Roman. "You learn more about music with an opportunity like this. It's like school."