A swan song for Symphony's young principal cellist
It's official: Seattle Symphony principal cellist Joshua Roman will leave the orchestra at the end of this season, after becoming, at 22...
Seattle Times music critic
It's official: Seattle Symphony principal cellist Joshua Roman will leave the orchestra at the end of this season, after becoming, at 22, the youngest principal ever hired at the SSO just two years ago. And while the news of his departure is not entirely a surprise — a talent this big can certainly look to a solo career — it's still a big disappointment to the many fans Roman has won here through his acclaimed orchestral, solo and chamber appearances.
"We're all very sad to see Joshua leave us, and we are grateful for his tremendous impact on this community during his brief tenure," music director Gerard Schwarz said in a prepared statement. "Joshua is a very gifted soloist with a real personal vision for how music should be presented, and I believe this vision and his talent will bring him a great solo career. We wish him every success."
Roman said that being in Seattle has been "such a great experience for me. I have met so many great people and had so many opportunities here. I have made a number of good friends as well, including many members of the orchestra and staff at Benaroya Hall, and I will miss them — but I hope to be able to return to Seattle often. It really has become a home for me, and I feel a strong connection with this city that I will hold on to."
Is this the usual career trajectory for cellists, from the symphony to the solo stage? Not exactly.
Anyone lucky and gifted enough to win a coveted principal cello audition in a major orchestra is also likely to stay there for some time, assuming the cellist also is given tenure (typically that decision comes after a couple of seasons with the orchestra, though practices vary).
There are very few opportunities for touring cello soloists; their instrument is not as much in demand as piano and violin for engagements as orchestra soloists, and the number of recital/chamber opportunities for soloists also is relatively limited.
Still, there are examples of fine players who have moved up from orchestra jobs to become famous soloists; the best known of these probably is the legendary Janos Starker. And an imaginative, charismatic player such as Roman certainly has a career edge that's enhanced by his good looks (he recently modeled Armani for a Butch Blum catalog).
Roman never planned on a career in the Seattle Symphony. Following his graduation with a master's degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2006, he decided to audition in Seattle as a sort of practice round for later auditions in San Diego, San Francisco and Cleveland.
"I thought I'd play and maybe be OK, and then see how I did next time," he told The Times after he won. "I was amazed to be one of four finalists, then actually the winner. There was a lot of discussion about my age."
Through his performances, Roman has reached deep into the music community in his short time here: playing an unprecedented sold-out solo recital in Town Hall Seattle; performing three-concerto evenings with Tacoma's Northwest Sinfonietta; directing and performing on a new-works series for Town Hall; recording works on three incomparable historic cellos owned by collector David Fulton; soloing with community groups, like the Cascade Symphony; playing in the Seattle Cello Society's Bach Suites Marathon and the Seattle Chamber Music Society's Summer Festival; and presenting chamber works at the Triple Door club.
A prominent solo in a KCTS-TV Seattle Symphony special (with Schwarz and piano soloist Andre Watts) also brought Roman's playing to the attention of widespread TV audiences.
All this in addition to his Seattle Symphony performances and an increasing number of international solo gigs that have recently taken him from Europe to the Far East — the first stages in a solo career that is likely to take him far.
Melinda Bargreen: email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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