The Florida Orchestra Names Michael Francis as Its New Music Director
The Florida Orchestra (TFO) has announced the appointment of Michael Francis as its new Music Director starting with the 2015/2016 season, serving as Music Director Designate for the upcoming 2014/2015 season. Appointed as part of an initial three-year contract, his duties include being the primary conductor and providing the artistic leadership for concert programming and related artistic decisions. Although his primary role is with the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series, he will also be conducting one concert each season for the Raymond James Pops and the morning Coffee Concert series. This reflects Francis' personal desire to be fully-integrated artistically with the orchestra and the organization.
The orchestra's music director search process took over three years; however, the decision to appoint Michael Francis to the post ended the search process one year earlier than the original four-year projection. In TFO's near 50-year history, Francis will be the orchestra's fourth music director as part of an esteemed group that has included Irwin Hoffman, Jahja Ling and Stefan Sanderling.
Just having completed his second season as chief conductor and artistic advisor to Sweden's Norrko?ping Symphony Orchestra and hailed as a rising star in the conducting world in both the U.S. and abroad, Francis said, "I am delighted and honored to be the new Music Director of The Florida Orchestra. During the very first rehearsal with the orchestra, I could sense an enthusiasm and passion to make music together that was truly exciting. With this talented group of musicians, I believe we have a tremendous future ahead of us." He added, "I am also looking forward to setting up our life in the bay area, especially as my wife grew up near Tampa, in Lutz."
Search Committee Chair Jane Peppard said, "Selecting a new music director has been an important and exciting process for our orchestra. This is the musician who inspires and leads our musicians toward ever higher musical standards and great performances, which in turn can inspire all of us in the Tampa Bay community. Over the past three years we've seen many qualified guest conductors in both rehearsals and concerts with The Florida Orchestra, and we've also traveled to look at several of our top prospects conducting elsewhere. We focused on each conductor's musicianship and ability to lead, inspire and engage our musicians, as well as the total artistic experience for the audience. We wanted to find the 'right' person for the orchestra, the organization and our community. Michael Francis is the unanimous choice of the committee. He is a fantastic musician, engaging, charismatic and charming. Michael is very much a leader- the total package."
In addition to TFO board member Jane Peppard , the search committee included Board of Directors Chair Thomas H. Farquhar and board members Susie Betzer and Greg Yadley, as well as former board member Rand Snell. Florida Orchestra musicians on the committee were Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer, Assistant Principal Second Violin Lucas Guideri, Principal Bass Dee Moses, Principal Flute Clay Ellerbroek and Principal Horn Robert Rearden.
TFO Board Chairman Thomas H. Farquhar said, "We are so pleased to have Michael Francis as our new music director, joining our artistic team of Jeff Tyzik, our principal pops conductor, and Stuart Malina, our principal guest conductor. Michael's artistic leadership will enable the orchestra to enhance its local, regional and international stature, while continuing to serve our communities by providing world-class live orchestral music for many more years to come."
Committee member and TFO Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer said, "When you play in an orchestra, all the musicians need a clear idea of what the grand plan is to produce an exciting performance. You need one person in charge, with an artistic vision and sensibility. Michael Francis has that wonderful balance of heart and mind. He immediately demonstrated to us that he was capable of producing an exciting performance. He had a great concept of all the details, an exciting interpretation, and he helped us realize the vision." Multer added, "With Michael, from the very first moment, we sensed the good chemistry. We responded well to him, and he to us. I could feel that the orchestra was responding fully. He made the orchestra feel good. That's key. If an orchestra doesn't feel good, it doesn't sound good."
Francis' first appearance as a guest conductor with The Florida Orchestra was in November of 2013 on the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series with a program of Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 with Orli Shaham as the soloist. He also conducted
the final Coffee Concert program of that season with Steven Stucky's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (after Purcell), Andrej Panufnik's Sinfonia Sacra and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.
Next season, Francis will conduct two masterworks programs: the first on October 24 - 26, 2014, features Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer as the soloist in Barber's Violin Concerto on a program with Ives's Central Park in the Dark and Elgar's Symphony No. 1, and the second on February 7 & 8, 2015, includes Dutilleux's Me?taboles, Ravel's Ma Me?re L'Oye (Mother Goose) and Faure's Requiem, featuring soprano Lauren Snouffer and baritone Sean Plumb together with The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay.
Michael Francis has quickly established himself as an international conductor creating ongoing relationships with the world's leading orchestras. He came to prominence as a conductor in January 2007 when he replaced an indisposed Valery Gergiev for concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra during the BBC Gubaidulina festival at the Barbican Centre. Only one month later, Francis was asked, this time with only two hours' notice, to replace the composer/conductor John Adams in a performance of his own works with the LSO at the Philharmonie Luxembourg and one short year later, January 2009, he replaced Andre? Previn leading a German tour of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony.
Michael Francis' 2010 debut with the San Francisco Symphony quickly established a formidable relationship with the orchestra. He has now led twenty-one different classical programs and three New Year's Eve programs with the orchestra.
Now entering his third season as Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor to Sweden's Norrko?ping Symphony Orchestra, Michael Francis follows in the footsteps of Herbert Blomstedt and Franz Welser-Mo?st each of whom was Chief Conductor with that orchestra.
Regularly invited by the New World Symphony in Miami to work with their nationally renowned orchestral academy, Michael Francis will also conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland in 2014. Having just conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a program of music by Dvorak and Panufnik, he will now debut with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Japan, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Manchester, and the North Carolina Symphony.
He has also debuted with the New York Philharmonic, the symphonies of Houston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Quebec, and Vancouver and will in 2014/2015 conduct return engagements with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, National Symphony of Ireland, the Dresden Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Oregon, Cincinnati, Ottawa and Pittsburgh.
His European engagements have included the English Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Orquesta Sinfo?nica de RTVE Madrid, Helsinki Philharmonic, the Mariinsky Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and Stuttgart Radio Symphony.
In Asia, Michael Francis has worked with Japan Philharmonic, Tokyo Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and National Taiwan Symphony with upcoming returns to the Malaysia and Seoul philharmonics.
Soloists that he works with include Lang Lang, Arcadi Volodos, Christian Tetzlaff, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Vadim Gluzman, Nicola Benedetti, Baiba Skride, Alisa Weilerstein, Daniel Mu?ller-Schott, Milos? and Rufus Wainwright.
Michael Francis has recorded several albums, the most recent of which is the complete Rachmaninoff piano concertos with Valentina Lisitsa and the London Symphony Orchestra for Decca Records in 2013.
Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve