Talent and serendipity
Michael Francis graduated from the School of Music in 1997 (BMus) and is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra.
Considered one of today’s brightest young conducting talents, Michael first came to prominence in 2007 when he was asked, with 12 hours’ notice, to deputise for the London Symphony Orchestra’s incoming Principal Conductor, Valery Gergiev.
With just two days to go before a performance at the Barbican Centre, Gergiev came down with a viral infection and Michael was asked to step in and conduct two pieces by Russian composer, Sofia Gubaidulina. Michael, who had been with the LSO as a double-bass player since 2003, had actually already begun to study the pieces, putting his enthusiasm for studying the scores of new repertoire down to his analysis classes at Cardiff!
The critics reacted positively to the last-minute change, with The Times saying: “…it ended in triumph for young Michael Francis, the LSO double-bass player and aspiring conductor drafted in for two items – including Pro et Contra, the biggest, most Russian, most mystifying of all. He didn’t turn a hair.” (17.01.07)
Just three weeks after this successful stand-in, Michael found himself asked to rescue another LSO concert – this time with just two hours’ notice. He replaced the composer/conductor John Adams in a performance of his own works with the LSO at the Philharmonie Luxembourg. Initially, he was only supposed to conduct the first half of the programme, with the LSO hoping that the ill Adams might be well enough to conduct the second half, consisting of the 45 minute, three-movement symphony, Naïve and Sentimental. Thirty minutes before the concert began, and with no rehearsal time, Michael was asked to conduct this piece as well…and rose to the challenge.
Michael has gone on to conduct a range of leading orchestras worldwide, including the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mariinsky Orchestra in St Petersburg, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony.
He returned to Wales in November 2011 to make his conducting debut with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.