Urbanski makes a dazzling return to Davies Hall

Photo: Caroline Doutre / Festival De Paques

Photo: Caroline Doutre / Festival De Paques

It was just last year that the young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski made a knockout debut with the San Francisco Symphony, leading the orchestra with a rare combination of dramatic intensity and kinetic flair. It was the kind of performance so striking that it left you not quite believing what you’d just witnessed.

Well, you can believe it, all right. Urbanski returned to Davies Symphony Hall on Friday night, Oct. 6, for the first of two nonconsecutive guest weeks with the orchestra, and it turns out his earlier appearance was no fluke at all.

Urbanski takes to the podium like a cross between Arturo Toscanini and Fred Astaire, turning each interpretive decision into a balletic piece of performance art. He makes music with taut physicality and shimmery lyricism, and he brings the orchestra into the dance with him so that the entire ensemble moves effortlessly as one.

The results, in music by Penderecki, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, were both intellectually probing (in a terrifying feat, Urbanski conducts even the most intricate orchestral works from memory) and sensuously direct.