First, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. Golka, an expressive and physical conductor, kept the piece alive and fascinating with intense attention to detail -- moving the other sections out of the way of the basses' statement in the first movement, shaping the clarinet solos, and lightening the pizzicato beneath the theme in the second movement.
He directs every line as if it was the most special in the work. The second movement's instantly recognizable theme, poignant and rich by principal horn Sarah Bach, emerged like a graceful ship out of the mists of the quiet, dark opening.
Notably, Golka manages the audience, seeming to absolutely refuse to allow between-movement applause. With exaggerated holds on the ends of the movements and lengthy pauses between movements, he completely controls the musical offering.
Sherli Leonard, Press Enterprise, April 12, 2011
I personally enjoyed ROCO's playing more last night than at any other time. I loved the disciplined string playing in the opening Marriage of Figaro Overture of Mozart. But Tomasz Golka, a 34-year-old conductor who leads the Lubbock and Williamsport orchestras, was most impressive in accompanying the Chopin concertos. Most orchestra players cringe at the thought of playing both of them, since the piano is clearly the focus. Yet with Golka's leadership the orchestral parts were brought to life. Few conductors, let alone young conductors, know how to balance sound with a pianist. Even fewer both accompany well and fully participate in the music making.
Bruce Robinson, Marketing of Orchestras, March 1, 2010
Lubbock's orchestra never has played with more passion than was evident under Golka's guidance Friday.
This concert also illustrated precisely how far Golka has brought the entire ensemble.
The music director refused to accept that any composition could possibly be beyond the scope of his West Texas musicians, and those players, in turn, delivered a powerful and daring mixture of music that, more than once, brought tears to the eyes of some listeners.
William Kerns, Lubbock Avalanche Journal, May 3, 2009
The ensemble of 30-plus players closed the evening with an eye-opening reading of Mendelssohn's familiar "Symphony No. 4 (Italian)." Golka and the players opened the first movement with tremendous vigor, maintaining a crackling energy throughout. Soaring musical statements, delicately layered, cohesive ensemble playing and constant awareness of the piece's structure created a thrilling performance of the entire piece.... Intimacy and well-balanced ensemble interplay were the elements that conductor Tomasz Golka and the players brought to [Wagner's 'Siegfried Idyll']. Hearing them play felt like being part of a private conversation, or perhaps reading a tender letter.
Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 12, 2008
Tomasz Golka had the most demanding job, leading Milton Babbitt's "From the Psalter," settings of Biblical Psalms in Elizabethan verse translations by Sir Philip Sidney. The music is as complicated and striking in meter, language, and emotional directness as the texts. The string orchestra under Golka played it confidently, and Golka achieved a Mozartian transparency.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, August 8, 2006
There were exciting and beautiful things in the playing: Golka displayed an understanding of the complementary roles of momentum and elasticity in [Richard] Strauss's music.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, July 5, 2006
In Dvorak's 8th Symphony Golka truly showed of what he is capable. He has real charisma and knows how to efficiently and effectively bring out his interpretation. He has a great feel for works large and small. The encore, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance no. 8, was elegant and dance-like.
Dorota Szwarcman, Ruch Muzyczny, August 2004
Golka maintained a strong internal pulse and yet brought fluidity to the constant tempo changes in this epic introduction of the fourth movement [of Brahms’ 1st Symphony]... under his baton, the orchestra sounded full of colors and subtleties... Golka's best traits, which he shares with Eduardo Mata, are musicality and the power of expression.... Golka greatly enhanced the sound of the violin section, achieving very suggestive coloristic effects… he was not on the podium to appease anybody, just to make music.