It’s hard to believe that after a two-year search, we are coming to the end of our Music Director Candidate concerts. Our fifth of six candidates takes the stage on January 17 to conduct Tchaikovsky’s achingly beautiful Sixth Symphony. Learn a bit more about Theodore Kuchar here before watching him conduct later this month.
Theodore Kuchar, one of the most prolifically recorded conductors of the past decade, appears on over 100 compact discs for the Naxos, Brilliant Classics, Ondine and Marco Polo labels. For nearly the past two decades, he has served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of two of Europe’s pre-eminent orchestras, the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly the Czech Radio Orchestra) (2005- ) and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (1994-2004), of which he now serves as Conductor Laureate. With the 2011-12 he commenced his tenure as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela (National Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela) and in 2013 appointed as Principal Conductor of the Slovak Sinfonietta.
He presently also serves as Music Director and Conductor of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Reno Chamber Orchestra in the United States. An avid chamber musician, he served as the Artistic Director of The Australian Festival of Chamber Music (1990-2006), and has served as the Artistic Director of the Nevada Chamber Music Festival since 2005. Since 2004, he has served as Resident Conductor at the Kent/Blossom Music Festival, the educational institution established by the late George Szell, in cooperation with The Cleveland Orchestra.
Highlights of the 2013-14 season have included international tours with the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra to China, Korea and Italy and, with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela, to China and the United States. Further engagements include the English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Israel Symphony Orchestra in addition to the leading orchestras of Europe, South Africa and South America. In February-March, 2017 he will conduct the first North American Tour of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under the auspices of Columbia Artists Management in New York.
Highlights of the 2011-12 season included a four-week, 20 concert tour of the USA with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Guest conducting engagements included the BBC Symphony, BBC National Symphony Orchestra of Wales, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, the Israel Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. During the past several seasons, guest conducting engagements have taken him to major musical centers including Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Helsinki, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Prague, Seoul and Sydney. He has collaborated with major artists including James Galway, Jessye Norman, Lynn Harrell, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Chang, Mstislav Rostropovich, Joshua Bell and Frederica von Stade, among others.
With the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Kuchar has recorded 12 compact discs devoted to the complete symphonies of Carl Nielsen, the complete overtures and tone poems of Dvorak, and the complete orchestral works of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana for the Brilliant Classics label. Also completed for Brilliant Classics was a world premiere recording of Rachmaninov’s Fifth Piano Concerto, a reconstruction of that composer’s Second Symphony based on the composer’s earliest manuscripts, and the Piano Concertos of Ravel and Bartók. With the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Kuchar has conducted tours of Australia, Germany, Italy, Korea, The Netherlands and Switzerland, and in January and the USA.
During his tenure with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, Kuchar conducted complete symphony cycles by Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler, Prokofiev, Schubert and Shostakovich, and led eleven international tours to Asia, Australia, Central Europe and the United Kingdom. Under Mr. Kuchar’s direction, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine became the most frequently recorded orchestra of the former Soviet Union. Between 1994 and 2004 the orchestra recorded over 80 compact discs for the Naxos and Marco Polo labels, including the complete symphonies of Kalinnikov, Lyatoshynsky, Martinu and Prokofiev, as well as major works of Dvorak, Glazunov, Mozart, Shchedrin, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. They also recorded the symphonies and orchestral works of Ukraine’s leading contemporary symphonist, Yevhen Stankovych. The recording of Lyatoshynsky’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 was awarded ABC’s “Best International Recording of the Year” in 1994. Their recording of the complete works for violin and orchestra by Walter Piston for the Naxos label was hailed by Gramophone (January, 2000) as a “Record of the Year” for 1999 and, in 2000, his recording of Schnittke Chamber Music for the Naxos lablel was awarded the BBC “CD of the Year” award. The complete symphonies of Prokofiev are regarded by many critics as the most accomplished cycle available on compact disc.
During the 1996-97 season, Kuchar and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine undertook a project devoted to the performance of the cycle of complete symphonies of Anton Bruckner, in their original versions. This historic project, commemorating the centenary of Bruckner’s death, was sponsored by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the 1997-98 season, they undertook a cycle of the complete symphonies of Franz Schubert, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
Kuchar remains as strong an advocate of composers of the present day as he does of the great composers of the past. In addition to his recordings of contemporary works with the NSO of Ukraine, he has also conducted world premieres of works by Lukas Foss (the Capriccio for Cello and Orchestra, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist), Giya Kancheli, Joseph Schwantner, Alfred Schnittke and Rodion Shchedrin, among others.
Theodore Kuchar graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1982, as a student of Robert Vernon, Principal Violist of The Cleveland Orchestra. In 1981, he was awarded the Paul Fromm Fellowship from the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, subsequently reinvited for the following summer. He continues to devote several periods annually to one of his most serious passions, the performance of chamber music and has been a participant at major international festivals, including Kuhmo, Lockenhaus, the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and the Nevada Chamber Music Festival. His colleagues have included Sergei Babayan, James Buswell, Martin Chalifour, Sarah Chang, Lynn Harrell, Alexander Ivashkin, Leila Josefowicz, Truls Mork, Paul Neubauer, Irina Schnittke, and Thomas Zehetmair. In 1994, he participated with colleagues Oleh Krysa and Alexander Ivashkin in the world premiere of Penderecki’s String Trio in New York City. He has appeared as violist in recordings for the Naxos label of works by Alfred Schnittke (with Irina Schnittke and Mark Lubotsky – this recording was awarded the BBC’s “CD of the Year” award for 2002), Bohuslav Martinu and Walter Piston. The latter recording was awarded the Chamber Music America/WQXR “Record of the Year” for 2001.
Here’s a video of Theodore conducting the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in Smetana’s The Moldau.