National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine – 7:30, Friday, January 20, 2017

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine

Volodymyr Sirenko, Artistic Director & Chief Conductor
Theodore Kuchar, Principal Guest Conductor

Formed by the Council of Ministers of Ukraine in November of 1918, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine is considered to be one of the finest symphony orchestras in Eastern Europe. Its first conductor was Oleksander Horilyj. Natan Rachlin was the Artistic Director of the Orchestra from 1937 until 1962. Stefan Turchak, Volodymyr Kozhuchar, Fedir Hlushchenko, Igor Blazhkov and Theodore Kuchar consequently conducted the Orchestra as its Principal Conductors. Other conductors who worked with the NSOU include Leopold Stokowski, Igor Markevitch, Kurt Sanderling, Evgeny Mravinsky, Kiril Kondrashin, Evgeny Svetlanov, and Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Soloists who performed with the NSOU include Artur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emil Gilels, Leonid Kogan, Gidon Kremer, OlehKrysa, Monserrat Caballe, Jose Carreras, and Juan Diego Flores.

The NSOU was entrusted with the premier performances of the works of the following composers: Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Aram Khatchaturian, Boris Lyatoshynsky, Valentyn Silvestrov, Myroslav Skoryk, and Evgen Stankovych.

The Orchestra has gained international recognition over a remarkably short period of time. After an appearance in Moscow, Dmitri Shostakovich commented: “This orchestra has as distinguished a group of performers as one would be likely to find anywhere. The ensemble of the orchestra is of the highest level. In addition, the various soloists and instrumental groups within the Orchestra play exceptionally and complement each other beautifully – as would the greatest of the world’s symphony orchestras.”

Since 1993, the NSOU has released more than 100 sound recordings which include both Ukrainian and international repertoires. Most of these recordings have received the highest international acclaim. In 1994, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) rated NSOU’s recording of Boris Lyatoshynsky’s Symphonies No. 2 and No. 3 as “The Best Recording of the Year.” The CD of Silvestrov’s “Requiem for Larissa” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005. The CD of Bloch and Lees’ Violin Concertos was nominated for a Grammy Award four years later.

The NSOU has performed in successful concert tours throughout Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belarus, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, England, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates.

“… A program rich with energy and unusually adventurous placed the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in a highly favourable light when it gave its only Sydney concert during its Australian tour on Friday. This is an orchestra with many virtues. Its strings can conjure up a vibrant songfulness; the woodwinds have a fruity, penetrating ripeness; the brass could endanger the walls of Jericho; the percussion might wake the dead…” ~The Sydney Morning Herald Since April of 1999, Volodymyr Sirenko has been the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the NSOU.

Since June of 2006, Alexander Hornostai has been its Managing Director and Producer.

Conductor Laureate The multiple award-winning conductor Theodore Kuchar is the most recorded conductor of his generation and appears on over 100 compact discs for the Naxos, Brilliant Classics, Ondine and Marco Polo labels. For the past 20 years, he has served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of two of Europe’s leading orchestras, the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly the Czech Radio Orchestra) and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine In the 2011-12 season he commenced his tenure as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela. An avid chamber musician, he served as the Artistic Director of The Australian Festival of Chamber Music (1990-2006), and as the Artistic Director of the Nevada Chamber Music Festival since 2005.

Highlights of the past several seasons have included a four-week, 20 concert tour of the USA with the Czech Symphony Orchestra and guest conducting engagements including the BBC Symphony, BBC National Symphony Orchestra of Wales (filling in on one day’s notice to conduct Josef Suk’s epic Asrael Symphony), Berlin Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Symphony Orchestra, 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 Sydne y. In February-March, 2017 He will conduct a 40 concert tour of the United States of America with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under the auspices of Columbia Artists Management. He has collaborated with major artists including James Galway, Shlomo Mintz, Jessye Norman, Lynn Harrell, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Chang, Mstislav Rostropovich, Joshua Bell and Frederica von Stade, among others.

Among Mr. Kuchar’s numerous accolades include BBC Record of the Year, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Record of the Year, Chamber Music America Record of the Year, Gramophone Magazine’s Editor’s Choice, the WQXR Record of the Year and a nomination for a Latin Grammy Award (in the category of Best Instrumental Album of 2013). The 2014-15 season will see the release of seven new compact discs, devoted to the complete symphonies of Ukrainian Boris Lyatoshynsky and Yevhen Stankovych (National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine), orchestral works by the Turkish composer Ulvi Camal Erkin (with the Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra) and American composers Paul Chihara and Walter Saul.

As an educator and orchestral trainer he has served as Resident Conductor of the Kent/Blossom Music Festival, the educational institution established by the late George Szell, in cooperation with The Cleveland Orchestra, since 2003. Since 2003, he has devoted himself to annual residencies as a Guest Faculty Member at The Cleveland Institute of Music, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, The Czech National Academy of Music, the Australian National Academy in Melbourne, the National Academy of Music in Kiev and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, among others. In 2006, he developed the annual conductor’s courses in cooperation with the Paris Conservatoire and hosted by the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra in the Czech Republic. In March, 2012 he lead the Conductor’s Guild Workshop hosted by The Cleveland Institute of Music.  During the period 1996-2003 he served as Professor and Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

With the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Kuchar has recorded 15 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, Switzerland, and the USA.

During his tenure with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, Kuchar conducted cycles of the complete symphony by Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler, Prokofie v, 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 Kalinniko v, 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. The complete symphonies of Prokofiev, on the Naxos label, are regarded by many critics as the most accomplished cycle available on compact disc.

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 premieres of works by Lukas Foss (the Capriccio for Cello and Orchestra, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist), Giya Kancheli, Joseph Schwantner, Alfred Schnittke, Osvaldo Golijov 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 Boston Symphony Orchestra at 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 James Buswell, Martin Chalifour, Sarah Chang, Lynn Harrell, Alexander Ivashkin, Robert Levin, 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 on 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.

Critical acclaim has included the following:
“Theodore Kuchar, as anyone will know from his Naxos recordings, is an extremely exciting and talented conductor, and his take-no-prisoners approach works very well in this colorful music. He blasts through the Carnival and Hussite Overtures with uninhibited abandon. His performance of the Symphonic Variations is thrilling, as cogently flowing as any, and it concludes with the best, most powerfully roof-raising final fugue that I ever hope to hear.

“The other works, especially the big tone poems, also benefit from Kuchar’s enthusiasm and drive. Othello has passion and atmosphere aplenty. The Water Goblin, The Noonday Witch, and the Wood Dove are all extremely graphic and richly evocative. Kuchar holds The Golden Spinning Wheel together as well as anyone, while A Hero’s Song makes an aptly triumphant, indeed hair-raising conclusion to the whole set. The playing of the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra is very committed and gutsy … For me, though, and I suspect for many listeners, the sheer gusto of the playing carries the day and trumps all minor qualms. Besides, at the Brilliant Classics price you really can’t lose – but I would love to hear what Kuchar could do at the helm of a truly world-class ensemble.” – 

“Kuchar’s account is as infectiously spirited an account as you could wish for … To sum it up, this is a quite remarkable CD on all counts – outstandingly fine orchestral playing, vividly exciting and very Russian music-making, and a very tangible sound picture, consistently in the demonstration bracket.” – Gramophone 

“Theodore Kuchar leads what is without question the most exciting complete Nielsen symphony cycle available, making this the set to get for Nielsen newcomers. He doesn’t put a foot wrong in any of these symphonies, and it’s rather amazing to hear how well he handles passages where so many conductors come to grief. For example, the finale of the Second Symphony has tremendous physicality at an aptly swift tempo. So often it’s taken way too slowly. Kuchar gets all the tempo relationships right in the tricky finale of the Fourth as well, and he drives the Fifth home with such exultant power that for once that second movement doesn’t sound like an anticlimax, coming as it does after perhaps the most inspired 20 minutes of music that Nielsen ever penned. Kuchar also isn’t at all fazed by the weirdness of the Sixth, its concluding Theme and Variations in particular. Here’s a case where simply playing what’s written as characterfully as possible really does produce the desired wacky effect far better than any sort of poking and prodding. You simply won’t hear a finer performance anywhere. Kuchar is equally sensitive to Nielsen’s ear for color – those special moments of startling sonic innovation. I’m thinking of the trumpet tremolos before the grand waltz in the Espansiva’s opening movement, or the timpani roll with brushes in the slow movement of the Second … Kuchar’s conducting really does sweep the board. Given a choice of who I would likely listen to in this music on any given day, Kuchar is the man, and I suspect that you’ll agree. He’s that good.” – 

“This is the best Roy Harris symphony recording since Bernstein’s first Third. Why? Because it gives us Harris’s ‘sound’ in a way I rarely hear it – deep, broad sonorities played at tempos slow and steady enough to create sweep, breadth and intensity without being logy … I always suspected there was a great symphony in the Seventh, but Kuchar is the first to bring it out. Eugene Ormandy’s 1955 Columbia recording is competent but the sound is too bright and raw. None of the broadcasts I’ve heard does it Kuchar’s kind of justice. The Ninth is not a great work, but it’s a good one, and Kuchar’s is the best performance I’ve heard.” – American Record Guide 



… Tkachenko’s articulation of ungovernable passions was properly breathtaking… … Tkachenko brought timbral variation and lyrical charm… The Times    

Ukraine-born violinist Dima Tkachenko started playing the violin and piano before the age of 6. He studied at the Lysenko Music School in Kyiv, graduating to the National Music Academy of Ukraine (former Kyiv Conservatoire) studying under Bogodar Kotorovych and Jaroslava Rivniak. In 1998 he was invited to London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under Yfrah Neaman. In 2002 Dima was made a Fellow of the Guildhall School and until 2008 was working with Krzysztof Smietana and David Takeno.

Dima Tkachenko was awarded the Guildhall School Concert Recital Diploma (Premier Prix) and was a prize-winner at several international violin competitions including the Carl Nielsen Competition (Odense, Denmark), the Lysenko Competition (Kyiv, Ukraine) and the Wronski Solo Violin Competition (Warsaw, Poland).

He has toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas and has been broadcast on Ukrainian Radio and TV, ORT and Kultura Russian TV, Danish Radio, Polish Radio and TV and on BBC Radio 3 in the UK. He performed at such venues as London’s Wigmore Hall, Barbican and Cadogan Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Cologne Philharmonie, Moscow’s Great Hall of the Conservatoire, Liszt Academy Hall in Budapest, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Megaron in Athens, Palau de Musica in Barcelona and Auditorio Nacional in Madrid.

His recent performances include appearances with the MAV Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, the Russian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra in Moscow (with live broadcast on Russian TV), the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in Ankara (Turkey) within the Ankara Music Festival, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, the Cracow Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra of Chile in Santiago, the Athens State Orchestra, tours in Spain and Germany, also recitals in the UK, Ukraine, Japan, Singapore, Lithuania (within the Vilnius Festival) and Poland.

His repertoire covers nearly every major violin concerto from Vivaldi Quattro Staggioni to Schoenberg, numerous sonatas and smaller works for violin and piano, programme cycles such as the complete 24 Paganini Caprices, complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas, complete Beethoven Sonatas, all Mozart Violin Concertos.

Apart from his busy concert career, Dima Tkachenko presently teaches at the National Music Academy of Ukraine, gives masterclasses (the recent ones in Japan, Korea, Singapore, China, Turkey and Lithuania), goes on jury to several international competitions and is the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Benjamin Britten International Music Competitions in London.