Symphony Orchestra was founded by a Council of Ministers in 1918. Oleksander
Horilyj was their conductor and their programming
was ambitious and forward-thinking.
Unfortunately, Josef Stalin hated modern music, and the group was almost
literally killed off in the early 1930s, when approximately seven million
citizens starved to death.
In 1937, the
Soviet government renamed it the Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra. Nathan Rachlin
was named Artistic Director and he led them for a quarter of a
century. Under his baton, they
established themselves as one of the country’s premiere orchestras,
so much so that many of their virtuosi were cherry-picked by the Soviets to
play in Russian orchestras.
suffered another blow when Germany
invaded and between seven and ten million Ukrainians were killed. Amazingly, Rachlin
and his musicians carried on until 1962. He was succeeded by a string of
conductors: Igor Blazhkov, Fedir Hlushchenko, Volodymyr Kozhuchar, Konstantin Simeonov
and Stefan Turchak all took turns at the podium.
In 1991, the Ukraine
finally enjoyed independence again after more than four centuries of
suppression. This change was reflected
in the orchestra’s new name in 1994: The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Theodor Kuchar was promoted from
Principal Guest Conductor to Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of
absolutely thrived on Kuchar’s watch: Their recording of Boris Lyatoshynsky’s second and third symphonies won
the Best International Recording of the Year award from the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation. Kuchar was taking home a pittance that equaled about two-hundred
American dollars per month, yet he poured it back into the orchestra, going
so far as to buy new reeds, rosin and strings for his musicians.
He also scored
a huge record deal with HNH Records, which gave the orchestra international
exposure by issuing more than fifty CDs in the span of five years on the
Marco Polo and Naxos labels. Their recordings were adventurous,
frequently including little known gems by American, Russian and Ukrainian
composers. A good example is Walter Piston: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2;
Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra, which won Gramophone’s Record
of the Year for the year of 1999.
recordings on which they have performed include Christopher Mohr: From
the Realm of the Shadow, George
Antheil: Symphony No. 4;
Symphony No. 6; McKonkey’s Ferry, Morton Gould: American Ballads; Foster Gallery;
American Salute, Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Night on
the Bare Mountiain, Paul Creston:
Symphonies Nos. 1-3, Prokofiev: Complete Symphonies & Concertos;
Roy Harris: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 9, Shostakovich: Jazz & Ballet Suites; Film Music,
and Tchaikovsky: Dances and Overtures – The Queen
of Spades; The Maid of Orleans; Mazeppa; The
The above CDs
were recorded between 1994 and 1999, when Theodore Kuchar
was still in charge. In 1999, Volodymyr Syrenko took the
reins and they continued to record approximately twenty CDs over the next
five years. They have become an
internationally renowned orchestra that tours Asia, Australia and Europe with regularity and
makes their home at Mykola Lysenko Hall in Kiev, Ukraine.
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
The Ocean (Henry Kimball Hadley)
Conductor – John McLaughlin Williams
Kimball Hadley: Symphony No. 4
in D minor, Op. 64; The Ocean, Op. 99; The Culprit Fay, Op. 62)