War or no war, says Theodore Kuchar, Ukrainian culture has been greatly suppressed for centuries
What do you do for a living?
I am the music director and principal conductor of the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine.
You’re launching a 40-date U.S. tour this month. What are some of the works the orchestra will perform?
We will be presenting approximately 15 works, including the works of two Ukrainian composers—the Chamber Symphony No. 3 for Flute and Strings (1982) by Yevhen Stankovych and the Violin Concerto by Thomas de Hartmann, a forgotten but known genius. Symphonies and concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch, Dvořák, Grieg, Sibelius, and the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk make up the remainder of the well-rounded and diverse menu.
Are there any particular performances you’re excited about?
One of the most important philosophies any performer must incorporate in their mentality is that whether you are making a debut at Carnegie Hall or the Sydney Opera House, whether this is performance number 27 of a 40-concert tour or whether you are performing Dvořák’s New World Symphony for the seventh time in nine evenings, as soon as one walks onstage and commences the performance, it is imperative that you have the attitude that this is the first and most important performance of your life.
Does the advent of the war make it seem even more important for the orchestra to share its music and message of hope with the world?
War or no war, Ukrainian culture and the extreme integrity of what takes place within the country has been greatly suppressed by the Russians for centuries. If nothing else, my colleagues and I represent the country and its culture as Ukraine’s preeminent cultural ambassadors.
What is your favorite concert hall in the world?
Very few venues inspire such nostalgia and provide such a great orchestral sound as where I was performing [this past fall]: the Cape Town City Hall in Cape Town, South Africa. I love that hall! I also have wonderful—indeed, priceless—memories from concert venues in Bayreuth, Buenos Aires, Cleveland, Lviv, Munich, Prague, and Sydney, among others.
Do you travel more for work or pleasure?
My work is my pleasure! After spending the first four hours of the day in front of the orchestra and, in the afternoon, walking along the rocks and collecting mussels or putting on a wet suit and catching your first crayfish—as the South Africans refer to lobsters—it is impossible for me to distinguish one from the other.
What’s your favorite United flight you’ve been on?
Yesterday, I flew the United Airlines nonstop flight from Cape Town to Newark. From Cape Town, the departure was scheduled for 20:50, meaning that falling asleep by 22:00 was a real possibility. When I woke up, my watch said 6:15. I took out one of the two books I brought with me, watched one movie, and we were in New York. That was relatively quick!