February 8, 2023

CIM alumni, faculty join Ukrainian orchestra on historic nights at Carnegie Hall, Cuyahoga Community College

Theodore Kuchar conducts the Lviv National Philharmonic in Lviv, Ukraine.
Theodore Kuchar conducts the Lviv National Philharmonic in Lviv, Ukraine.

One thing conductor Theodore Kuchar (MM ’82, Vernon) wants to make clear about the Lviv National Philharmonic’s upcoming appearance at Carnegie Hall: it's not a charity event.  

“This is not the Ukraine pity tour,” says Kuchar, the group’s chief conductor, a regular with orchestras all over the world, and the force behind over 100 recordings.   

What the Carnegie concert is in fact, is historic, a moment of great artistic significance.  

By Kuchar’s reckoning, the Feb. 15 concert, part of an International Festival of Orchestras series, marks the first time a Ukrainian orchestra and conductor have headlined a subscription evening at Carnegie Hall.  

On the program are the Chamber Symphony No. 3 by Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych and the famous Symphony No. 9 by Dvorak, a composer Kuchar calls “The great Ukrainian symphonist Ukraine never had.”  

The evening is also special in the annals of CIM. In addition to Kuchar, the concert also features pianist Stanislav Khristenko (AD ’11, Babayan), a native of Ukraine, 2013 winner of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, and a graduate of CIM. He’ll play Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  

“This is Ukrainian history,” Kuchar says. “It’s also a very nice coincidence.” 

Looking back on his time at CIM, Kuchar says he got exactly what he needed from his studies with violist Robert Vernon.   

“I still think the most important thing for any conductor is an incredible instrumental background,” he reflects. “This is what CIM gives you. There is such a focus on instrumental training.” 

Kuchar and Khristenko aren’t the only artists currently affiliated with the Lviv National Philharmonic from CIM.   

From New York, Kuchar and the LNP go on to appear Feb. 23 at Cuyahoga Community College, in Cleveland. That program features CIM faculty Antonio Pompa-Baldi performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 10, along with pianist Emanuela Friscioni, and former CIM Orchestra director Carl Topilow conducting Brahm’s Tragic Overture.  

That all of this is taking place while Ukraine is at war is not, of course, by design. Originally, the Carnegie concert – part of an ongoing U.S. tour – was to take place two years ago, before a different crisis befell the world.  

Now, the pandemic has eased, but in its place is a war, the sort of struggle Kuchar and other Ukrainians had hoped was a thing of the past.  

“We were all convinced none of this could repeat itself,” Kuchar says. 

Happily, the tour is proving the opposite of a struggle. In lieu of pity, the LNP is receiving strong shows of support and appreciation, everywhere it goes.  

“It’s kind of a presenter’s dream,” Kuchar says. “We’re feeling incredible solidarity and understanding.” 


About the Carnegie Hall concert 

When: 8pm Wednesday. Feb. 15 

Where: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Ave., New York. 

Tickets: $42-$159, at carnegiehall.org


About the Cleveland concert: 

When: 7pm Thursday, Feb. 23 

Where: Metro Campus Auditorium, 2900 Community College Ave., Cleveland. 

Tickets: $20-$75, at lvivnationalphilharmonic.eventbrite.com