The first question that usually pops up about this name is how to pronounce it. In English, “č” is “ch,” so we would say: Yoorai Valchooah. While only in his early forties, this fast-rising conductor who hails from Bratislava, Slovakia can already boast of having conducted some of the world’s greatest orchestras.
A larger-than-life symphony
Juraj Valčuha will lead the OSM in a romantic program, with top billing going to a work by one of his favourite composers: An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. Composed between 1911 and 1915, Strauss’ last tone poem is a majestic work on many levels, not least of which is the orchestration, which calls for 12 horns and a massive percussion section. At the dress rehearsal for the premiere, the composer is reported to have quipped, “Now at last I have learned to orchestrate!”
When the composer helps the conductor
“The composer’s talent as an orchestrator greatly aids the conductor,” says Valčuha. Strauss’ orchestration is so skilfully structured that it is easier for a maestro to bring out its relief and sound palette than for Mozart, Beethoven or Haydn. This is especially evident in the Alpine Symphony, which, more than a mere evocation of nature, is an exultant dawn-to-dusk depiction of life in the sweeping Bavarian Alps.
From folk music to conducting
Juraj Valčuha’s life in music began as a child when he discovered his great-grandfather’s cimbalom. He played this instrument in a folk music group, before studying composition and conducting in Russia and France. His regular appearances as guest conductor with some of the world’s finest orchestras—the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw and Milan’s Filarmonica della Scala, to name a few—have since allowed him to rapidly embrace new sound environments and interact with a variety of orchestras, as he continues to build his notable international career.
“Valčuha is a strong and authoritative conductor who leads cleanly and doesn’t succumb to bombast; he can make big sounds without it ever seeming as if he is going to lose control.” – Washington Post