Press Room

Houston Symphony Names Juraj Valčuha As Next Music Director

HOUSTON — Today, Houston Symphony Board of Trustees President John Rydman and Executive Director and CEO John Mangum announced Juraj Valčuha as the Houston Symphony’s next Music Director. An internationally acclaimed conductor, Valčuha has led the most renowned orchestras around the world and currently serves as Music Director of the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy and First Guest Conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Germany. Valčuha will begin his appointment at the launch of the Symphony’s 2022–23 Season as the fifth music director to hold the Houston Symphony’s Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair, a position endowed in perpetuity by The Cullen Foundation. He succeeds esteemed conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, whose tenure concludes at the end of the 2021–22 Season after eight seasons with the orchestra.

Valčuha made his debut with the Houston Symphony as a guest conductor in 2011. He returned to lead the orchestra during both the 2017–18 and 2020–21 Seasons, with programs that included Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. Musicians, trustees, and staff alike were drawn to Valčuha for his authenticity and passion, his artistic excellence, and his ability to wordlessly communicate through his deeply expressive gestures.

“We are thrilled to announce Juraj Valčuha as our next artistic leader,” said John Mangum, Houston Symphony Executive Director and CEO. “During our search for a new Music Director, we were fortunate to narrow our selection to a superb group of individuals. An incredibly accomplished conductor with precise attention to detail, Juraj stood out for his evident chemistry with Symphony musicians and his commitment to musical excellence. We know that he will build upon the work of the Music Directors before him to support the highest level of performance imaginable for our musicians. I look forward to welcoming him back to the Jones Hall stage.”

“Our goal is to make the Houston Symphony accessible to the greatest number of individuals possible,” said John Rydman, President of the Houston Symphony Board of Trustees. “We were drawn to Juraj’s history of community engagement and his desire to foster the connection between our musicians and the surrounding communities. He is an extraordinary individual both on and off of the podium.”

Valčuha will be the latest among renowned and respected artistic leaders of the Houston Symphony, including Leopold Stokowski (1955–61); Sir John Barbirolli (1961–67); André Previn (1967–69); Christoph Eschenbach (1988–99), who is Valčuha’s colleague at the Konzerthausorchester Berlin; Hans Graf (2001–13); and Andrés Orozco-Estrada (2014–22).

“I’m honored to have been chosen as the new Music Director of the Houston Symphony,” said Juraj Valčuha. “It was very rewarding to conduct the Symphony last March and bring joy and hope to a live audience during a difficult time. These musicians are open-minded and versatile, and I feel that we are in perfect harmony. We share a dedication to high artistic qualities and music making and I know we will create a unique and powerful musical experience for Symphony patrons.”

The selection is a result of a ten-member search committee led by Miles O. Smith, Chair, Artistic & Orchestra Affairs of the Houston Symphony Board of Trustees, and made up of Houston Symphony musicians, board members, and staff.

Valčuha will return to Houston on May 27–29, 2022, to lead the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 Choral for the 2021–22 Season finale. He will make his first official appearance as Music Director of the Houston Symphony on September 17, 2022 and will return for nine weeks of the 2022–23 Season. More details will be announced in Spring 2022.

Click here to access a digital press kit with additional information, including headshots, bios, reactions from Houston Symphony musicians, and more.

Conductor Juraj Valčuha is recognized for his effortless expressiveness and depth of musicianship. With sharp baton technique and natural stage presence, the impressive ease of his interpretations translates even the most complex scores into immersive experiences. His profound understanding of composer and score, taste, and naturally elegant style make him one of the most sought-after conductors of his generation.

Since 2016 Valčuha has been Music Director of the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples and First Guest Conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin. He was Chief Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI from 2009 to 2016.

The 2005–06 season marked the start of his international career with exciting concerts on the podium of the Orchestre National de France followed by remarkable debuts in the U.K. with the Philharmonia London, in Germany with the Munich Philharmonic, and in the United States with the Pittsburgh Symphony. His Italian debut took place at Teatro Comunale in Bologna with a sensational production of La Bohème.

He has since led the Berlin Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, hr Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Vienna Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, BBC Symphony, Philharmonia London, Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Maggio Musicale in Florence, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Milan’s Filarmonica della Scala, Montréal Symphony, and NHK and Yomiuri orchestras in Tokyo. His active career in the U.S. has taken him to the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Utah. He enjoys regular collaborations with orchestras in Houston, Minnesota, New York, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

International touring with the Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI took them to the Musikverein in Vienna and the Philharmonie in Berlin, as well as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Zurich, Basel, and Munich, and to the Enesco Festival in Bucharest, and to Abu Dhabi Classics. He has also toured with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin to Riga, Vilnius, and Tallinn to mark the 100th anniversary of the Baltic nations.

Valčuha champions the compositions of living composers and aims to program contemporary pieces in most of his concerts. He has conducted world premieres including Christopher Rouses’s Supplica with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Steven Mackey’s violin concerto with Leila Josefowicz and the BBC Symphony in Manchester. In 2005 he conducted, in the presence of the composer, Steve Reich´s Four Sections at the Melos-Ethos Festival in Bratislava. Other composers he has supported and continues to follow with interest are Bryce Dessner, Andrew Norman, Luca Francesconi, James MacMillan, and Steven Stucky, among others.

On the opera stage, he has conducted Madama Butterfly, Elisir d‘amore, and Marriage of Figaro at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich; Faust and The Love for Three Oranges in Florence; Jenufa, Peter Grimes, and Salome in Bologna; La Bohème in Venice; and Elektra, Carmen, Bluebeard’s Castle, Die Walküre, The Girl of the Golden West, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Katja Kabanova, and Pique Dame in Napoli.

In January 2020, he conducted an opera production of Tristan and Isolde at Teatro Comunale in Bologna, at the end of which the complete lockdown was introduced in most European countries. However, he was privileged during the pandemic year to conduct many livestreamed performances with Teatro San Carlo (Tosca with Anna Netrebko and Cavalleria Rusticana with Elina Garanca and Jonas Kaufmann), RAI Orchestra in Turin, Orchestre National de France, Konzerthaus Berlin, and NDR Orchestra Hamburg. In the U.S. he was one of the few conductors to travel from Europe and make music with the Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh orchestras.

Juraj Valčuha was awarded the Premio Abbiati 2018 from Italian Music critics in the category Best Conductor.

Born in Bratislava, Slovakia, he studied composition and conducting in his birthplace, then at the Conservatory in St Petersburg (with Ilya Musin), and, finally, at the Conservatoire Supérieur de la Musique in Paris.

The Houston Symphony––one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas––held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, the full-time ensemble of professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s two Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

The Houston Symphony was one of the only orchestras in the world to present a full season in 2020–21, both via livestream and in front of a live audience. The Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement team continued to fulfill its mission through creative and virtual means throughout this period, as well. During the 2021–22 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its final season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, livestreaming, and recording activities.

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