Julian Kuerti

Biography

Gaining a strong international reputation for his interpretations of both orchestral and operatic music, Canadian conductor Julian Kuerti combines a confident style, artistic integrity and passion for collaboration bringing him to the forefront of the music scene. Maestro Kuerti has led major symphony orchestras and has appeared in important opera houses on five continents, and enjoys close working relationships with some of the leading soloists and singers of our time.

As Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montreal and Principal Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Concepción in Chile, Kuerti made a reputation for himself both in the Americas and abroad. In Montreal, Kuerti led numerous subscription concerts at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal which were highly praised by both the press and the public.  In Chile, he conducted a wide variety of symphonic programmes and staged operas, including new productions of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Bizet’s Carmen.

This season will be Kuerti’s inaugural season as Musical Director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, following his highly successful debut last season, and will feature concerts of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with Ki Wu, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with Susie Park and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Upcoming highlights include return visits to Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional in Lima to conduct Bruckner, Orquesta Santa Cecilia Madrid with a programme of Smetana, Dvorak and Beethoven and Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo with Kabalevsky and Berlioz.

In Europe, Kuerti’s guest engagements have brought him to the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Stavanger Symphony of Norway on many occasions. He has also enjoyed concerts with the Vasteras Sinfonietta, Deustche Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Aarhus Symphony, Kristiansand Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Het Gelders Orchestra, Opera Toulon Provence Mediterranée, Bournemouth Symphony, RTE National Orchestra of Dublin, The National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, Monte Carlo Philharmonic and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.

Closer to home, Kuerti has appeared with all major Canadian orchestras, and in the United States has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the symphonies of Houston, Dallas, Cincinnati, Seattle, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Utah, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the St. Paul and Los Angeles chamber orchestras.  In 2011, he made his New York City Opera debut at Lincoln Center leading Oliver Knussen’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” In South America, Julian has enjoyed numerous symphonic performances in Chile, Peru and Argentina as well as a new production of Rusalka at Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

In Asia and Australasia, Julian recently worked with the Sydney Symphony on a programme of Symphonies by Ross Edwards, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninov Paganini Variations with Stephen Hough, as well as the Malaysian Philharmonic and the New Zealand Symphony.  He was described as the “Epitome of cool graciousness” by The New Zealand Herald for his interpretation of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

From 2007-2010 Kuerti served as assistant conductor to James Levine at the Boston Symphony, where he had the opportunity to conduct the orchestra frequently at Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood.  During the 2006-07 season, he was assistant conductor to Ivan Fischer at the Budapest Festival Orchestra, where he was invited back to lead performances of Viktor Ullmann’s opera “Der Kaiser von Atlantis” the following season.  From 2005 to 2008, he was founding artistic director and principal conductor of Berlin’s Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, with whom he recorded the album “When We Were Trees” by Italian cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima for Sony/BMG.  Kuerti conducted the Boston Symphony Chamber Players in music by Golijov and Foss on “Plain Song, Fantastic Dances,” released in 2011 on the BSO’s own label.

In 2014, Kuerti began extensive research into the work of Chilean composer Enrique Soro, culminating in the preparation of a critical edition for performance of his Sinfonica Romantica. He led concerts featuring this work with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Concepcion in November 2015, which were recorded for television broadcast. The months of work preparing this symphony for publication and the final performance itself is the subject of a documentary film, Recording Romantica by Chilean filmmaker Carlos Pérez.

Kuerti was born in Toronto into one of Canada’s most distinguished musical families; his father is famed pianist Anton Kuerti.  He began his instrumental training on the violin, studying with some of Canada’s finest teachers.  While completing an honors degree in engineering and physics at the University of Toronto, Kuerti kept up the violin, performing as concertmaster and soloist with various Canadian orchestras.  Kuerti began his conducting studies in the year 2000 at the University of Toronto.  That summer he was accepted as a student at the renowned Pierre Monteux School for Conductors in Maine, where he studied for two years with Michael Jinbo and Claude Monteux. He was apprentice conductor to Boris Brott with Canada’s National Academy Orchestra, where he was given the first opportunity to perform with his father as soloist in Beethoven’s Emperor concerto.

Kuerti studied with David Zinman at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen in 2004, and with acclaimed Finnish Maestro Jorma Panula at the NAC Conductors Programme in Ottawa.  In 2005, he was one of two conducting fellows at Tanglewood, where he had the opportunity to learn in masterclasses from James Levine, Kurt Masur, Stefan Asbury and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, performing with the TMC orchestra and fellows throughout the summer. That same year, Kuerti also finished his work with Lutz Köhler at the University of the Arts Berlin, with whom he had studied since 2001. He has had the opportunity to work with some of the most distinguished soloists of our time, including Yo-Yo Ma, Leon Fleisher, Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell and Peter Serkin.

 

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Short Bio

Reviews

“From the downbeat, one was immediately struck by Kuerti’s natural, genuine musicianship that encouraged musicality as well as precision from his players … the orchestra was in very good hands.”

Janelle Gelfand

Cincinnati Enquirer

“Under the baton of Julian Kuerti, the orchestra produced a stirring finale which had the audience…stamping their feet in appreciation.”

John Keenan

The Argus

“The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the Canadian conductor Julian Kuerti won the audience over in the twinkling of an eye with a folkloristic programme in the utterly sold out Stadttheater. Kuerti and the Orchestra kept the bigger picture in mind and offered delightful music-making with many beautiful details. The contrasting, nearly chamber-like Adagio, in which flute, cor anglais and solo violin emerge preeminent, was adorable. The musical ideas sparkled like small jewels; Kuerti held their fast succession up to the jubilant Finale, announced with trumpet blasts. Gigantic applause.”

Thomas Schmitz-Albohn

Gieβener Anzeiger

“Perhaps it takes a degree in physics, like the one held by guest conductor Julian Kuerti, to create intelligible interpretations of the work of Messaien and Prokofiev. On Thursday night, the [Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s] performance was of such artistry of phrasing that the case was made for the proper interpretation of those composers … Kuerti brought phrasing to the lovely, haunting, seemingly random rhythms and apparently wandering notes of the Concerto [Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2] … I should hope that we will see more of Kuerti, paired to our RPO.”

Paloma Capanna

City Newspaper, Rochester, NY

“From the downbeat, one was immediately struck by [Kuerti’s] natural, genuine musicianship that encouraged musicality as well as precision from his players. He opened with Mozart’s Overture to ‘Cosi fan tutte,’ leading with fleet tempos and bringing out the work’s witty character…[Kuerti’s] view was rich with drama, energy and unflagging inspiration. The slow introduction was full of mystery, and exploded onto the allegro with timpani crashes, like a sudden summer storm…Sparks flew in the finale, and Kuerti brought out the contrasts between its delicate and powerful moments. Through it all, his communication with the musicians was confident, and they responded with fine playing. The impression given was that the orchestra was in very good hands.”

Janelle Gelfand

Cincinnati Enquirer

“Berlioz still makes us think, a factor that Julian Kuerti brought convincingly to his interpretation… Kuerti shaped it brilliantly, ensuring that each of the five clearly defined parts plays its role to the maximum, allowing fantasy to explode in the right place and to the right degree of fireworks in the witches’ Sabbath.”

David Sell

The Press

“Kuerti’s gestures were precise and clear – an open-handed invitation to the contrabassoon, an abrupt karate chop in the air for the violins – as he steered his [Royal Conservatory] orchestra through [Petrouchka’s] tricky changes in tempo and dynamics.” 

Colin Eatock

Globe & Mail, Toronto

More Reviews

 

“Conductor Julian Kuerti drew a predictably brilliant response from the players[…] The richness of sound, along with Kuerti’s attention to the smallest detail, fuelled the almost cinematic narrative that the composer lays out. ”

William Dart, New Zealand Herald 

“Julian Kuerti, son of the well-known pianist [Anton Kuerti], on Thursday night led Orchestre Métropolitain in their first concert at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau. One detail that was not mentioned in the programme leaflet was that the 36 year old musician is now Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestre Métropolitain. … He is certainly a good choice. Mr Kuerti had made a good impression at his concerts with the OSM and OM, in Montreal and Lanaudière, and it was the same this week … His leadership is very energetic, very warm and very detailed. … The evening’s main event was Dvorak’s New World Symphony. [Kuerti’s] in-depth understanding of the score is obvious. Dazzling counterpoint gave the famous slow movement an unusual air of gravitas; strings sang out leaving full freedom of expression for the first desks, leading to the exhilarating conclusion of the finale.”

Claude Gingras, La Presse 

“Kuerti’s highly charged and exceptionally precise conducting style drove the performance, sharp accents combining with plaintive lyricism and a fired-up brass section. Urgency and tight ensemble marked Dvořàk’s Symphony No. 6. With Kuerti’s clearly defined gestures to guide them, the orchestra had an unusual sweep and presence. He is a commanding conductor who puts his mark on the orchestra, the Alabama Symphony serving as a supple receptor of his ideas. The Scherzo was particularly exciting, the score’s cross-rhythms generating a kinetic impulse, the strings taking full advance of its lyrical warmth.”

Michael Huebner, Birmingham News 

“In his interpretation of Dvorák’s Symphony No.8, G Major, op. 88 Kuerti shaped the catchy themes with visible and technically great sovereignty – including a lot of fine-tuning in the arrangement of the dynamics. The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra followed – visibly inspired – and made Kuerti’s debut to an absolute success.”

Axel Zibulski, Offenbach Post 

“Young Canadian conductor Julian Kuerti made his debut with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra at their broadcasting centre [with Dvorak’s Symphony No.8]. Kuerti presented the piece with consistency and the appropriate evocativeness of the internal structures with clear, economical gestures. The tempo of the final coda had a successful surprise effect. In the first half he already impressionably facilitated the gory saga of Sárka’s thirsting for revenge (Symphonic Poem No.3 of the cycle “Má vlast” by Bedrich Smetana). ”

F.A.Z., Rhein-Main-Zeitung 

“Kuerti gave the four movements [Dvorak’s Symphony No.8] opulent musical strains, provided the Allegro opening with tense fire, the rising triad in effective contrast of minor and major, and let the instrumental groups project radiance, especially the celli. The Allegretto Grazioso evoked pleasure with light passages played by the woodwind section and the violins in elegant style. Kuerti’s energised conducting manner enabled him to present contrasts … there was excitement from the audience; many curtain calls for the Frankfurt musicians. ”

Olga Lappo-Danilewski, Gieβener Allgemeine 

“The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the Canadian conductor Julian Kuerti won the audience over in the twinkling of an eye with a folkloristic programme in the utterly sold out Stadttheater… Kuerti and the Orchestra kept the bigger picture in mind and offered delightful music-making with many beautiful details. The contrasting, nearly chamber-like Adagio, in which flute, cor anglais and solo violin emerge preeminent, was adorable. The musical ideas sparkled like small jewels; Kuerti held their fast succession up to the jubilant Finale, announced with trumpet blasts. Gigantic applause. ”

Thomas Schmitz-Albohn, Gieβener Anzeiger 

“In his City Opera debut Julian Kuerti, a rising Canadian conductor who was an assistant to James Levine at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, drew a bustling, moody and colorful performance of Mr. Knussen’s 50-minute score from the impressive City Opera Orchestra.”

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times 

“Kahane selected a first-rate conductor to step in for him with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra … Kuerti confidently led Kahane’s band in works representing a broad stylistic range.”

Rick Schultz, Los Angeles Times 

“Kuerti drew sumptuous sounds from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.”

Matthew Guerrieri, The Boston Globe 

“Kuerti drew ultra-articulate and smoothly integrated playing from the chamber orchestra.”

Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer 

“Guest conductor Julian Kuerti demonstrated a grace and interpretive confidence that showed why his star is on the ascent.”

Twin Cities Pioneer Press

“He clearly is on a career journey with an upward trajectory.”

David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News 

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