The Austrian conductor and composer Gustav Kuhn was born on 28 August 1945 in Turach, Styria. His childhood was spent in Salzburg, where he took his first violin and piano lessons. He studied conducting at the Vienna and Salzburg Conservatories with Gerhard Wimberger, Hans Swarowsky, Bruno Maderna and Herbert von Karajan and graduated in philosophy, psychology and psychopathology at the University of Salzburg. In 1970, he was awarded the Lilli Lehmann Medal at the Mozarteum University Salzburg. At the age of only 24 he won the prestigious international competition for conductors of the Austrian Radio and Television (ORF). From 1970 to 1977 he worked as choral conductor and director at the Istanbul Opera House, then as first conductor at the Dortmund Opera House. In the meantime he had already made his debuts in Palermo, Naples and Bologna. Later he received engagements as guest conductor in Rome, Florence, Venice and Zurich. Gustav Kuhn has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra Filarmonica of la Scala in Milan, the Orchestre National de France in Paris, the Orchestra of the Accademia di Roma Santa Cecilia, as well as the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo and the Vienna Philharmonic.
In 1974, he founded the Institute for Aleatoric Music in Salzburg. In 1977, he made his debut at the Vienna State Opera with Elektra by Richard Strauss, and only a year later, in 1978 at the Bavarian State Opera and at the Salzburg Festival. The following season, he conducted for the first time at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London and in 1979 became general music director in Bern. In 1980, he conducted the opening performance at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Further debuts followed: in 1981 in Chicago with Beethoven’s Fidelio, in 1982 Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Paris Opera, in 1984 Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Scala di Milano; in 1986 Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Arena di Verona. In 1986 he began conducting and producing operas, trying to achieve greater unity between the visual and musical components. As a producer he staged The Flying Dutchman in Trieste, Parsifal and La Boheme in Naples, Don Carlos in Turin, Rossini’s Otello in Berlin, Braunschweig and Tokyo, La Boheme, Falstaff and La Traviata in Tokyo, Capriccio in Milan and many others. After his debut as opera director with the staging of The Flying Dutchman in Trieste, Gustav Kuhn developed the concept of the “hall-opera” series at Suntori Hall – Tokyo (1993) . He conducted at the Salzburg Festival until 1997.
From 1983 to 1985 Gustav Kuhn was General Music Director at the Bonn Opera, after which he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Rome Opera and Artistic Director of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. From 1990 to 1994 he was in charge of the music festival in Macerata, Italy, and from 1994 he was artistic director of the Philharmonica Marciggiana, Ancona (1997-2002). Gustav Kuhn was Artistic Director of the Haydn Orchestra in Bolzano and Trento from January 2003 to December 2012. In October 2013 he conducted two performances of Wagner’s Parsifal in Beijing. This is an exceptional event, as Wagner operas have never been performed in China until then. Since 1987 Gustav Kuhn has been the artistic director of the international competition “Neue Stimmen” (New Voices) organized by the German Bertelsmann Foundation in Gütersloh. In 1992 he founded the Accademia di Montegridolfo, which since 2000 has been located in the “Convento dell’Angelo” – Lucca (Italy), and in 1997 he founded the Tiroler Festspiele Erl which after the assumption of the presidency by Dr. Hans Peter Haselsteiner grew and now has two editions: summer and winter, and Kuhn became the General Artistic Director. The festival’s new winter programme focuses on Italian and bel canto repertoire as well as Mozart operas.
Gustav Kuhn is also a composer – he writes orchestral works, masses and solo pieces. His orchestration of Leoš Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared was received with great interest at the Opéra National in Paris (published by Edition Peters). From 2007 to 2011 Maestro Kuhn performed a series of classical concerts under the title “Delirium” in Salzburg. Gustav Kuhn has recorded for : Sony/BMG, EMI, CBS, Capriccio, Supraphon, Orfeo, Koch/Schwann, Coreolan, ARTE NOVA, to name a few. His book Aus Liebe zur Musik (From Love to Music) was published by Henschel Verlag, Berlin.