Examiner, by Jodie Jacobs

Remember the name Netanel Draiblate. He is the young (early 30s) Israeli-born violinist who recently brought Lake Forest Symphony audiences to their feet for several bows following his virtuoso performance of Brahms Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77. Performed Jan. 23 and 24, 2016 at the College of Lake County, the concert was remarkable.

The symphony sounded better than I have heard in previous years. It could be that Draiblate (called Nati) inspired them. But a lot of credit also has to go to newly hired conductor Vladimir Kulenovic who brought forth terrific shading in the less than glamorous Beethoven 8 Symphony in F major in the first half. Together, orchestra, conductor and then, Draiblate, made beautiful music.

In Brahms first movement, Draiblate performed an excellent cadenza that he wrote and dedicated to symphony supporters Richard and Cindy Morehead. The cadenza, originally written for the Brahms concerto by violinist Joseph Joachim has also been composed by Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz and other noted violinists. Draiblate's emotional interpretation of the second and third movement brought unexpected tears to the eyes of some audience members. This is a violinist to watch.

When Draiblate, now a Maryland resident, isn’t performing abroad, and teaching and performing chamber music and symphony solos in the US, he is concertmaster of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, and recently appointed concertmaster of the Lake Forest Symphony. The latter means that Chicago area residents will hear him and the fine Lake Forest Symphony in the future.

Another shout out has to go Kulenovic for choosing Wagner’s dark, soulful Prelude to Act III of Tristan and Isolde to begin the program. It showed off the orchestra’s tonality and Erica Anderson’s musicianship. Her English horn solo beautifully communicated the Prelude’s message of yearning.



Chicago Classical Review, by Lawrence A. Johnson

"Judging by the polished and often thrilling playing at Saturday night’s concert led by Vladimir Kulenovic, the Lake Forest Symphony is on the rise, sounding very much revitalized under its new 35-year-old music director.

Currently in his second season, the tall slender conductor directs the players with clear and flowing gestures, drawing consistently responsive and impressive playing. The orchestra boasts several of the area’s best freelance musicians and clearly has struck gold with their excellent new concertmaster, the 22-year-old Israeli Netanel Draiblate. If rather geographically isolated, the orchestra’s home at the James Lumber Center at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, offers a very live and brilliant acoustic.

The evening led off with the introduction to Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation. “The Representation of Chaos” makes an offbeat curtain-raiser but proved an effective calling card for the orchestra. With forceful yet acutely focused attacks, Kulenovic emphasized dynamic contrasts, drawing tight ensemble tuttis and notably refined and hushed string playing in the discordant depiction of pre-Creation nothingness.

...Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 was the main work on the program. Kulenovic was the winner of the 2015 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, and Saturday’s performance recalled Solti’s Beethoven in its dramatic tension, thrusting energy, and use of repeats.

...Kulenovic was a highly attentive partner and the Lake Forest Symphony players provided full-bodied support for their soloist (Joaquin Achucarro, Grieg piano Concerto)..."


by Alan Sherrod, April 22, 2015

"...Remarkably, the KSO is now playing with a precision, artistry, and apparent joie de vivre that exceeds even the loftiest recent expectations. That’s a bold statement. Validation of it came in last weekend’s concerts with guest conductor Vladimir Kulenovic, a concert that offered Bedrich Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and concluded with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”). Numerous factors figure into such outstanding performances, but it was clear that Kulenovic’s razor-edged precision and meticulous massaging of dynamics and textures aligned perfectly with a KSO that was intensely invested in a memorable showing. It is worth noting that Kulenovic conducted the Smetana and the Beethoven without a score, something that is indeed impressive on its face, but, in this case, had a deeper importance. It allowed the conductor to be a part of the orchestra and permitted his musical point of view to flow through the players, not just at them.

Starting with the Smetana, one was immediately impressed by the crispness and energy of the direction and the tight ensemble togetherness, most noticeably in the combined violin sections. Just as in the Beethoven later in the evening, the ensemble cohesiveness made each passage an event, and each change of dramatic mood, a new musical day. In a fresh, organic way, it felt as though one was hearing this familiar overture for the first time.

While the average listener will invariably place Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth symphonies among his most complex works—and they are—musicians probably agree that the Sixth, the “Pastoral,” has a degree of difficulty and depth that is not always apparent. Kulenovic’s approach to that work on the second half of the concert was to take a moderate tempo while still luxuriating in the delicious details of country life that Beethoven provides. Themes sprang forth with clarity and definition, like a peasant wagon crossing our path; the fourth-movement storm caught us by surprise, then retreated with the hymn-like suggestion of thanks.

On this trip to the country, Maestro Kulenovic was thankfully accompanied by some superb twittering cuckoos, chirping birds, dancing peasants, and overall sublime pastoral textures from KSO players. And the beginning of that second movement, “Scene by the Brook,” opened with some of the most radiant and velvety ensemble playing from KSO violins heard all season."


Salt Lake Magazine 

Kulenovic had his final outing with the Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra recently, leading the reduced ensemble in a program of Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch and Joseph Haydn. At the concert, the final installment of this year’s chamber music concert offerings at the Deer Valley Music Festival, Kulenovic once again showed his mastery of the repertoire and his fine rapport with the players. He elicited nuanced playing from his group and brought clarity and precision to his readings. 

Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture opened the concert. Kulenovic captured the character of this wonderfully descriptive piece with his finely crafted interpretation that allowed the musicians to shine. The performance was articulate and filled with spirit. 

...Kulenovic offered a well-defined collaborative effort from the ensemble that mirrored Stefan Milenkovich’s approach (Bruch violin concerto). Kulenovic allowed the soloist to shine while always remaining on an equal footing with him musically and interpretatively."


Chicago Tribune

"Lake Forest Symphony patrons have seen Vladimir Kulenovic with that orchestra three times now. Initially in September of 2013, he was the first of five finalists for the post of music director and permanent conductor of the professional Lake County orchestra.

He set the bar extremely high when he conducted Stravinsky's "Firebird" suite, but some feared that since he was the opening conductor he might be forgotten by the time the concert series concluded the following May.

Not only was he remembered, he was the chosen one.

Back in the James Lumber Center at the College of Lake County last fall, he reminded us not only of his bella figura on the podium, but his ability to draw forth the prodigious talent of the orchestra, which is filled with A-list freelancers from throughout the Chicago area.

During his first pair of concerts as music director he played the harpsichord during Haydn's Symphony No. 1, led Rimsky-Korsakov's "Fantasia on Serbian Themes" a tribute to his native land, though now he is a citizen of the United States, and introduced fellow countryman Stefan Milenkovich, who played Glazunov's Violin Concerto.

The program concluded with Beethoven's Fifth, conducted and played very powerfully.

On Jan. 23 and 24, Kulenovic continued to maintain a dazzling presence in concert. There was a fresh delicacy in his baton, certainly in Mozart's overture to his most spiritual opera "The Magic Flute."

The most telling moment of the Feb. 7 concert was Kulenovic's treatment of "The Unanswered Question" by Charles Ives. Barely seven minutes in length, it is a powerful work, but sometimes its trumpet can sound cold. Not so under the baton of this maestro. It was as if the orchestra were whispering to us, confiding such truths that could only be approached with reverence. It is one of my favorite American works, but I have never heard it played with such depth and tenderness.

A word about Lake Forest Symphony audiences: They are enthusiastic, warm and appreciative. They have a proprietary interest in this impressive ensemble and they don't care who knows it. It is a pleasure to be in such company.

The next pair of Lake Forest Symphony concerts will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 22 at the James Lumber Center. Soloist will be Chaeyoung Park, winner of the Emilio del Rosario Competition, in Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1. The program also includes Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, plus Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral." For information, visit

On the morning of March 21, Kulenovic is conducting members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a pair of Family Concerts at Symphony Center.

Kulenovic is a veteran when it comes to educational concerts. As associate conducer of the Utah Symphony, he brought that orchestra to every school in the state. "My first year there I led 114 concerts for young people," he said in an interview just after he was named music director of the Lake Forest Symphony. "I don't think there is an orchestra anywhere in the world that does that many."

The search committee made its choice after the last concert in May, and it is proving to be a sound one."


by Srdjan Teparic

"...Conductor Vladimir Kulenović very effectively accentuated groups of instruments, the combinations of which later revealed Webern’s distinctive handwriting. It was a very good interpretation, with clearly highlighted and demarcated sections of melody and colour, in which the range of heterogeneous and later common modernist colours reached their full expressiveness. [he Ricercar from Johan Sebastian Bach’s Musical Offering, arranged by Anton Webern]

... Leading the Belgrade Philharmonic, Vladimir Kulenović worked quite well to match all intentions of the performers, having succeeded in fusing together the sound of the orchestra and the soloist into an inseparable whole. [Launy Grøndahl’s Concerto for trombone and orchestra]

The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky is one of the biggest conducting challenges, to which Vladimir Kulenović, at the lead of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, approached very seriously and studiously. Of course, it should be noted that the ensemble mastered this piece quite well, since it had already performed it as part of one of the best concerts of the last season, with Zubin Mehta in June last year. Stravinsky’s rhythmical patterns, incessantly alternating before the listener, were properly played, with very accurately delimited metric changes. Moreover, Kulenović was also very apt in measuring the numerous sound contrasts of this composition, owing to his rich sound palette. Particularly good was the sound of brass instruments, while the tutti strings were at a commendable level.

The originally conceived programme of the concert, an exquisite conductor and the soloist brought major delight to the audience, which, in a way, broke the stereotypical perception that only popular pieces can draw audiences. High quality music under the mask of bizarre and unconventional certainly did strike the right chord with the audience."


"Spearheading this exhilarating collection of concert triumphs, Vladimir Kulenović demonstrated the briskness of his imagination, the gift of immediate accurate immersion into each of the pieces and the ability to inhale the delicate measure of each composer’s distinctive self.
Accordingly, Jon Corigliano and his Promenade Overture opened the concert with a phantasmagorical vision of exciting nerves that are pulverized into a billion atoms of irresistible delight, before they rise again to a fantastic pandemonium. Rouse’s Infernal Machine took over and spread the chaos of elements glittering attractively, trying out all billions of ways to touch you and draw you in their mechanical jaws, animated by rhythm and colours, crumpling, twisting and threateningly roaring. John Adams’ Tromba lontana is an enchanting melody with branching trumpets of mighty strength, the sound of which moves along air currents throughout the building of the Kolarac Foundation, floating, surfing and completely overwhelming.
And then Vuk Kulenović’s Wave – that stir, rustle and commotion worthy of volcano lava, the spillage of unimaginable bodies of water, a genuine infuriated nest of frenzied nature, which takes you over level by level like an amazing and treacherous maelstrom. Indeed, so much like Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, with an ingenious rhythm, and appeasements full of longing for movement, twisting and twirling and vanishing.
 Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question instils a kind of a spiritual serenity from an entire century ago, bizarre in its own way though, but so likable and tempting in so many levels that Leonard Bernstein’sCandide overture would swarm with the fullness of life of its parallel realities, those sound carnivals with picturesque colours that you almost forgot in your grey reality.
And lastly, Gershwin and the marvellous singers Volkwijn and Redding in Porgy and Bess! To sing with such unrestraint, fullness, sorrow and ultimate pain, but also surrendered to the purity of life on the breath of the huge American land and the immediate emotions and expressions, with charming scene gesticulation, but also a moving naivety and purity, they make this Gershwin sound even more genuine and still unexplored. A unique experience."


By Branimir Pofuk

"Notwithstanding, under brilliant leadership of Vladimir Kulenović, a young conductor with extensive American experience, the orchestra especially excelled in the stylistically diverse, representative and in various ways demanding orchestral compositions of John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, John Adams,Charles Ives and Leonard Bernstein. As the climax, the greatest ovations were received by the impressive piece Wave and its creator Vuk Kulenović, the acclaimed Serbian contemporary composer, who has lived and built his career in the USA since 1992. For all similar institutions in the region, includion in Croatia, the Belgrade Philharmonic is truly a genuine role model."

by Michael Wyatt

“… After the intermission, we were treated to the familiar strains of Mozart’s 40th Symphony. I said that these were all “hidden" Viennese gems, and I think that applies to this popular work; it’s just hidden in plain sight. People often talk about this as a conflicted sounding work from a usually happy-go-lucky composer. Conflicted might be too soft a word. Last night, at least, the symphony sounded hostile. Usually Mozart tosses themes back and forth between sections in a kind of playful way, but under Kulenovic’s lithe baton, the different instruments seemed to be at odds. And I mean that in a good way.
When the symphony was over, there was an odd and conspicuous delay in the applause. It was almost like the cinematic cliché of a “slow clap." I’m still not sure if it was because Haydn (Symphony No. 90) had teased us so much just before, or if we were all so shocked with the force of this interpretation of Mozart, but the applause started slowly and built until we were all on our feet."

INTERMEZZO CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Vieve Gore Concert Hall, Westminster College
August 7, 2012 by Edward Reichel

“The Utah Symphony’s associate conductor Vladimir Kulenovic led the ensemble (Utah Symphony) and elicited a cleanly defined, lean reading (of Copland’s Appalachian Spring). He captured the work’s vibrancy, rhythmic vitality and lyricism. It was well crafted and executed … They played with expression and feeling and brought this piece to life. It was a fresh and invigorating account of one of Copland’s best scores."

DEER VALLEY MUSIC FESTIVAL, Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra, July 18
July 19, 2012 by Edward Reichel

“The concert concluded with Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 4, Tragic, in which the orchestra offered its best playing of the evening. Kulenovic gave a nicely crafted account that brought out the drama of the outer movements, and also the lyricism of the work as a whole."


"Spearheading this exhilarating collection of concert triumphs, Vladimir Kulenovic demonstrated briskness of his imagination, the gift of immediate accurate immersion into each of the pieces the ability to inhale the delicate measure of each composer's distinctive self."

Posted on July 26, 2012 by Edward Reichel

Continuing its theme programming, the Deer Valley Music Festival’s second chamber orchestra concert on Wednesday focused on a half century of French music, from Gabriel Fauré and Charles Gounod to Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. The members of the Utah Symphony were once again led by associate conductor Vladimir Kulenovic, who showed a range and depth of expression that served this music well. He elicited lyrical, well defined and nuanced playing from his ensemble.
In Faure’s Pavane and Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye Kulenovic elicited playing that was lush and rich. The strings in particular sounded supple and sensuous. And in the Ravel, Kulenovic brought out the many subtleties in the score with his well thought out interpretation…
Kulenovic understood the workings of this symphony (Gounod No. 1) and captured its classicism well. And the orchestra played with lyricism, clean, crisp articulation and nicely defined execution.

Posted on July 28, 2011 by Edward Reichel

Wednesday’s Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra concert featured the debut of newly appointed assistant conductor Vladimir Kulenovic. It was an auspicious beginning for the young conductor as he showed remarkable presence and command and elicited well crafted playing from the ensemble. One can only look forward to seeing what he has to offer at future concerts.
With one exception – a short movement from one of Giovanni Bottesini’s numerous concertos for double bass – the first half of the program focused on the music of the 18th century. Soloists for the evening were the young string group Time for Three (who were spotlighted more fully in the second half).
The concert opened with J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1, BWV 1066. Nicely phrased playing by the ensemble and well chosen tempos characterized this performance. Of particular note was principal bassoonist Lori Wike’s virtuosic turns in the opening movement and principal oboist Robert Stephenson’s lyrically played solo passages.
Kulenovic opted for a lush sound that gave the music a rather romantic tinge. A leaner and more transparent sound would have been preferable, but nevertheless it was a polished account of the suite.
Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043, was also on the bill, with Time for Three violinists Zachary De Pue and Nicolas Kendall soloing. It was well played by the two although De Pue’s gyrations onstage were annoying and over the top.
Their musical partner, bass player Ranaan Meyer, also had a solo turn in the first half, playing the slow movement from Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2 in B minor. Meyer’s playing was lyrical and delightfully expressive.
The best performance of the evening, however, was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s youthful Divertimento in D major, K. 136. Kulenovic’s account was refreshing and vibrant; the outer movements were briskly paced, while the slow movement flowed with tender lyricism.

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE REVIEW, Dec 16 2011 by Robert Coleman
Utah Symphony, Abravanel Hall, Dec 16-17, 2011

The symphony’s dashing new assistant conductor Vladimir Kulenovic presided over the festivities with expressive baton technique and articulate banter. It became very clear that the orchestra provided more than background music for the cirque (de la Symphonie) performers. Their music gave depth and immediacy to the performance with the same energy and technical precision that they muster for a Classical Series concert...


"Kulenovic revealed more than a grasp of the notes, effectively shaping the orchestral side of the (Brahms Violin) Concerto. He also led a bold account of Beethoven's Egmont Overture to start the evening... an admirable statement of talent and potential."
~Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun,


"Kulenovic allowed for very spacious phrasing at the start, creating extra sonic poetry in the process, and he had the stormier portions of the work fired up nicely… the overall performance was decidedly classy."
~Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, 


"Um die Dramaturgie der letzten drei Sätze nicht zu zerstören, hatte Kurt Masur sie allein dem Amerikaner Vladimir Kulenovic anvertraut, der seine Sache tatsächlich blendend machte. Die Musik entfaltete vom "Lustigen Zusammensein der Landleute" bis zum beängstigend dreinkrachenden Gewitter einen bemerkenswerten Sog, der dann in einem sehr poetisch musizierten "Hirtengesang" mündete".
~Bernhard Hartmann, General-Anzeiger, (Bonn, Germany) 11/2009