Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts between 1960 and 1964, where his teachers included Mareo Ishiketa for composition and Akeo Watanabe and Kazuo Yamada for conducting. Having won the Min-On International Conductors’ Competition in 1970, he made his debut with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in 1972; but his international career took off when in 1974 he won the Budapest International Conductors’ Competition. Kobayashi has held numerous permanent appointments in Japan, including those of permanent conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, guest conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and conductor laureate of the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1987 Kobayashi succeeded János Ferencsik as chief conductor of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra, later becoming the orchestra’s conductor laureate (1997), and was chief conductor of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra between 1985 and 1990. He became the chief conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004, having served previously as its first conductor (1990–1994 and 1997–2004. He took up the post of permanent conductor of the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006. He is also permanent guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and chief guest conductor of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Kobayashi is a professor at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and a guest professor at the Tokyo College of Music. He has twice been honoured by the Hungarian government, receiving the Liszt Memorial Decoration in November 1986 and the Middle Cross with Star in March 1994, the latter being the highest award possible for individuals who are not government officials.
Kobayashi’s interpretations are notable for their sweep and colour. For a musician of such vivid imagination his recordings are regrettably few in number. His limited discography is focused predominantly upon composers of the Romantic and late-Romantic eras, such as Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Bruckner and Tchaikovsky, and extends to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Conductors, Naxos 8.558087–90).