Born in 1958, Jean Thorel studied orchestral conducting with Jean-Jacques Werner and Léon Barzin, and ballet conducting with Antal Dorati and André Girard. He won prizes in harmony and counterpoint at the Paris National Conservatory. In 1985 he became permanent conductor of the Stringendo Orchestral Ensemble (Paris) and, with the support of Jean-Claude Casadesus, he was awarded the Vocation Foundation Prize in 1989. Since January 2005, Stringendo is "orchestra in residence" in the city of Orly. Since 1994, Thorel has been in ever increasing demand throughout Scandinavia, in Finland and in Poland, his versatility enabling him to conduct both ballet and multi-facetted concert programmes. He is a regular guest conductor at prestigious festivals of contemporary music. Starting from the 2008/09 concert season Jean Thorel has also been appointed Chief Conductor of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, which with its thirty musicians is the only chamber orchestra in the Asian region with a regular subscription season.
Jean Thorel's unconventional interpretations of both contemporary music and classical music have delighted many music critics in France and abroad. An impassioned promoter of new and rare music, he has to date given almost four hundred first performances. Perhaps it is this interest and vast experience in performing present day compositions which enables him to approach the older repertoire with such revealing insight and remarkable freshness. Jean Thorel's recordings include works by Fauré, Debussy, Messager, Alain, Ponce, Françaix, Saguer, Brenet, Vercken, Ledoux, Morançon, Pinchard, Lejet, Bret, Sikora, Bruun, Nielsen, Jorgensen, Rosing-Schow and Yanov-Yanovski.
In 2002, his disc of works by Louis Saguer was joint winner (with Pierre Boulez's Das Lied von der Erde) of the Académie du Disque Lyrique 'Orphée d'Or'. In May 2002, he was the first French conductor to lead the Russian National Orchestra and the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble in two CDs. Of these the CD of works by Sikora won a "special mention" by the Académie du Disque Lyrique in 2003. Jean Thorel's concerts have been broadcast by BBC Radio 3, Radio France-Musique, France 2, De Soziokulturelle Radio (Luxembourg), Swedish Radio, Danish Radio DR2, Radio Orpheus (Russia), Hong-Kong Radio 4 and the Russian and Polish radio-television networks.