He lived in Europe from 1866 to 1884. He studied at the Conservatory of Music at Antwerp under Peter Benoit from 1875 to 1879, and at Leipzig from 1879 to 1881. He was kapellmeister of the Stadt Theater, Breslau, Germany, in 1882, later giving concerts of his own compositions, in Weimar and elsewhere in Germany, under the patronage of Liszt. 
He returned to the United States in 1884, and became the leader of the Arion Society of New York City, conducting novelty concerts in Steinway hall and symphonic concerts in Chickering hall. Van der Stucken gave a series of American concerts at the Paris exposition of 1889, made a concert tour in Europe with the Arion Society in 1892, and after 1895 conducted the symphony concerts in Cincinnati, in which city he was the dean of the college of music.
He is particularly remembered for his symphonic prologue to Heinrich Heine's tragedy William Ratcliffe. He was elected an honorary member of the Eta Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity in 1906.