This week’s episode of The Music Treasury will feature that Czech conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek. The show will air from 19:00 to 21:00 PDT from Stanford University on KZSU; there is simultaneous streaming on the ‘Net as well: kzsu.stanford.edu
Bělohlávek had quite the career of distinction, and champion of Czech music. Additional details are appended below; as always, the show is hosted by Dr Gary Lemco.
Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor
Jiří Bělohlávek (CBE24 February 1946 – 31 May 2017) was a Czech conductor. A leading interpreter of Czech classical music, he became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990, a role he served on two occasions (1990–92, 2012–17). He also served a six-year tenure as the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2012. He gained international renown and repute for his performances of the works of Czech composers such as Antonín Dvořák and Bohuslav Martinů, and was credited as “the most profound proponent of Czech orchestral music” by Czech music specialist Professor Michael Beckerman.
Bělohlávek was born in Prague. His father was a barrister and judge. In his youth he studied cello with Miloš Sádlo and later graduated from the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. After graduation, he studied conducting for two years with Sergiu Celibidache.
In 1970 Bělohlávek won the Czech Young Conductors’ Competition. From 1972 to 1978, he was conductor of the Brno Philharmonic and then chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra until 1989. The Communist authorities blocked him from touring in Berlin and Israel.
He became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in 1990, after the Velvet Revolution. However, in 1991, the orchestra reorganized and controversially voted to appoint Gerd Albrecht its new principal conductor to replace him. Instead of remaining until Albrecht’s accession, Bělohlávek resigned in 1992. He founded the Prague Philharmonia (Pražskou komorní filharmonii) in 1993, after the Czech Ministry of Defence had offered funding for training 40 young musicians. He auditioned musicians for the orchestra, but the ministry withdrew its funding the next year. He subsequently secured private funding, and served as the orchestra’s first music director. After the orchestra’s public debut in 1994, he recorded and performed with it in concerts worldwide, conducting its first BBC Proms appearance in 2004, in a televised performance. In 2005, he relinquished his post, and became the orchestra’s conductor laureate. He conducted his final concert with the orchestra on 7 May 2017.
In 1997, Bělohlávek became Professor of Conducting at the Prague Academy of Music and the principal guest conductor of the opera company of the Národní divadlo (Prague National Theatre) the following year. He was also chairman of the Prague Spring International Music Festival. Conductors who studied under him include Tomáš Netopil and Jakub Hrůša. In December 2010, Bělohlávek was re-appointed chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, effective with the 2012–2013 season, with an initial contract of four years. In January 2017, the Czech Philharmonic extended his contract through the 2021–2022 season. He remained in the post until his death on 31 May 2017.
From 1995 to 2000, Bělohlávek was principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO). In February 2005, he was named its twelfth chief conductor, effective July 2006, with an initial contract of 3 years. He was the first past BBC SO principal guest conductor to be named chief conductor. His tenure began with the First Night of the 2006 Proms. He first conducted the Last Night of the Proms in 2007, the first conductor of the Last Night who was not a native English speaker. In September 2007, he extended his contract with the BBC Symphony to 2012. He made a guest appearance at the 2009 Last Night as one of the vacuum cleaner performers in Malcolm Arnold‘s A Grand, Grand Overture. Bělohlávek conducted the Last Night of the Proms again in 2010 and 2012. He concluded his BBC SO chief conductorship in 2012 and took the title of conductor laureate. He was awarded an honorary CBE “for services to music” in April 2012. As conductor laureate, he continued to appear until the month before his death, with his final BBC SO concert conducting Dvořák’s Requiem.
In opera, Bělohlávek conducted Jenůfa, Tristan und Isolde and Rusalka at Glyndebourne. He made his Metropolitan Opera (Met) debut on 17 December 2004 conducting Káťa Kabanová, with Karita Mattila in the title role. He returned to the Met in January and February 2007 for Jenůfa and again in February and March 2009 for Eugene Onegin and Rusalka.
Bělohlávek first guest-conducted the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in 1994. In April 2012, the orchestra announced his appointment as its next principal guest conductor, effective with the 2012–2013 season. He held the post until his death. [From Wikipedia]
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