Bělohlávek, Jiří

Jiří Bělohlávek CBE (Czech pronunciation: [jɪr̝iː bjɛloɦlaːvɛk]; 24 February 1946 – 31 May 2017)[1] was a Czech conductor. He was a leading interpreter of Czech classical music, and became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990, a role he would serve on two different occasions during a combined span of seven years (1990–92, 2012–17). He also served a six-year tenure as the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2012.[2] 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.[3]

Early career

Bělohlávek was born in Prague.[4] His father was a barrister and judge.[5] In his youth he studied cello with Miloš Sádlo[6] and later graduated from the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.[4] After graduation, he studied conducting for two years with Sergiu Celibidache.[7]

Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic

In 1970 Bělohlávek won the Czech Young Conductors' Competition.[4] He later served for two years as an assistant conductor at the Czech Philharmonic.[8] From 1972 to 1978, he was conductor of the Brno Philharmonic; he was then chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra until 1989.[4] The Communist authorities blocked Bělohlávek from touring in Berlin and Israel.[4]

Bělohlávek became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in 1990, after the Velvet Revolution.[4] However, in 1991, the orchestra reorganized and controversially voted to appoint Gerd Albrecht its new principal conductor to replace Bělohlávek. Instead of remaining until Albrecht's accession, Bělohlávek resigned from the orchestra in 1992.[9] He subsequently founded the Prague Philharmonia (Pražskou komorní filharmonii) in 1993, after the Czech Ministry of Defence had offered funding for training 40 young musicians. Bělohlávek had auditioned musicians for the orchestra, but the ministry withdrew its funding the next year. He subsequently secured private funding for the orchestra, and served as its first music director.[7] After the orchestra's public debut in 1994, he recorded and performed with it in concerts worldwide.[10] He conducted the Prague Philharmonia at its first BBC Proms appearance in 2004, in a televised performance.[11] In 2005, he relinquished his post with the Prague Philharmonia, and subsequently became the orchestra's conductor laureate. He conducted his final concert on 7 May 2017 with the Prague Philharmonia.

In 1997, Bělohlávek became Professor of Conducting at the Prague Academy of Music and became principal guest conductor of the opera company of the Národní divadlo (Prague National Theatre) the following year.[12] He was also chairman of the Prague Spring International Music Festival. Conductors who studied under Bělohlávek include Tomáš Netopil and Jakub Hrůša.[13] In December 2010, Bělohlávek was re-appointed to the chief conductorship of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, effective with the 2012–2013 season, with an initial contract of four years.[14] In January 2017, the Czech Philharmonic announced the extension of Bělohlávek's contract through the 2021–2022 season.[15] He remained in the post until his death on 31 May 2017.

International career

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.[16][17] Bělohlávek was the first past BBC SO principal guest conductor to be named chief conductor of the BBC SO.[18] His tenure with the BBC SO began with the First Night of the 2006 Proms.[19] He first conducted the Last Night of the Proms in 2007,[20] the first conductor of the Last Night who was not a native English speaker.[18] In September 2007, Bělohlávek extended his contract with the BBC Symphony to 2012.[21][22] 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.[23] Bělohlávek conducted the Last Night of the Proms again in 2010[24] and in 2012.[25] He concluded his BBC SO chief conductorship in 2012 and took the title of conductor laureate with the BBC SO.[26] Bělohlávek was awarded an honorary CBE "for services to music" in April 2012.[27] As conductor laureate, he continued to appear until the month before his death, with his final BBC SO concert conducting Dvořák's Requiem.[28][29]

In opera, Bělohlávek conducted Jenůfa, Tristan und Isolde and Rusalka at Glyndebourne.[30] He made his Metropolitan Opera (Met) debut on 17 December 2004 conducting Káťa Kabanová, with Karita Mattila in the title role.[31] 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 (RPhO) in 1994. In April 2012, the RPhO announced the appointment of Bělohlávek as its next principal guest conductor, effective with the 2012–2013 season.[32] He held the RPhO post until his death.

Bělohlávek made recordings for the Supraphon,[33]Chandos, Harmonia Mundi,[34]Warner Classics,[35] and Deutsche Grammophon record labels.

Bělohlávek married Anna Fejérová in 1971 and the couple had two daughters. He died of cancer on 31 May 2017, aged 71.[29] His wife and daughters survived him.[13]

References

  1. ^ "V noci zemrel po dlouhe tezke nemoci uznavany cesky dirigent Jiri Belohlavek". Lidovky. 2017-06-01. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  2. ^ Tilden, Imogen (1 June 2017). "Czech conductor and former BBCSO chief Jiří Bělohlávek dies aged 71". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  3. ^ Roberts, Sam (1 June 2017). "Jiri Belohlavek, Conductor and Leading Interpreter of Czech Music, Dies at 71". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Sam Roberts (2017-06-01). "Jiri Belohlavek, Czech Conductor, Dies at 71". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-06-02. 
  5. ^ Norman Lebrecht (2006-07-10). "The man who's changing the sound of the BBC". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  6. ^ "Miloš Sádlo (obituary)". The Telegraph. 23 October 2003. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  7. ^ a b Tim Ashley (2001-03-01). "The sound of freedom". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  8. ^ Allan Kozinn (11 October 1990). "Czech Philharmonic With Its New Leader". New York Times. 
  9. ^ John Rockwell (30 December 1992). "Czech Philharmonic Faces Perilous Times In Dividing Country". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  10. ^ Geoffrey Norris (8 June 2006). "I've never been to the Last Night". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  11. ^ Erica Jeal (24 July 2004). "Prague Philharmonia (review of Prom 4, 2004)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  12. ^ Graham Melville-Mason (23 August 1995). "Obituary: Zdenek Kosler". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  13. ^ a b David Nice (2017-06-01). "Jiří Bělohlávek obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-06-02. 
  14. ^ "Bělohlávek to become Czech Philharmonic's chief conductor in 2012". Prague Daily Monitor. 2010-12-23. Retrieved 2012-02-24. [permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Daniel Konrád (2017-01-01). "Šéfdirigent Bělohlávek prodloužil smlouvu, Českou filharmonii povede do roku 2022". Hospodářské Noviny. Retrieved 2017-01-05. 
  16. ^ "Jirí Belohlávek appointed Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra" (Press release). BBC Press Office. 1 February 2005. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  17. ^ Geoffrey Norris (2 Feb 2005). "I'm here to raise the standard". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  18. ^ a b Andrew Clark (6 July 2007). "The quiet cosmopolitan". Financial Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  19. ^ Tom Service (17 July 2006). "BBCSO/Belohlavek". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  20. ^ Tim Ashley (10 September 2007). "Prom 72". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  21. ^ Stephen Moss (6 September 2007). "'If I understand the heckles, I'll respond'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  22. ^ Geoffrey Norris (10 September 2007). "BBC Proms 2007: Last Night of the Proms". Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  23. ^ Edward Seckerson (14 September 2009). "Prom 76: The Last Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  24. ^ "Prom 76: The Last Night of the Proms". BBC. 11 September 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  25. ^ George Hall (2012-09-09). "Prom 76: Last Night of the Proms – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  26. ^ "BBC Symphony Orchestra announces new Chief Conductor" (Press release). BBC. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  27. ^ "Jiri Bělohlávek awarded an honorary CBE for services to music" (Press release). BBC. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  28. ^ Andrew Clements (2017-04-14). "BBCSO/Bělohlávek review – unforced musical truthfulness". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-06-02. 
  29. ^ a b Imogen Tilden (2017-06-01). "Czech conductor and former BBCSO chief Jiří Bělohlávek dies aged 71". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-06-02. 
  30. ^ Charlotte Higgins (2 February 2005). "'Grumpy? What's that?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  31. ^ Anthony Tommasini (20 December 2004). "A Love Triangle Contorted by Authority Figures". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  32. ^ "Jirí Belohlávek CBE vaste gastdirigent Rotterdams Philharmonisch" (Press release). Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. 13 April 2012. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  33. ^ Andrew Clements (2 April 2004). "Dvorak: The Stubborn Lovers: Kloubova/ Brezina/ Sykorova/ Belacek/ Janal/ Prague Philharmonia/ Belohlavek". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  34. ^ Andrew Clements (19 August 2005). "Mozart: Symphonies Nos 35 & 36, Prague Philharmonia/ Belohlavek". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  35. ^ Andrew Clements (3 November 2006). "Dvorak: Symphonies Nos 5 & 6; Scherzo Capriccioso; The Hero's Song, BBCSO/ Belohlavek". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jindřich Rohan
Music Director, Prague Symphony Orchestra
1977–1990
Succeeded by
Petr Altrichter
Preceded by
(no predecessor)
Music Director, Prague Philharmonia
1994–2005
Succeeded by
Kaspar Zehnder