Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek has died at age 71

He was long involved with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as well as Czech ensembles

The chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek, passed away on the night of May 31 to June 1 after a long illness. He had been scheduled to conduct at this year's Prague Spring music festival, but he had canceled due to his health.

“It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Jiří Bělohlávek, Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic. Maestro Bělohlávek died last night following his brave struggle with a serious disease,” the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (Česká filharmonie) announced on its Facebook page. The orchestra's website had also had a brief announcement.

The orchestra posted that it sent condolences to the family. Memorial service arrangements will be announced at a later date, according to Facebook.

Bělohlávek had signed a contract in January extending his post of chief conductor until the 2021–22 season, but soon after that his health began to decline.

Condolences have poured in from around the world. “Sending our condolences to Maestro Bělohlávek's family and to you all at the Česká filharmonie,” the official account of the London Symphony Orchestra posted on Facebook. Fans from the Czech Republic and other countries including the UK, Romania and Italy posted comments and condolenes as well.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) expressed his condolences over Twitter. He said Bělohlávek's passing was a great loss for Czech culture, and that the conductor had made the Czech Republic famous in the world.

Culture Minister Daniel Herman (KDU-ČSL) also used Twitter. “Jiří Bělohlávek's passing is a great loss not only for Czech but also for world music. It was an honor that I could cooperate with such a personality,” he said. In another post on Twitter he showed a photo of a hand-written letter of condolences sent to Bělohlávek's widow.

Bělohlávek graduated from the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He then studied conducting with Sergiu Celibidache.

He won the Czech National Conducting Competition in 1970 and later served for two years as an assistant conductor at the Czech Philharmonic. From 1972 to 1978 he was associated with the Brno Philharmonic. From 1977 to 1989, he was chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Bělohlávek became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in 1990, but he resigned a year later due to a controversial reorganization of the orchestra.

He founded the Prague Philharmonia in 1993. He conducted a televised performance of the Prague Philharmonia at the BBC Proms in 2004, and stepped down in 2005.

He was re-appointment to lead the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at the end of December 2010, starting with the 2012–13 season.

He also had a distinguished international career. Bělohlávek was principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2000. In February 2005, he was named its chief conductor, effective from July 2006 to 2012. In April 2012, he was named an honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to music.

Bělohlávek was also active with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted at the Metropolitan Opera between 2004 and 2009.

Video on YouTube

Related articles

Facebook comments

Pražské Benátky

Enjoy Prague from a different view

Ristorante Casa de Carli

Authentic Italian cuisine in Prague

The James Joyce Irish Pub

Best Irish Pub in Prague

Charles Bridge Museum

Discover the history of Prague’s famous Charles Bridge

Trabant Museum Prague

Trabant Museum @ STK Motol

Army Museum Žižkov

Armádní muzeum Žižkov

National Memorial to the...

Národní památník hrdinů heydrichiády

Prague’s # 1 source for Czech news in English…

Digital lifestyle magazine platform promoting life in Prague.