The Kennedy Center

Jiri Belohlavek


The leading personality among contemporary Czech conductors. He is a graduate of the Prague Conservatory and Prague Academy of Arts, he enjoyed a close association with Sergiu Celibidache, with whom he studied for three years.

In 1970, after winning the Czech National Conducting Competition, he became Assistant Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1971, he was a finalist in the Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition. During his collaboration with the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra, from 1972 till 1978, he undertook a number of major concert tours with the orchestra to Austria, Germany and the United States.

An important chapter in his musical career was his 12-year association with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (Chief Conductor 1977-89). Jirí Belohlávek significantly increased the artistic level of the orchestra and secured, for the ensemble and himself, a visible position on the Czechoslovak music scene. He toured frequently with the orchestra in Europe, the USA and Japan, and made many important recordings.

Jirí Belohlávek's collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra began in 1973. For many years he was a regular guest conductor and in 1981 became its Permanent Conductor. From 1990 till 1992 he held the position of the orchestra's Music Director, continuing the tradition of distinguished Czech Maestros - Chief Conductors of the Czech Philharmonic (Václav Talich, Karel Ancerl, Rafael Kubelík and Václav Neumann).

In 1994, Jirí Belohlávek founded the Prague Philharmonia and became its Musical Director. From 1995 till 2000 Jirí Belohlávek was the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. Since 1995 he has been a Professor of the Prague Academy of Arts, and in 1998 he became the Principal Guest Conductor of the Opera at the National Theatre in Prague.

Jirí Belohlávek has enjoyed success as guest conductor with the world's greatest orchestras, having worked with the New York, Munich, Berlin, Japan and Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the Staatskapelle in Dresden, and with the Boston, Sydney, Vienna, London and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras. His conducting career to date has included performances at a great number of celebrated international music festivals including those at Tanglewood, Salzburg, Edinburgh, Montreux, Locarno, Perth, Schleswig-Holstein, Lucerne, and the Berliner Festspiele, the Prague Spring festival and others.

Currently, Mr Belohlávek is in great demand for guest conducting engagements worldwide, and he enjoys ongoing relationships with the BBC Symphony in London, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony, the Washington National Symphony, and others.

Maestro Belohlávek's involvement with opera dates from 1979, when he became a permanent guest of the Komische Oper Berlin, conducting performances of Smetana's Secret and Stravinsky's Rake's Progress. Subsequently he conducted the new production of Martinu's The Greek Passion at the National Theatre in Prague (1984), Janácek's Jenufa in Seattle (1985) and Martinu's The Miracles of Mary at the Brno State Opera (1990). His return to the National Theatre of Prague with the new production of Janácek's Jenufa in 1997 was a great success, as were his other productions here - Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Dvorák's Rusalka (both in 1998) and Bizet's Carmen in 1999. In December 2001, Jirí Belohlávek conducted a new production of Smetana's Devil's Wall (directed by David Pountney) and Janácek's Fate (in co-operation with the director Robert Wilson - 2002). Jirí Belohlávek´s musical achievement in the production of Janácek´s Jenufa at the Glyndebourne Festival (UK) in June 2000 (with the director Nikolaus Lehnhoff) was awarded the Barclay Theatre Award.

A prominent place in Jirí Belohlávek's extensive discography is occupied by recording of the complete orchestral works of Johannes Brahms with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the set of sixteen CDs on Chandos label with mostly Czech music, two of which were awarded the prestigious Diapason d'Or prize in Paris. Jirí Belohlávek's recording of Smetana's My Country with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was awarded the Supraphon Golden Disc in 1995, and in May 1999 the conductor received a further Supraphon Golden Disc for his recordings and promotion of works by Bohuslav Martinu.

The recordings he has made in recent years with the Prague Philharmonia are of a particularly fine quality, for here Belohlávek draws on his many years of conducting experience, combining that experience with high performing standards of his own orchestra to attain his interpretational ideal. This has given rise to exemplary recordings amongst others Dvorák's Legends and Czech Suite, Dvorák's and Suk's Serenades for Strings, and Novák's Slovácko Suite.

Jirí Belohlávek has been appointed to the role of Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, taking up the position officially at the First Night of the Proms 2006.

 March 2012
Ji?í B?lohlávek