Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bělohlávek to become Czech Philharmonic's chief conductor in 2012

23 December 2010

Prague, Dec 22 (CTK) - World-renowned conductor Jiri Belohlavek will become new chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic (CF) orchestra in 2012, Culture Ministry spokesman Stanislav Brunclik told CTK yesterday.

Belohlavek, who is to take up the post in autumn 2012, signed a four-year contract with Culture Minister Jiri Besser later this afternoon. New CF general director David Marecek and deputy culture minister Radek Zdrahal also added their signatures.

Besser said by his signature he had undertaken to create (suitable) conditions for the CF, on behalf of the Culture Ministry and the government.

At present, Belohlavek, 64, holds the prestigious post of the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London where his contract expires in 2012.

In the same year, the contract of the current CF chief conductor, Israeli Eliahu Inbal, ends.

The CF will discuss details of Belohlavek's artistic duties with him next year.

The contract specifies the annual number of his concerts, expected foreign trips with the CF and tours of the Czech Republic as well as recordings, Belohlavek said.

He confirmed that he had received other offers from abroad.

Belohlavek said he expected the CF players to cooperate with him in an excellent way and enjoy the concerts. He is convinced that they will find enough space for their joint work, he added.

The scope of his work with the CF will be bigger than he had in London where he will have spent six years as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2012.

A year ago he received an offer to extend his contract but he did not accept it, saying his work with the orchestra was sufficiently long and it fulfilled both parties' expectations. However, he will be returning to the BBC Orchestra as a guest conductor.

Belohlavek will end in his current position in London with the last concert of the BBC Proms festival on September 8, 2012.

The CF management has sought cooperation with Belohlavek, who is considered the most successful contemporary Czech conductor, for long. It has been negotiating with him as the only official candidate for chief conductor. It expects him, among others, to enhance the CF's position on the international scene.

Music experts say Belohlavek is a suitable candidate for the post. Some CF players, nevertheless, may be afraid of the tough professional demands he is known for, the experts say.

David Marecek, who was chosen as CF general director in October and will take up the post in February 2011, has promoted Belohlavek as Inbal's successor. He said the CF needs a conductor who is a strong personality and also of Czech origin, if possible.

The Culture Ministry said previously that after the personnel issues were resolved in CF, the ministry would earmark "as much money as possible" for the orchestra.

Ivan Pazour, from the Union of the Orchestra's Musicians, said the choice of Belohlavek had not surprised the players.

Belohlavek expects the orchestra's financial conditions to improve and he will require more thorough rehearsing before concerts, Pazour added.

The CF players in the past complained about their low salaries compared to similar foreign orchestras. The average gross monthly salary of a Czech Philharmonic player is 28,000 crowns, while the national average is about 23,600 crowns.

Belohlavek was the CF chief conductor once in the past, in 1990-1992. Experts say his departure from the post was a fatal mistake that triggered a twenty-year crisis in the CF.

In a secret balloting in 1992, the CF chose its first foreign chief conductor, German Gerd Albrecht, preferring him to Belohlavek.

Despite his departure, Belohlavek has continued cooperating with CF.

Czech musicologists, addressed by CTK, have welcomed the choice of Belohlavek as the Czech Philharmonic's chief conductor.

"This is the best Czech conductor at the best age who has proved extraordinary qualities on the world stages," music expert Ludvik Kasparek, programme adviser of the Chamber Music Society in the Czech Philharmonic, said.

Experts also agreed that this would be one of the last chances for the CF of reaching the level of the worlds's top orchestras.

Belohlavek will help improve the Czech Philharmonic's reputation abroad and stabilise the orchestra, musicologists pointed out.

"This is the last chance for the Czech Philharmonic of getting among the absolute top orchestras," music critic Vera Drapelova told CTK yesterday.

($1=19.198 crowns)

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