Jiří Bělohlávek

Czech orchestra conductor (Prague, 1946 – Prague, 2017)

Great specialist of the Czech repertoire, Jiří Bělohlávek is also appreciated in the symphonic and lyrical repertoires. Throughout his career, he defended these genres on-stage across the world.

Jiří Bělohlávek started his musical education as a cellist and graduated from the Prague Conservatoire before turning to orchestral conducing, studying with Sergiu Celibidache. After winning the National Czech Competition of orchestral conducting, he earned his stripes conducting with Czech formations (first the Brno Philharmonic and then the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra) and toured with them in Austria, Germany and the United States.

In the 1990’s, Jiří Bělohlávek founded the Prague Philharmonia of which he was the main conductor, and financed it with private funds. Since its first concert in 1994, the orchestra has been invited to the world's most prestigious stages and produced many recordings. In 2004, he was invited to the famous BBC Proms in London. He replaced the great Leonard Slatkin as the main conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2006, a position he would hold until 2013. In 2007, he was the first non-English-speaking person to conduct the orchestra during the Last Night of the Proms, the festival’s most emblematic concert. In his country, Jiří Bělohlávek conducts the Prague National Theatre’s orchestra, the Prague Spring International Music Festival and the Czech Philharmonic.

Great specialist of the Czech repertoire, his performances include The Epic of Gilgamesh by Bohuslav Martinů, The Makropulos Affair by Janacek at the BBC Proms or Rusalka by Dvořák, The Bartered Bride by Smetana and Juliette of Martinů at the Opera National de Paris in 2005 and 2006 and at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2007 and 2009. This expertise is reflected in Jiří Bělohlávek’s discography: not long before his death he released the complete symphonies of Dvořák for DECCA with the Czech Philharmonic. He also recorded The Bartered Bride (Harmonia Mundi), and the Česká rapsodie by Martinů (BIS) and by composer Josef Suk (Supraphon) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Six landmark dates in the life of Jiří Bělohlávek

1970 first prize at the National Czech Competition of orchestra conducting

1990 named musical director of the Czech Philharmonic

1993 founded the Prague Philharmonia

2004 made his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera

2006-2012 main conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra

2012 named director of the Czech Philharmonic