50 years since death of legendary Czech conductor Karel Ančerl

Karel Ančerl

July 3 marks 50 years since the death of the phenomenal Czech conductor Karel Ančerl. Ančerl was a Holocaust survivor, artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic for 18 years, and later a 1968 emigré to Canada.

Karel Ančerl's career was developing promisingly even before the Second World War, when he became the conductor at the popular Prague Osvobozené Theatre.

Karel Ančerl | Photo: Radioservis

But the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Hitler's Germany, as for most people of Jewish origin, brought great hardship to Ančerl. Being dismissed from his post and having his family property confiscated was just the beginning.

He and his family were sent to the Jewish ghetto in Terezín, and then deported to Auschwitz in October 1944. Ančerl survived, but tragically his wife and young son did not.

After the war, he became artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic, turning it into a world-class orchestra. In 1968, he accepted an offer to become chief conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a post he kept until failing health and an early death suddenly ended his brilliant career in 1973.

Ančerl was known as a connoisseur and promoter of 20th century music. He enthusiastically performed works by composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Schönberg, Bartók and Martinů in concert halls around the world. It probably comes as no surprise that for today's Sunday Music Show we have chosen Bohuslav Martinů's Symphony No. 3 performed by the Czech Philharmonic under his direction.

Karel Ančerl | Photo: The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
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