Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek dies aged 71
The esteemed Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek died on Thursday at the age of 71, according to a statement posted by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The gifted musical maestro was a celebrated name in the world of classical music both at home and abroad.
Jiří Bělohlávek was a conductor and musician whose varied career included serving twice as chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. His first stint ended in 1992 after just a year following a highly controversial and tumultuous reorganization of the orchestra. But, in 2012, Bělohlávek returned to this esteemed position, based in the opulent neo-renaissance Rudolfinum building in the centre of historic Prague, serving as chief conductor until his death.
Jiří Bělohlávek was born in 1946 in Prague, and studied conducting – and also playing the violoncello – at the Prague Conservatory. In the early seventies he won a number of young conductor’s competitions, and then gained a long-term post at the Brno Philharmonic under principal conductor Jiří Waldhans. After that he became chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, remaining in this post from 1977-1989.
After being booted out of the Czech Philharmonic in 1992, he founded the rival Prague Philharmonia, which is still going strong under its fourth chief conductor, the Frenchman Emmanuel Villaume.
In addition to conducting, Jiří Bělohlávek also taught music at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and received an honorary doctorate from this institution in 2016.
The Czech Philharmonic praised Bělohlávek’s all-too-brief second stint as chief conductor, saying he had brought it considerable success and helped the orchestra to consolidate its reputation both at home and abroad. Bělohlávek was contracted to remain as chief conductor until 2022. His second stint with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was, in the conductor’s own words, to be his final engagement. He is survived by a wife and two daughters.