Director of Prague Spring Music festival dies aged 44

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And now on a sad note - it was announced in Prague last night that the Director of the Prague Spring International Music Festival, Oleg Podgorny, passed away. In the following report, Olga Szantova pays tribute to his life and work.

Oleg Podgorny's death came as a shock to both the Czech and international musical world. On the day a stroke ended his life at the age of 44, he was due to meet the new head of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Podgorny was busy with preparations for next year's Prague Spring Music Festival, a well known international annual event which he had been organising since 1990. The last ten years have been a very difficult period for all cultural projects in the country, since they could no longer rely on full state support, including financial backing which used to simplify things during the old communist regime. Oleg Podgorny managed to overcome the numerous difficulties presented by the new free market conditions, and experts agree that it was largely thanks to him that that this country's oldest and most prestigious international music festival flourished. True, some of his steps connected with the financial aspects of running the festival were criticised at the time, but nobody disputes the fact that under Mr Podgorny's leadership, the Prague Spring Music Festival has been highly successful. Replacing him will not be easy.

But Oleg Podgorny will not be missed only on the musical scene. He was also very active among the descendants of former Russian refugees, the children and grandchildren of people who fled the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and found a new life in Czechoslovakia. Oleg Podgorny's grandfather was one of those refugees, as he told Radio Prague.

Oleg Podgorny and others like him formed an organisation with the aim of trying to trace the fate of relatives who were arrested by the Russians after 1945. He was one of the main organisers, and the last time I spoke with him, just a few weeks ago, he was full of plans for the organisation. Now, others will have to take his place.

Author: Olga Szantová
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