The Czech Philharmonic, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last season, continues to delight audiences around the globe with its unique qualities, and to take its place amongst the world’s finest orchestras. At the helm of this great Czech cultural institution is Chief Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, who has led the orchestra on highly successful tours of the USA, China, Japan, Europe and the UK. The orchestra has received great acclaim for its recent Dvořák recordings for Decca.
The Czech Philharmonic has an illustrious heritage. Dvořák conducted the orchestra in its inaugural performance on 4 January 1896 at the Rudolfinum, the stunning venue on the banks of the Vltava which is still home to its Prague concerts, and now also the centre for its Orchestral Academy. The Academy is just one of numerous successful outreach projects, including competitions for soloists and composers, through which the Czech Philharmonic shares its passion and artistry with people of all ages and backgrounds, preparing the way for the next generation of both performers and audience alike.
Great conductors are a theme in the orchestra’s history. Gustav Mahler conducted the Czech Philharmonic for the world premiere of his Symphony No. 7 in Prague in 1908. The orchestra’s international reputation grew under the direction of Václav Talich, the energetic leadership of Rafael Kubelík helped steer the Czech Philharmonic through the difficult wartime years, and in the post-war era of Karel Ančerl it embarked on a busy touring schedule. Following a period of varied fortunes after the Velvet Revolution, today a rejuvenated Czech Philharmonic orchestra is heard at the most prestigious concert halls and festivals, including the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, concerts at the Philharmonie in Berlin, a residency at the Musikverein in Vienna, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Carnegie Hall in New York and the NCPA in Beijing.
International appearances in the 2016/17 season include the Grafenegg and Rheingau festivals, opening the Beethovenfest Bonn, touring to China and Taiwan, further tours to the Benelux countries, to Germany and France, to Scandinavia and to South America.
The orchestra is privileged to work with the world’s finest soloists including Joshua Bell, Hélène Grimaud, Janine Jansen and Anne-Sophie Mutter. It also welcomes distinguished guest conductors, including recent and forthcoming collaborations with, among others, Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Jurowski, Fabio Luisi and Jaap van Zweden.
The Czech Philharmonic has an ongoing relationship with Decca and was recently joined by soloists Garrick Ohlsson, Frank Peter Zimmermann and Alisa Weilerstein to record Dvořák’s three concertos, under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek, which were released in June 2014, together with the orchestra’s recent audio recordings of the composer’s nine symphonies. For release in autumn 2016 will be Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances with Jiří Bělohlávek, and future releases include key works of the Czech repertoire such as Smetana’s Má vlast, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and Suk’s Asrael. A recording of complete symphonies of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with Semyon Bychkov alongside his ‘Beloved Friend’ project will also be released.
The orchestra’s reputation for performing the music of its homeland is peerless, and under Bělohlávek the Czech Philharmonic remains committed to its heritage and to bringing lesser-known Czech repertoire to international audiences. At the same time, the orchestra’s range is ever-expanding and the musicians bring their unique national sound and musicianship to repertoire encompassing the early Classical period through the Romantic period to contemporary composers.
The Czech Philharmonic has received numerous awards and nominations, including ten Grands Prix du Disque de l'Académie Charles-Cros, five Grand Prix du Disque de l'Académie française, several Cannes Classical Awards, a position in Gramophone’s Top 20 Best Orchestras in the World (2008), as well as nominations for Grammy and Gramophone Awards. A concert performance of Martinů’s What men live by was nominated for a 2015 International Opera Award.
The Czech Philharmonic has an ongoing co-collaboration with Unitel and Czech Television. Nine programmes, each featuring a full performance of one of Dvořák’s symphonies, were shown by the national broadcaster in 2014, a new programme will feature Smetana’s Má vlast and all are available on DVD through Euroarts. The orchestra has also produced a documentary for Czech Television – in association with Rhombus Media – about Dvořák, Jiří Bělohlávek, and the current work of the Czech Philharmonic, directed by Barbara Willis Sweete.