The future is looking very exciting for the BBC Symphony Orchestra under their new Chief Conductor, Jiri Belohlavek (left), who officially takes up his position in July this year. The orchestra recently had a somewhat acrimonious divorce from its previous Chief Conductor American Leonard Slatkin. Speaking about his departure the BBC Orchestra's General Manager Paul Hughes said diplomatically: " Leonard has many strengths which haven't been fully developed here. The chemistry didn't always make for the kind of music-making that we and Leonard would have liked."
Slatkin was more bellicose in an interview in the London Evening Standard saying: "The difference between running an orchestra in America and here is that in America you are totally in charge. I'm used to taking responsibility. Here, I was not responsible for choosing guest conductors and soloists, even for some of my own programmes. Did I really want to conduct a whole weekend of Schnittke?" I wonder what another former BBC Symphony Chief Conductor, Pierre Boulez, would have said about conducting a whole weekend of Schnittke? - but I digress.
Jiří Bělohlávek should provide a very welcome counterbalance to the increasingly influential Anglo/American orchestral axis with its penchant for the latest avant-garde tricks. As well as bringing real strength in the core symphonic repertoire he is also a specialist in the better known composers, such as Dvorak, Martinu and Janacek, from his native Czechoslovakia. The even better news is that Bělohlávek is also promising to programme contemporary Czech music, and his repertoire includes Milan Slavicky's Requiem which he premiered with the Czech Philharmonic.
If you want to find out how good Bělohlávek is in the core symphonic repertoire, listen to his interpretation of Mahler's Ninth Symphony with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on Monday evening (27th Feb) on BBC Radio 3 at 7.30pm GMT (convert programme time to your local time zone via this link), or via 'listen again'. Those who were there when the recording was made reported a very special experience indeed, saying: "Gustav Mahler wrote his great 9th Symphony in 1909 with his marriage and his health failing, and there is little room for comfort or solace in the music. Yet at the end of this visionary account of the symphony at the Barbican in December, there was a feeling of hope, a glimpse of heaven."
Web resources: Jiří Bělohlávek biography * Belohlavek's orchestral rhapsody in Norwich ... * BBC orchestra's problem with accents ... * BBC Symphony Orchestra * Pierre Boulez *
Photo of Jiří Bělohlávek from IMG Artists
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to * Marvellous Má Vlast - Czech it out * New music * The Year is '72 *