BIOGRAPHY: Czech Philharmonic, Jiří Bělohlávek and Jean-Yves Thibaudet

BIOGRAPHY: Czech Philharmonic, Jiří Bělohlávek and Jean-Yves Thibaudet 2014-06-27T15:04:59+00:00

CZECH PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRAFor over a century, the Czech Philharmonic has represented the pinnacle of Czech cultural achievement, delighting audiences across the globe with its warm, vibrant sound. Antonín Dvořák conducted the Czech Philharmonic in its debut performance on 4 January 1896 at the Rudolfinum in Prague, which is still home to the orchestra’s Prague concerts, and is now the centre for its new Orchestral Academy.

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 (Chief Conductor, 1919-1931/1933-1941), with whom it made its first phonograph recording in 1929, of Smetana’s Má Vlast, for His Master’s Voice.

Talich was followed by other outstanding Czech conductors, including Rafael Kubelík (1942-1948) and Karel Ančerl (1950-1968). It was under Ančerl’s leadership that the Czech Philharmonic embarked on its busy and varied touring schedule. The orchestra performs in the world’s most prestigious concert halls, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Musikverein in Vienna, Philharmonie in Berlin, Royal Festival Hall in London and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. Notable festival appearances include the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Berliner Festspiele, Lucerne Festival and Salzburger Festspiele.

The Czech Philharmonic’s Chief Conductor between 1968 and 1990 was the great Václav Neumann. In a review of 2011, Classic FM Magazine described a vintage recording of the Czech Philharmonic performing with Neumann as ‘unforgettable music-making.’ Neumann worked closely with Jiří Bělohlávek who, in the role of guest conductor, forged a dynamic relationship with the Czech Philharmonic.

Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in 1990. In the wake of Bělohlávek’s outstanding achievements with the orchestra, Gerd Albrecht, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Zdeněk Mácal and Eliahu Inbal have taken the role of Chief Conductor. As of 2012, this journey has come full circle: in a much-anticipated reunion, Jiří Bělohlávek makes a welcome return as Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Of this reunion, Jiří Bělohlávek has stated:

‘The Czech Philharmonic is a first-rate brand and is recognised in the world as a prestigious orchestra. I would like to return it back to its traditions of hard work and high artistic aspirations, to achieve the level that our best orchestra merits. Most of all I would like to give the Czech Philharmonic once again the joy of music.’

The partnership between Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic is among the most celebrated in the orchestra’s history. Together they have given significant world-premieres, including works by Jan Klusák and Milan Slavický, as well as critically-acclaimed performances of famous Czech works and the mainstream orchestral repertoire. The Naxos label wrote of Bělohlávek’s discography:

‘His most outstanding recordings are those in which he leads the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, where the high calibre of orchestral execution and Bělohlávek’s deep musicianship result in performances of exceptional quality.’

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.

The Czech Philharmonic has welcomed as Principal Guest Conductor some of the world’s foremost interpreters of the orchestral repertoire, including the late Sir Charles Mackerras. With Mackerras, the Czech Philharmonic made numerous definitive recordings which garnered effusive reviews in the international press. Of the Czech Philharmonic’s recording of Suk’s Asrael Symphony, The Sunday Times noted, in 2011, ‘… the advantage of an orchestra that has lived and breathed this music for 100 years.’ Of the same disc, The Financial Times wrote:

‘The Czech Philharmonic’s live performance breathes a conviction and beneath-the-skin rapture that you won’t find in any other recording.’

To be thus described in 2011 demonstrates an orchestra returning to the high standards of its golden age, in exceptional performances which are attracting international recognition. Under the baton of the inimitable Jiří Bělohlávek from 2012, the Czech Philharmonic looks forward to entering a new era, combining tradition with innovation as an orchestra at the height of its powers.

© Joanna Wyld, 2012

The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra’s last performed for La Jolla Music Society in the Celebrity Orchestra Series on February 24, 2008.

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Jiøí Bìlohlávek Conductor Photo_c Vaclav Jirasek200x200
Jiří Bělohlávek was born in Prague in 1946. His love of music became apparent at an early age, encouraged by his father, a judge, who
introduced his son to an array of classical music. At the age of four, Jiří joined a children’s choir, and was soon taking piano lessons.
Jiří Bělohlávek went on to learn the cello with Professor Karel Pravoslav Sádlo before continuing his studies at the Prague Conservatory and
at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. It was during these years that Jiří Bělohlávek began conducting in earnest, receiving instruction
from Robert Brock, Alois Klíma, Bohumír Liška and Josef Veselka.

In 1968, the legendary Rumanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache invited Jiří Bělohlávek to become his assistant, a collaboration which
culminated in Bělohlávek winning the Czech Young Conductors’ Competition in 1970, as well as reaching the final of the prestigious Herbert
von Karajan Conducting Competition in 1971. It was in 1973 that Bělohlávek began conducting the Czech Philharmonic to great acclaim; the
start of his long relationship with the orchestra. Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Conductor of the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra in 1972,
a position he held until 1978. He then became Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, a partnership which lasted until 1989,
and Permanent Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Václav Neumann, the latter orchestra’s Chief Conductor (between 1968 and 1990)
brought him to Berlin’s Komische Oper in 1979, where he debuted with Smetana’s The Secret. Bělohlávek went on to conduct Stravinsky’s
The Rake’s Progress there in 1980.

A decade later, Jiří Bělohlávek succeeded Václav Neumann as Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. He built upon the orchestra’s
already established reputation for excellence, particularly in its interpretations of Czech music, and became part of a long line of esteemed
Czech conductors to direct the orchestra: Václav Talich, Rafael Kubelík, Karel Ančerl, and his immediate predecessor Václav Neumann.

In 1994, Jiří Bělohlávek founded the Prague Philharmonia, whom he directed until 2005, when he became its Conductor Laureate. Alongside
his work with this ensemble, Jiří Bělohlávek has conducted the world’s major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony
Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, New York Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Philadephia Orchestra,
Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, appearing at festivals including Berlin, Edinburgh, Lucerne,
Montreaux, Perth, Prague, Salzburg and Tanglewood.

In 1994 Jiří Bělohlávek was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Prague National Theatre; then in 1995 he became the BBC Symphony
Orchestra’s Guest Conductor, later becoming its Chief Conductor in 2006. Alongside these positions, Jiří Bělohlávek has continued his
prestigious work in the world of opera, with acclaimed productions at Berlin, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the Metropolitan Opera in New
York and many more.

In parallel with these roles, Jiří Bělohlávek has become a respected teacher of conducting. He was appointed Professor at the Prague
Academy in 1997, and until 2009 was Director of the Department of Conducting. His protégés include the young Czech conductors Tomáš
Hanus, Jakub Hrůša and Tomáš Netopil.

As Chairman of the Prague Spring International Music Festival, Jiří Bělohlávek has consistently championed the music of Czech composers.
His special affinity with the music of Bohuslav Martinů has been instrumental in bringing that master to the world’s attention, and Bělohlávek
has also taken the more rarely-performed works of Dvořák, Janáček, Smetana and Suk and to new audiences. Furthermore, he has
programmed pieces by Czech composers deserving of greater attention, including Foerster, Ostrčil, Slavický and Sommer.
Jiří Bělohlávek has an extensive discography, and, as the Naxos label noted:

‘His most outstanding recordings are those in which he leads the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, where the high calibre of orchestral
execution and Bělohlávek’s deep musicianship result in performances of exceptional quality.’

In May 2012 Jiří Bělohlávek was awarded the title CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) ‘for services to music’
by the Queen Elizabeth II. In the Czech Republic he was awarded the First Grade Medal of Merit for service to the Republic.

In a much-anticipated reunion, Jiří Bělohlávek returns as Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic from 2012. The outstanding
musicianship of the Czech Philharmonic under Bělohlávek’s inspiring direction makes this a truly exciting collaboration. As an internationallyacclaimed
conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek will direct the Czech Philharmonic on the international stage, taking the orchestra forwards in musicmaking
which has already won great acclaim, and which is sure to do so in the future.

© Joanna Wyld, 2012

This performance marks Jiří Bělohlávek’s La Jolla Music Society debut.

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One of today’s most sought-after soloists, Jean-Yves Thibaudet has the rare ability to combine poetic musical sensibilities and dazzling technical prowess. His talent at coaxing subtle and surprising colors and textures from each work he plays led The New York Times to write that “every note he fashions is a pearl…the joy, brilliance and musicality of his performance could not be missed.” Thibaudet, who brings natural charisma and remarkable musical depth to his career, has performed around the world for more than 30 years and recorded more than 50 albums.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s 2014-2015 season is an intriguing combination of a wide variety of music: a balance of orchestral appearances, chamber music, and recitals and a repertoire that includes familiar pieces, unfamiliar work by well-known composers, and new compositions. He also follows his passion for education and fostering the next generation of performers by becoming the first-ever resident artist at the Colburn School of Los Angeles this year and the following two. Summer 2014 sees him touring with Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Lucerne Festival, and the Ljubljana Festival. Mr. Thibaudet then travels to play Gershwin paired with a new piano concerto “Er Huang” by Quigang Chen with Long Yu conducting to open the China Philharmonic season in Beijing—a program both artists will repeat in Paris with the Orchestre de Paris. In October, with the Philadelphia Orchestra and its Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, he performs the Khachaturian Piano Concerto, which he also plays in the spring with the Cincinnati Symphony and on tour in Germany and Austria with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under the baton of Tugan Sohkiev. After concerts in Prague, Mr. Thibaudet embarks on a US tour with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in November, reaching both East and West coasts with a grand finale at Carnegie Hall, where he performs Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The end of the year is a whirlwind of Gershwin, Ravel, and Liszt with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

In the new year, audiences can hear Mr. Thibaudet play MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which he premiered in 2011, with the St. Louis Symphony and New York Philharmonic, both conducted by Stéphane Denève, and then Liszt with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Naples Philharmonic. After playing a duo recital with Gautier Capuçon in his native France at the Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence, Mr. Thibaudet returns to the United States to play Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major—one of his signature pieces from the French repertoire for which he is renowned—with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink’s direction, in addition to Poulenc and Fauré with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. Under Michael Tilson’s Thomas’s baton, he performs Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety in San Francisco, where he celebrates Thomas’s 70th birthday earlier in the year by playing the Liszt Hexaméron with Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Yuja Wang, and Marc-André Hamelin. Mr. Thibaudet performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic before interpreting both the Ravel Piano Concerto and Messiaen’s Turangalîla with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen as part of the orchestra’s 2015 Reveries and Passions Festival. He then travels to Europe to perform with the Frankfurter Museumsorchester (Venzago), Dresden Philharmonic (de Billy), and the Munich Philharmonic (Bychkov), among others, before ending the season in dramatic fashion with Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Orchestre de L’Opéra de Paris under the baton of Music Director Philippe Jordan.

A distinguished recording artist, Jean-Yves Thibaudet has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and won the Schallplattenpreis, the Diapason d’Or, Choc du Monde de la Musique, a Gramophone Award, two Echo awards, and the Edison Prize. In 2010 he released Gershwin, featuring big jazz band orchestrations of Rhapsody in Blue, variations on “I Got Rhythm,” and Concerto in F live with the Baltimore Symphony and music director Marin Alsop. On his Grammy-nominated recording Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerti Nos. 2&5, released in 2007, Thibaudet is joined by long-standing collaborator Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Thibaudet’s Aria—Opera Without Words, which was released the same year, features transcriptions of arias by Saint-Saëns, R. Strauss, Gluck, Korngold, Bellini, J. Strauss II, Grainger, and Puccini; some of the transcriptions are by Mikhashoff, Sgambati, and Brassin, and others are Thibaudet’s own. Among his other recordings are Satie: The Complete Solo Piano Music and the jazz albums Reflections on Duke: Jean-Yves Thibaudet Plays the Music of Duke Ellington and Conversations With Bill Evans, his tribute to two of jazz history’s legends.

Known for his style and elegance on and off the traditional concert stage, Thibaudet has had an impact on the world of fashion, film and philanthropy. His concert wardrobe is by celebrated London designer Vivienne Westwood. In 2004 he served as president of the prestigious Hospices de Beaune, an annual charity auction in Burgundy, France. He had an onscreen cameo in the Bruce Beresford feature film on Alma Mahler, Bride of the Wind, and his playing is showcased throughout the soundtrack. Thibaudet was the soloist on Dario Marianelli’s Oscar- and Golden Globe-award winning score for the film Atonement and his Oscar-nominated score for Pride and Prejudice. He recorded the soundtrack of the 2012 film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, composed by Alexandre Desplat. He was also featured in the 2000 PBS/Smithsonian special Piano Grand!, a piano performance program hosted by Billy Joel to pay tribute to the 300th anniversary of the piano.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet was born in Lyon, France, where he began his piano studies at age five and made his first public appearance at age seven. At twelve, he entered the Paris Conservatory to study with Aldo Ciccolini and Lucette Descaves, a friend and collaborator of Ravel. At age fifteen, he won the Premier Prix du Conservatoire and, three years later, the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York City. In 2001 the Republic of France awarded Thibaudet the prestigious Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2002 he was awarded the Premio Pegasus from the Spoleto Festival in Italy for his artistic achievements and his long-standing involvement with the festival. In 2007 he received the Victoire d’Honneur, a lifetime career achievement award and the highest honor given by France’s Victoires de la Musique. The Hollywood Bowl honored Thibaudet for his musical achievements by inducting him into its Hall of Fame in 2010. Previously a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Thibaudet was promoted to the title of Officier by the French Minister of Culture in 2012.

Mr. Thibaudet’s worldwide representation: IMG Artists, LLC
Mr. Thibaudet records exclusively for Decca Records

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Jean-Yves Thibaudet last performed for La Jolla Music Society in the Piano Series on January 8, 2000.

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