It was with deep sorrow that we received the news about the passing of our beloved conductor, a man whose footsteps we have followed for 23 years until this very sad day. Jiří Bělohlávek stood with us when we made our first steps, and then - at the right time - he let us go and run independently to face life in its true dimension. We shall forever remember you, our dear Professor, with love and respect, and with pride we shall pass on your legacy to future generations. It was a great honour for all of us at the PKF to be part of your life.
With all our love to you and your family, Yours ‘Philharmonics’ from the PKF – Prague Philharmonia
The beginnings of the Prague Chamber Philharmonics
One day, a regular lesson given by Jiří Bělohlávek was attended by one of his best students, the talented violinist Tomáš Hanus. Like a bolt from the blue, Hanus asked Bělohlávek whether he could occasionally lend a hand with “a small student orchestra...” The very first encounter must have been like an apparition for both parties. A famous conductor and nameless students. “ How will he surprise us? Will he be better than Abbado?” The students eagerly listened to his first words, trying to read from his gestures and face.
For Bělohlávek, the orchestra was a balm for his soul. He saw open eyes and hearts, keen young musicians swallowing each and every of his instructions and, what’s more, imploring: “More, more! Wring us out, require the impossible, we want to be the best and we believe we will become the best with you!” After a long day’s work in a barn smelling of hay and hot summer sun, Bělohlávek and the students sat by the fire. Just like the first, the second gathering in Machov too was replete with music, as well as laughter, swimming and evening campfires. And consonance.
Wasn’t this consonance precisely that which Bělohlávek had been seeking for such a long time? How come that after all the years he had only found a truly professional approach here, among the young musicians, fledgling professionals, professionals in the right sense of the word? Would it make sense for him to connect his artistic path with theirs?
Great successes were garnered at the first few concerts the ensemble gave – under the title New Czech Chamber Orchestra – under the baton of Tomáš Hanus or Jiří Bělohlávek, who nodded in approval. It was 1993 and the future chief conductor kneaded in his hands a material he had long dreamt of. The idea had materialised and his soul finally began sucking in oxygen. His appetite was whetted.
Jiří Bělohlávek was for me a man who could combine meticulousness, honesty, diligence and noble behaviour. We have lost an artist who has shaped a great generation of musicians, passing on his legacy and art. We at the PKF are proud to be part of this bequest and we will carry it on.
Radim Otépka, Director of the PKF
The last meeting of Jiří Bělohlávek with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia on 7 May 2017 in Polička. Jiří Bělohlávek greets Jan Fišer, the PKF concert master whom he appointed in 2004 to lead the orchestra
Jan Fišer Remembers (concert master of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia)
I always perceived Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek as a great authority of the entire world of music. Already as a student I used to meet him at the Conservatoire at his concerts. In 2004, then as chief conductor of the Prague Chamber Philharmonic (today PKF - Prague Philharmonia), he appointed me as the new concert master of the orchestra and thanks to that I could look into his ‘creative kitchen’. He influenced most of all my perception of a composition’s structure, and impressive was his perseverance in working with details and the orchestra’s sound and colour balance. It was a great school and inspiration for my musical thinking and further development. His clear and distinct style was immediately noticeable in any orchestra with which he worked. He always demanded the best from other musicians, first of all himself. Jiří Bělohlávek was a noble man with a specific sense of humour. He enjoyed being with young people, musicians, and always gave them encouragement and support. Maestro, we shall miss you!