Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was born in Prague on 24 February 1946, learning piano then cello and also singing in choirs when young. He was conducting choirs as early as fourteen. Later he studied at the Prague Conservatoire and at the Academy of Performing Arts in the same city, followed by two years' conducting studies with Sergiu Celibidache.
He won the Czech National Conducting Competition in 1970, and became assistant conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra for two years. He then conducted the Brno Philharmonic on foreign tours (1972-78) and was then chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977-89).
He became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic for a short period in 1990, resigning in 1992 after the orchestra voted to replace him with Gerd Albrecht. Instead he founded the Prague Philharmonia in 1993 and served as its music director until 2005.
From 1995 until 2000 he was principal guest conductor then from 2005 until 2012 chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He also conducted at New York Metropolitan Opera, at Glyndebourne and in Rotterdam.
In 1997 he was apppointed professor of conducting at the Prague Academy of Music, and in 1998 he became principal guest conductor of the Prague National Theatre.
He became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (again) in 2012, and in January 2017 his contract was renewed until the 2021-22 season, in spite of speculation about his medical condition. On 31 May 2017 Jiří Bělohlávek died following a long illness, aged seventy-one.
A selection of M&V articles about Jirí Belohlávek
CD Spotlight. Mostly Excellent - Smetana's 'The Bartered Bride', heard by Stephen Francis Vasta. '... a fine performance ...'
Ensemble. A Sonorous Feast - Music-making by Cédric Tiberghien, Jirí Belohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. A Glowing Performance - The Czech Philharmonic on tour, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Profile. Life and experience - The Czech conductor Jirí Belohlávek talks to Roderic Dunnett