Czech conductor Libor Pešek dies aged 89

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Czech conductor Libor Pešek, best known for his ten-year tenure as principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO), died yesterday at the age of 89.

Pešek was principal conductor of the RLPO from 1987 to 1997, before becoming a laureate conductor. At the time of his death he was also the principal guest conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Pešek conducts Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2014

Born in Prague in June 1933, he studied conducting, piano, cello and trombone at the city’s Academy of Performing Arts and counted among his teachers conductors Václav Smetáček and Karel Ančerl.

In addition to his role in Liverpool, he was Chief Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 to 1982 and, from 1982 to 1990, Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He also served as conductor of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra from 2007 to 2019.

During a 70-year career in which he traveled Europe, America and Asia, he defended the music of his native country and in particular the works of lesser known composers such as Josef Suk and Vitezslav Novak.

Sandra Parr, RLPO Art Planning Director shared his memories:

“Without a doubt, he elevated the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to international heights as principal conductor for ten seasons from 1987. I remember clearly my first tour with the Orchestra in October 1988, when he took the Orchestra to Prague and, to quote him, “to show his newfound love” to his home town. Taking on an orchestra before the Velvet Revolution was not an easy task but his determination prevailed, and it was a great success. From there, the happy relationship between Libor and Liverpool developed.

“His life philosophy was basically to enjoy it and share that pleasure with friends. He addressed everyone as a colleague in the warmest and most friendly way that everyone who met him immediately loved him… The sparkle in his eyes, his generous friendship and his music sincere will be missed by thousands, especially his friends in Liverpool.

In March 1996, Queen Elizabeth II made Pešek a Knight of the British Empire, and in 1997 he received the first year of the Czech Medal of Merit and an honorary scholarship from the University of Central Lancashire.

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