Czech Philharmonic eyes Luisi in long wish-list

Czech Philharmonic eyes Luisi in long wish-list


norman lebrecht

June 26, 2017

Three preferred names have emerged in the Czech Philharmonic’s urgent search for a music director to replace the late Jiří Bělohlávek.

Top of the pile are Jaap Van Zweden, Marin Alsop and Fabio Luisi (pictured), according to local press reports. There is some confusion about the role of Semyon Bychkov who, in the week of Bělohlávek’s death was due to be named principal guest conductor, and feelers have  also been put out to the British conductor, John Eliot Gardiner.

Also mentioned are local favourites Jakub Hrusa, now with the Bamberg Symphony, and Tomáš Netopil.

The Czech position is prestigious, poorly paid and often parlous.


  • Adrian Clark says:

    Let’s hope another native, Czech, conductor is appointed.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Totally agree. Unless there were non-Czech conductors with a deep understanding of Czech music, like the late Charles Mackerras. But are there any?

      • Thornhill says:

        Why should the Czech Philharmonic be pigeonholed into only playing Czech music?

        They should get the best possible conductor. If that person isn’t a Czech music expert then hire a principal guest conductor who is to help keep the tradition alive.

        Let’s also stop pretending that only Czech conductors conducting Czech orchestras can deliver idiomatic performances of Czech composers. As Mackerras proved, nationality has nothing to do with this. Just look at Edward Gardner’s recent Janacek recordings with the Bergen Philharmonic.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          I agree that nationality is not a pre-requisite and don’t think they should play only Czech music. But when they do, why not keep doing best what they are famous for? An analogous situation is with Chailly at La Scala. Chailly is good at many things, but Italian opera is undoubtedly one of his strengths.

          • Thornhill says:

            Because it is artistically stifling to be stuck mainly playing music by the same handful of composers because you’ve allowed yourself to be pigeonholed. When they go on tour I’m sure presenting organizations always request that they perform Dvorak, Martinu, Janacek, Suk, etc., as if the orchestra is an anthropological exhibit.

            Again, they shouldn’t limit their search to someone who is Czech for some silly notion that only a Czech can deliver idiomatic performances of certain repertoire, and that’s all the Czech Philharmonic should be doing.

    • Michael says:


      • MacroV says:

        @ Thornhill. If only promoters were asking them to play Janacek and Suk. Most of the time it’s Dvorak, especially New World. Yes, the Czech Philharmonic should be coming to Carnegie playing Mahler and Messiaen (both of which they showed this year they play very, very well), but they should also come playing Suk’s Asrael or concert performances of Janacek operas – because nobody else will.

  • Nick says:

    With the New York Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic and guesting in the Netherlands and elsewhere, how on earth could JvZ find the time unless he breaks his HKPO contract which runs till summer 2022?

  • MacroV says:

    Van Zweden? Kinda busy, and at least in the three years that I’ve been here, I don’t believe he’s conducted here (maybe once, but if so, I missed it).

    Bychkov has been coming 1-2 weeks a year recently, and is recording a well-received Tchaikovsky cycle; his last program a week after Belohlavek’s death was astoundingly good.

    I haven’t seen Alsop or Luisi here in the past three years, though Luisi is scheduled for Bruckner 8 this coming season.

    Hrusa seems like he’s inevitable – the next great Czech conductor, but he’s still pretty young so maybe even he would say “not yet.”

    In any case, it’s a magnificent orchestra that deserves a top-class leader, and yes, someone who can do Czech music well – someone needs to be out there promoting Janacek and Martinu, especially.

  • Charles M. McFee says:

    What about Honeck?

    A very warm relationship between him and the orchestra while being principal guest conductor, and I know from several members of the orchestra he’s being kept in the highest regard.


    • Bogda says:

      Fully agree, that would be my top pick. I’ve enjoyed immensely every single concert he played with the Orchestra.

  • John Kelly says:

    I saw/heard Hrusa with the NYPO a few weeks ago and was extremely impressed by him. Wonderful Slavonic Dances and Taras Bulba. The orchestra really liked him and applauded him. This is not exactly typical NYPO behaviour…………I would give him the job if I were the Czech Phil.

    Fabio Luisi is one of my favorite conductors, loved his work at the Met, but I am uncertain whether he has the repertoire in Czech music that this orchestra would expect. They nurture their national identity intensely – which is why they remain a great and distinctive orchestra. Most of the players are Czech. I always go hear them when they come to New York but many New Yorkers don’t realize they are a truly great orchestra………………

  • Pietro Tristano says:

    For this position I tip on Ion Marin.

  • Pedro says:

    Luisi has or will have jobs in Zurich, Copenhagen and Florence…

  • Bogda says:

    Hopefully not Hrusa. I know he’s Belohlavek’s protege, but he still to young and most of the concerts he conducted with the orchestra were mediocre at best. Maybe he has the potential (not sure) but it’s way to early.

    Orchestra has developed so much under Belohlavek over the last few years and seasons have become truly amazing. It really is a world class orchestra, and deserves a world class music director.

  • Wiener says:

    Hoffentlich ein Tscheche!