Jiří Bělohlávek’s achievements in numbers:

      • Repertoire comprising 1684 compositions
      • Conducting 8917 works in 3002 concerts
      • Conducting 445 opera productions
      • Recording 759 works released on 470 carriers (LP, CD, DVD and VHS)
      • Collaborating with 222 orchestras, 132 choirs, 837 singers and 784 solo instrumentalists

The statistical data compiled, published and shared by Alexander Goldscheider © Citing from his book Jiří Bělohlávek: A Life in Pictures. [ 1 ]


One could easily refer to Bělohlávek’s professional career spanning more than forty-five years as a service to Czech music. The most visible and easily grasped was his role of conductor in which he guided both Czech and international ensembles through many exquisite concerts and opera performances. And there was also his role as music director and chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, PKF – Prague Philharmonia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic and his extensive discography comprising hundreds of releases.

He had a fantastically conceptual approach to all he did, he always knew exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it. And another thing was how consistent, thorough, and extremely hard-working he was. He was able to set an example to many musicians in the orchestra of how well prepared and focused he was and how together with them he always wanted to create something of value and high quality.

— Jiří Hlaváč / Český rozhlas 2012 [ 2 ]

Another dimension of Bělohlávek’s professional life was his continuous care for the legacy of Czech composers and their promotion at home and in the world. His mission was to present the masterpieces and lesser-known compositions by Bohuslav Martinů, Leoš Janáček, Josef Suk and, of course, Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, as well as by contemporary Czech composers such as Petr Eben and Vladimír Sommer.

Bělohlávek’s cultivation of the legacy of these masters was manifested also in his membership of, and active participation in various societies and initiatives focused on spreading the fame of Czech music and its protagonists. He was a long-serving president of The Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music in Great Britain; in the 1990s, he supported a project to renovate the house where Gustav Mahler was born in Kaliště u Humpolce; and in 2014 he conducted a concert honouring the opera singer Jarmila Novotná.

His efforts directed at preserving the tradition and legacy of the past went hand in hand with his support for the development of young talented musicians. This he did in many ways: through teaching conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (1995 – 2009), through working with, and conducting many student orchestras, through his genuine interest in the lives and careers of young musicians including the provision of professional feedback, direction and advice.

Jiří Bělohlávek was a person who opened the door for others. Not only with the help of his well-known name but, most importantly, by inviting colleagues to co-operate on his projects with orchestras and opera houses in the Czech Republic and abroad. Whenever he could, he was always happy to give the opportunity to young conductors, instrumentalists, singers, composers, record producers and other professions in the recording industry who met his high professional standards. The talented young professional artists usually made good use of such support.

Jiří Bělohlávek was the one who actually discovered me. He was the first to summon me back from Germany. In 1986, he invited me to work on Sommer’s Vocal Symphony with the Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK. And I also got to singing Gustav Mahler thanks to him; under Bělohlávek’s baton I sang the alto solo in the Second Symphony for the first time - this was in Leipzig.

— Dagmar Pecková / 1996 [ 3 ]

Bělohlávek’s activities aimed at not only music professionals but also the audience. He perceived intensively, in a rare way, the educational aspects of music and its ability to contribute to the refinement of human beings. He wanted to present classical music as a living art to listeners young and old, trying to rid them of the prejudice and reserve springing from the presumed inaccessibility of such music. He was open to new educative methods and willing to take part in the educational programmes of the Czech Philharmonic for children and adults. He thus took up the role of a knowledgeable guide though classical music (the Orchestra Rehearsal programme) – the wizard Bělokněžník in the white cloak, who was there to show children what a magic wand/baton could do (Carnival at the Rudolfinum concert hall).

The Bělokněžník wizard’s cloak

I was nervous about presenting this idea to Mr. Bělohlávek. But he really surprised me. He read the script and told me he had no problem with the idea and that he liked it, but that he wanted to see what he would be wearing. (…) My seamstress and I went to his dressing room for the first costume fitting, really nervous that he would tell us he wouldn’t put it on. But he did, and started dancing around in that beautiful dressing room in the Rudolfinum, testing what it would be like to conduct in it. And it turned out he enjoyed it immensely.

— Klára Boudalová / Český rozhlas 2016 [ 4 ]

Every part, every dimension of Jiří Bělohlávek’s work mirrors his personality, his love of music, his love of Czech and other composers and his understanding of the musician’s profession, his talent and lifelong hard work as well as his managerial prowess, pragmatism and ability to deal with the practical aspects of the music industry.

  • 1.GOLDSCHEIDER, Alexander: Jiří Bělohlávek: A Life in Pictures. 2017. Kniha na více než 600 fotografiích a 160 stránkách dokumentuje celoživotní dráhu Jiřího Bělohlávka s použitím tisíců unikátních statistických údajů. Available online 
  • 2.SENKOVÁ, Zita: Jak to vidí Jiří Hlaváč. Český rozhlas 2012, 23. 5. Available online
  • 3.Dagmar Pecková: Osobnost dělá muziku muzikou. In: JAŘAB, Josef: Večerní rozmluvy s hosty Univerzity Palackého 1991–1996. Olomouc: Votobia 1998, s. 289.
  • 4.HRADECKÁ, Dita: Nechceme brát hudbě její tajemství, říká Klára Boudalová. Český rozhlas – Telefonotéka 2016, 3. 10. Available online
1.

GOLDSCHEIDER, Alexander: Jiří Bělohlávek: A Life in Pictures. 2017. Kniha na více než 600 fotografiích a 160 stránkách dokumentuje celoživotní dráhu Jiřího Bělohlávka s použitím tisíců unikátních statistických údajů. Available online 

2.

SENKOVÁ, Zita: Jak to vidí Jiří Hlaváč. Český rozhlas 2012, 23. 5. Available online

3.

Dagmar Pecková: Osobnost dělá muziku muzikou. In: JAŘAB, Josef: Večerní rozmluvy s hosty Univerzity Palackého 1991–1996. Olomouc: Votobia 1998, s. 289.

4.

HRADECKÁ, Dita: Nechceme brát hudbě její tajemství, říká Klára Boudalová. Český rozhlas – Telefonotéka 2016, 3. 10. Available online