Libor Pesek – What a star!

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RLPO anual party. This year also celebrating Libor Pesek’s 80th birthday.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has been enjoying the annual players’ party with a very special guest of honour. It is always a pleasure to have Libor Pesek return to Liverpool to conduct but an even greater pleasure to spend time with him on his eightieth birthday.

Beer, as always,  kindly supplied by the magnificent Liverpool Organic Brewery

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The RLPO and Libor have a very close relationship, spanning four decades and more. We still travel to Prague to do concerts with Libor at the helm and in the past he has taken the orchestra all over the world. It was in Prague that Libor put on a special party for the orchestra.

RLPO players commitee with Ms Mary Riddoch, our special supporter

RLPO players commitee with Ms Mary Riddoch, our special supporter

This was a complete surprise for us and was one of the nicest moments I can remember. We had opened the Prague Spring Festival (the RLPO is the first non-Czech orchestra to have this honour!) and were entertained regally at the British Council premises afterwards. We boarded the coach to go back to the hotel when someone noticed that we were not travelling in the correct direction.

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Instead of the hotel, Libor had booked a champagne barge on the Vltava with all these Czech dignitaries such as Vaclav Havel on board. It was fantastic! In the early hours of the morning, one of the ladies in the RLPO mentioned to Libor that is was a shame it was a little too dark to see the castle and St. Vitus’ Cathedral.

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“… Allow me,” said Libor. He got on his mobile phone and a couple of minutes the lights came on all over the castle and cathedral area right in front of us. You never forget a moment like that.We will be playing Smetana’s ‘Vltava’ with Libor Pesek tonight…

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Happy 80th birthday Libor!

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Here is some more information on the RLPO & the great Libor Pesek by Catherine Jones in the Liverpool Echo…

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Libor Pešek talks about his bonds with the RLPO ahead of his  concert at the Philharmonic Hall

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Libor’s latest RLPO return

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The UK’s oldest surviving  professional symphony  orchestra has attracted some  starry names over the years –  names like Max Bruch, Sir  Charles Halle, Sir Malcolm Sargent  and Sir Charles Groves.

Conductor Libor Pesek
Conductor Libor Pesek

 But few have won the Royal Liverpool  Philharmonic Orchestra audience’s  affection like Libor Pešek.

 During his decade as music director,  he helped to rebuild the orchestra’s  fortunes and profile both at home and  abroad, where the RLPO became the  first non-Czech orchestra to perform at  the  opening concert at the Prague  Spring Festival.

 The conductor laureate has returned  many times since he gave up the baton  in 1997, and tomorrow he’s back at the  Phil, celebrating his  80th birthday with a  concert aptly titled Journey Through  Bohemia.

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 Under Vasily Petrenko, the Phil has  been described as ‘the best Russian  orchestra outside  Russia’. But long  before that, under Libor it was billed as  ‘the best Czech orchestra this side of  Prague’.

 “I never tried to change the beautiful  English sound,” he says of the moniker.  “It simply must have happened through  spiritual engagement with my  colleagues in the orchestra.”

 It’s more than a quarter of a century  since the Prague-born musician (as a  young man he  studied piano, cello and  trombone as well as conducting) took  over the reins at Hope Street. But  what  can he recall of his first impressions of  the orchestra and of the city itself?

 “The orchestra was in very good form,  and very supportive,” he remembers.  “Soon I discovered we could be friends  – taking ourselves not seriously but  being meticulous with what we were  doing. Also the combination of British  restraint and my Slavic  heart-on-my-sleeve appeared to be  attractive to our Liverpool public.

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 “As I said at the time, my mind was  unsettled, as the city then seemed to be.  But the Philharmonic Hall, the people,  and, of course, The Adelphi – my then  home, made it for me.

 “I never had a dream of building a  Czech-sounding orchestra. What I really  wanted was to build in a sound which  would be recognisable as the Liverpool  sound.”

 It was a Liverpool sound which was  successfully exported.  In 1993 Libor  took the RLPO to the Prague Spring  Festival where they played the opening  two  concerts. Such was the success, they  returned three years later.

 “It was very emotional,” he says. “The  first time it was still under the  Communist regime, and the experience  was thrilling.”

 And of course it was in his home city  of Prague where the young Libor  discovered his love of  music.

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 After studying at the city’s Academy  of Music and Arts he worked at the  Pilsen and Prague Operas, and in 1958  founded the Prague Chamber Harmony.  He was briefly chief conductor of  the  Slovak Philharmonic, and from 1982-90  he was  conductor in residence at the  Czech Philharmonic.

 Now he’s making his latest return to  the Philharmonic Hall, where the RLPO  has once again been reinvigorated, this  time by a Russian conductor.

 “Our orchestra is extremely lucky to  have Vasily Petrenko as their music  director,” says Libor.  “He’s a highly  respected conductor, and I feel happy to  have put my formal orchestra into his   hand. I feel very shy upon my return,  not knowing why.”

 There’s no need for shyness among  friends however, and with a programme  that includes  more than a smattering of  Smetana including excerpts from Ma  Vlast, complete with   specially-commissioned images of the  landscapes which inspired his music.

 “And we’re inviting a Czech violinist,  Pavel Šporcl, with his brilliant Sarasate  pieces,” Libor adds.

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About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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