Prague Symphony Orchestra

Orchestra

Biography

The abbreviation FOK stands for Film Opera Koncert, which were the ensemble’s original focuses.
The Prague Symphony Orchestra was founded in the autumn of 1934 by the conductor Rudolf Pekárek. He defined the new ensemble’s fields of activity with the words Film-Opera-Koncert, and such the abbreviation FOK became part of the orchestra’s title. By recording music for the majority of Czech films in the 1930s and performing regularly in live broadcasts on the Czechoslovak Radio, the FOK Orchestra made a name for itself and its economic existence was assured. This allowed the gradual development of regular concerts, whose main promoter from the very beginning was Dr. Václav Smetáček.

Within a very short time Dr. Smetáček managed to build the orchestra into a large symphonic ensemble, challenging the standards of its strong domestic competition. In 1942 he became the orchestra’s chief conductor and he stood as its head for a full thirty years. During the period of his leadership the orchestra achieved a high performance standard and international renown.

In 1952, the City of Prague granted the FOK Orchestra status as the representative orchestra of the city. The traditional acronym “FOK” was retained, and the new title of the orchestra became Symphony Orchestra of the Capital City of Prague ? FOK. In 1957 the orchestra departed on its first foreign tour ? to Poland, Italy, Austria, and Germany ? and thus inaugurated its regular and intensive engagement on the international scene.

After Smetáček’s departure from the post of chief conductor, artistic leadership was taken over in succession by Ladislav Slovák (1972-1976), Jindřich Rohan (1976-1977), and then Jiří Bělohlávek (1977-1989), whose work marked an important stage from the standpoint of the ensemble’s intensive artistic development. After Bělohlávek came Petr Altrichter (1990-1992), Martin Turnovský (1992-1995), and Gaetano Delogu (1995-1998). Other important Czech conductors who have worked with the orchestra for an extensive time include Václav Neumann, Zdeněk Košler, and Vladimír Válek. From March 2001 to the end of the 2005/2006 concert season, the Chief Conductor and Music Director of the orchestra was Serge Baudo. Since the 2006/2007 concert season, Jiří Kout has held the the position of Chief Conductor, whilst Serge Baudo is the honorary Conductor. Pietari Inkinen assumed the role of Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra in September 2015.

Over the course of the orchestra’s history many of the world´s most important conductors have appeared with the FOK as guest conductors, as well as a wide range of soloists. The orchestra has performed in nearly every country in Europe, repeatedly in Japan and the USA, and has also visited South America, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Korea, Turkey, Israel and Oman.

Another testimony to the orchestra’s work is its extensive catalogue of phonograph, radio, and television recordings including both Czech and worldwide repertoire. Most of the commercial recordings have been made for the Supraphon label, but the orchestra’s name also appears on recordings for BMG, Conifer, Philips, Erato, Universal, Harmonia Mundi (Praga), Victor, Koch International, Panton and Music Vars.


< Pietari Inkinen, Chief Conductor >
In September 2017 Pietari Inkinen became Chief Conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbruecken. Inkinen is also Chief Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he has held since the beginning of the 16-17 season, and Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the Ludwigsburg Schlossfestspiele, posts he took up in 2015.

Recent and future highlights include debuts with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Gurzenich Orchestra, NDR Hamburg, SWR Stuttgart and Budapest Festival Orchestra. 2017/2018 also featured the concerts with the Japan Philharmonic, as well as returns to the BBC Philharmonic and Finnish Radio Symphony orchestras. He also conducted the Finnish National Opera in their Independence Day 100th Anniversary Gala followed by a production of Madame Butterfly. The Finnish celebrations were also marked with performances of several recently-composed Finnish works including the world premieres of Rautavaara’s final completed symphonic work “In the Beginning” and a new work by Olli Virtaperko.

In previous seasons Inkinen has also conducted RSB Berlin, Staatskapelle Berlin, Munich Philharmonic, La Scala Philharmonic, Orchestra of Santa Cecilia, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Vienna Radio Symphony, BBC Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Spanish National Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Orchestra Verdi Milan and Oslo Philharmonic as well as the Staatskapelle Dresden and the Leipzig Gewandhaus.

In autumn 2018 Inkinen returns to Melbourne to conduct Die Meistersinger, following his acclaimed performances in 2016 of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Neil Armfield. This is the production which in August 2014 inspired Australia’s Helpmann Awards, recognising artistic excellence throughout Australia’s vibrant performing arts scene, to vote Inkinen as the award winner for Best Music Direction for Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle. The 2016 revival garnered Inkinen a further Green Room award for Best Conductor (Opera).

Other opera engagements have included the Finnish National Opera, La Monnaie in Brussels, Staatsoper in Berlin and the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. He has conducted Wagner’s Walkure and Das Rheingold in Palermo's Teatro Massimo for which he was awarded Italy’s National Association of Music Critics’ Franco Abbiati Prize for “Best Show” for Das Rheingold. He also conducted performances of a highly successful new production of Eugene Onegin at the Dresden Semperoper.

From 2008 to 2016 Pietari was Music Director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra where he now holds the title of Honorary Conductor. During his tenure, the orchestra rose to new levels with a highly acclaimed European tour, as well as the recording of a complete cycle of Sibelius Symphonies for Naxos. This, and other recordings for Naxos, including the premiere recording of Rautavaara’s Manhattan Trilogy and a further live Sibelius Cycle recorded with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Suntory Hall, have been widely acclaimed. Inkinen has a large number of other recording credits, including Wagner arias and orchestral pieces with Simon O’Neill and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for EMI, which earned a rare double five-star review from BBC Music Magazine, and the Shostakovich Cello Concerto and Britten Cello Symphony with Johannes Moser for Haenssler.

Also an accomplished violin soloist, Inkinen studied at the Cologne Music Academy with Zakhar Bron, winning various awards and prizes for his solo work, before taking further studies in conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He continues to enjoy play-directing and performing chamber music with his regular musical partners.

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