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The Honor of Czech Music? Fine, I Quit!


I just noted that Zdeněk Mácal is now the former conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Macal was credited with bringing the orchestra back to a former prestige for the first time since the Communist era. But apparently he didn't get on well with critics in Prague. He decided to quit the orchestra unexpectedly in response, some have suggested, to a negative review in Lidové noviny.

The critic, Czech Radio Vltava editor Jindřich Bálek, does underrate the performance, but the review headline is one of those damning by faint praise: "To the honor of Czech music without an exceptional performance." Though this may seem a lukewarm criticism, insulting Czech music can be a major offense (see my post on the "Grand Tradition"). The critic lauds the orchestra for performing "little played" pieces—in this case Dvořák's Symphony No. 2 in B-flat Major and Josef Suk's symphonic poem Zrání—but suggests that they be played in more impressive fashion. "After all, some works needto be rehearsed more, or they are better off left unplayed," he concludes, pointing out a missed opportunity for the orchestra to attract new audiences to classical music since the concert was broadcast on Czech Television.

Václav Riedlbauch, the Orchestra's executive director, told the CTK news service that Mácal "is a very emotional man, and he just reacted to the latest review on Friday the way he reacted." Riedlbauch apparently denied that there was any larger agreement between the conductor and management. I was incredulous, but the Orchestra's Web page does say that Mácal's tenure ended 8 September.


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