The World with Libor Pešek

Recalling memories of the conductor Libor Pešek so shortly after he passed away is not an easy thing to do. I could have written “recalling memories of Libor” because, over the years, I had the privilege of becoming one of his friends. However, to me, Libor has always been a “maestro”, even though we were on first-name terms and, from time to time, we used to meet up to have a chat over a glass of wine. Even in the most cheerful and quite informal situations, I did not forget, for example, how we met in the mid-nineties, that is, at the time of his Liverpool era, in London, where he conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The opportunity to witness him in this prestigious position in Britain, the absolute respect of everybody in the field and the ovation of the audience at the Southbank Centre, reminded me of how little the success abroad of our personalities is reflected in our country. In the early nineties, Libor was undoubtedly the most important Czech conductor in the Anglo-Saxon world…

During the present sad days, the media will offer plenty of information about his career, recordings and milestones in life. I recall the joyful years when he served as “my and our” first guest conductor at the Prague Symphony Orchestra and cheered me up with his classy humour when I was losing optimism. For almost the complete nineties, we were also both on the Committee of the Prague Spring and it was Libor who recommended me to the then newly established board of directors of the festival as a successor to Oleg Podgorný in early 2001.

Let us also mention that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with Libor Pešek as its head was the first foreign orchestra to open the Prague Spring in 1993. Thus, the unique tradition of the festival was expanded to include foreign orchestras for the first time. In addition, the Prague Spring Festival registers almost four dozen Libor´s appearances with Czech and foreign orchestras. Given his attitude to life and his musical professionalism, Libor was an unpretentious, kind and friendly aristocrat and a lifelong Dejvice patriot. The British decoration of the Knight of the Order of the British Empire which was conferred upon him during the official visit to Prague by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996 can be combined with the personal title “The Right Honourable”. In fact, this says it all. It is a joy to be in a world which we shared with Libor Pešek.

Roman Bělor
Member of the Board of Directors of the Prague Spring Festival and its Director
between 2001 and 2022

25 October 2022