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Pre-eminent Czech Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek
to lead HKPO in A Czech Hero and an Italian Journey

2 June 2008

Hong Kong, 2 June 2008 – One of the foremost conductors of his generation, Jiří Bělohlávek brings audience a rare feast to savor Czech music in Swire Maestro: A Czech Hero and an Italian Journey, with Smetana’s The Moldau and Janáček’s Taras Bulba, and a dash of Italian flavors with Berlioz’s Harold in Italy. His countryman, prominent young violist Alexander Besa, will join him in these two concerts, which will be held on 20 and 21 June (Fri and Sat) at 8pm at Cultural Centre Concert Hall.

The renowned Czech maestro Jiří Bĕlohlávek has been an imaginative promoter of Czech music for decades. Founder and Music Director Laureate of the Prague Philharmonia, Bĕlohlávek has been Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony (1977-89) and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic (1990-1992). He has frequently performed with the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony, and the Prague Philharmonia, and he has recently been appointed Chairman of the Prague Spring Festival. In 2006, he took up the post of Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and has been conducting concerts at the Proms since then. Bĕlohlávek appears regularly with major orchestras including the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and NHK Symphony. In North America, he conducts the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Toronto, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Montreal, and Minnesota.

When leading the National Symphony Orchestra in concerts in Washington last year, Bĕlohlávek gave “a deeply satisfying account of The Moldau”, according to The Washington Post. The critic went on to say: “Bĕlohlávek’s conducting had been impressive all evening, with a superb command of the orchestral palette and an incisive sense of phrasing, but this was a “Moldau” to remember: soaring, transcendent and as lovingly evocative of the Czech landscape as anything ever written.”

Also on the programme of A Czech Hero and an Italian Journey are music of Janáček and Berlioz. Janáček’s fiery orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba tells the violent tale of an ancient Cossack hero, while in Berlioz’s picturesque Harold in Italy, our tour guide is a “melancholy dreamer” charmed by Italy and the Italians.

Violist Alexander Besa enjoys a career as a soloist, chamber musician, and leading orchestral player. First prize winner of the Beethoven Viola Competition (1994) and the Czech Conservatories Competition (1987), Besa has performed extensively throughout Europe, Japan, South and North America with distinguished orchestras such as Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia and the State Opera of Prague, among others.

The pair of concerts is part of the Swire Maestro Series. Free Swire Classic Insights pre-concert talks are held in English and Cantonese respectively on both evenings.

Jiří Bĕlohlávek is also conducting the HKPO in Li Chuanyun Plays Prokofiev on 13 and 14 June (Fri and Sat). The programme includes Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen: suite, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1 (with Li Chuanyun as soloist) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6.

To download photos of Jiří Bĕlohlávek and Alexander Besa, please access:
http://download.hkpo.com/files/press/20080602/Czech_Hero.zip

Programme Details
Swire Maestro: A Czech Hero and an Italian Journey
20 & 21 / 6 / 2008 Friday and Saturday HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall 8 pm
$300, $240, $180, $120
Available at URBTIX outlets
URBTIX website: www.urbtix.hk
Reservations: 2734 9009
Credit Card booking: 2111 5999
Programme Enquiries: 2721 2030
HKPO Website: www.hkpo.com

Artists
Jiří Bĕlohlávek Conductor
Alexander Besa Viola

Programme
Smetana Má Vlast: The Moldau
Janáček Taras Bulba
Berlioz Harold in Italy

Swire Classic Insights
Pre-concert talks

Time: 7:15 - 7:45pm
Venue: Level 4 Foyer, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Free Admission

20/6 (English)
21/6 (Cantonese)

English speaker: Dr Georg Predota, musicologist
Cantonese speaker: Jimmy Shiu,music promoter

Swire is the title sponsor of Swire Maestro Series: A Czech Hero and an Italian Journey and Swire Classic Insights.

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ABOUT THE HONG KONG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Hailed as “one of Asia's top orchestras”, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO) is led by the internationally renowned Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Edo de Waart. Enriching Hong Kong’s cultural life for over a century, the Orchestra has grown into a formidable ensemble of Chinese and international talents in the last three decades, attracting world-class artists to perform on the same stage. In April 2006, The Swire Group Charitable Trust became the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s Principal Patron to enable Maestro de Waart’s artistic vision for the Orchestra to be realized. HKPO annually touches the lives of 200,000 music lovers through more than 150 performances, including a series of outreach activities including the city’s largest outdoor symphonic concert in Happy Valley, Swire Symphony under the Stars. Please visit www.hkpo.com for more information about the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is financially supported by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

SWIRE is the Principal Patron of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.