Conductor Jirí Belohlávek has fashioned a successful international career in both the concert hall and on the operatic stage. While he has become identified with Czech repertory, particularly the works of Smetana, Dvorák, Janácek, Suk, Martinu, Ostrcil, and Fibich, he has conducted a fairly broad range of other repertory, taking in compositions by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Verdi, Mahler, Ravel, Puccini, Busoni, and many others. He has served in prestigious posts with major orchestras, including the Czech Philharmonic, Brno State Philharmonic, Prague Symphony, and BBC Symphony Orchestra. He has also founded an orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, an ensemble he has regularly conducted and with whom he has made a dozen or so recordings. Belohlávek is known for his ability to achieve effective balances in the orchestral sound fabric, as well as for precision and a sense for not imposing eccentricity or waywardness on the score. Belohlávek has appeared on more than 80 recordings spread over a variety of labels, including Supraphon, DG, Chandos, Warner Classics, Harmonia Mundi, Arthaus Musik, and Eurodisc.
Jirí Belohlávek was born in Prague on February 24, 1946. He studied cello early on and enrolled at the Prague Conservatory and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague for studies in both cello and conducting. His most important conducting teacher was Sergiu Celibidache, whom he assisted for two years in Stockholm, where Celibidache was conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Belohlávek captured first prize at the 1970 Czech National Conducting Competition and had an impressive showing in the finals of the Karajan International Competition the following year. During the competition years, Belohlávek served as an assistant conductor for the Czech Philharmonic (1970-1972). From 1972-1978 he conducted the Brno State Philharmonic, and from 1978-1989 he served as chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
From the early '80s Belohlávek was internationally active as a freelance conductor, debuting in various locales across Europe, and in Toronto (1982) and Wales (1987). Belohlávek succeeded Vaclav Neumann as conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, serving from 1990-1992.
In 1994 Belohlávek founded the Prague Philharmonia and the following year was appointed principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, serving until 2000. Belohlávek debuted at the Met in 2004 with Janácek's Katya Kabanova. In 2005 Belohlávek was appointed chief conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra. Among Belohlávek's newer recordings is the 2008 DVD on Arthaus Musik of Dvorák's Symphony No. 7.