20th October 1943

My Country performed by Karel Boleslav Jirák

In October 1943, a recording of Bedřich Smetana’s My Country was made by the National Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Karel Boleslav Jirák, at the Domovina studio in Prague for the Esta label. A conductor, educator and composer, Jirák was at the helm of the radio orchestra until 1945, yet he had to withdraw from his post in the wake of his being accused of asocial and “non-Czech” behaviour. In 1947, he was invited to Chicago to serve as an instructor at the university summer music classes, and as his work met with a positive response, he stayed on in the USA. An outstanding teacher, a specialist in all styles of music, and a seasoned conductor, he would go on to train dozens of renowned artists during his tenure in America. On the other hand, the Czechoslovak government hated and renounced him up until 1968, which saw a change in the political climate. During his time in the USA, Jirák composed 34 accomplished pieces, including two symphonies, a requiem, chamber and orchestral works, as well as songs set to Czech poetry.