On of the most significant Czech conductors Libor Pešek would celebrate his 90th birthday today. In the early phase of his musical career, he played the trombone in a student jazz band. He studied conducting at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts between 1951 and 1956 with Karel Ančerl, Václav Smetáček and Václav Neumann.
Libor Pešek worked with the Chamber Harmony, which he founded in 1959 and with whom in the 1960s he gave a unique series of contemporary music concerts at the Na Zábradlí theatre in Prague. In 1965, he established the Chamber Orchestra Sebastian, which he led until 1969. Between 1970 and 1977, he was at the helm of the Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic, which under his guidance garnered distinct artistic successes. Between 1963 and 1969, Pešek was chief conductor of the North Bohemia Philharmonic in Teplice. Subsequently, from 1969 to 1975, he led the Frysk Orkest in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. He left a distinct footprint as conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he made a number of recordings. When in the early 1980s he became a permanent guest of the Czech Philharmonic, its principal conductor was Václav Neumann. Pešek was considered his successor, yet fate decided otherwise. From 1987 to 1997, he was music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he recorded the complete symphonies of Josef suk, as well as many other works of the “grand” symphonic repertoire, including almost all of Mahler’s symphonies. Pešek extended both his own repertoire and that of the Liverpool Philharmonic. In addition to recordings of Dvořák and Suk symphonies, his work with the orchestra was crowned by highly acclaimed tours of the USA and appearances in Europe’s music centres. In 1996, Queen Elizabeth II named him a Knight of the British Empire.
Libor Pešek implemented numerous singular artistic projects. Although he devoted to opera relatively little, he did record for Supraphon the Prague version of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni and Bohuslav Martinů’s complete The Greek Passion. Noteworthy too is his memorable recording of three Bohuslav Martinů piano concertos with Rudolf Firkušný and the complete mature Dvořák symphonies. Moreover, Pešek was always keen on jazz and film music, and possesses extensive knowledge of other extra-musical subjects, including eastern spiritual teachings. His most characteristic features were overview and nobleness, great human openness, kindness and broadmindedness, qualities scarce indeed in today’s frantic world.
In 2013, Supraphon released a special compilation of Pešek's most famous recordings titled The Gold Collection. Last year, his successful recordings of Mysliveček's Complete Violin Concertos with the violinist Shizuka Ishikawa was re-realeased. Libor Pešek passed away in October 2022.