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Czech Philharmonic to again have new director

Leader musicians term 'puppet' resigns under pressure

Posted: September 8, 2010

By Caroline Korsawe - For the Post | Comments (0) | Post comment

Czech Philharmonic to again have new director

Caroline Wren

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra - Cultural standard-bearer hit by further upheaval

After just four months, it's once again time to fill the director's position at the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, following Václav Kasík's resignation Aug. 31.

Kasík, the former director of Czech Radio, was named - without a selection process - as head of the Philharmonic by former Culture Minster Václav Riedlbauch in May.

He replaced the dismissed Vladimír Darjanin, who had been a popular leader among the orchestra's musicians.

"Before [Darjanin] could show his competence, he was dismissed by his incompetent forerunner, who became [culture] minister in the meantime," said viola player René Vácha, referring to Riedlbauch.

Although the orchestra's musicians had always hoped Kasík would resign his post, it came unexpectedly, said Ivan Pazour, another violist.

"We asked him not to accept the position and made it clear he was not welcome," Pazour added. "There were no misunderstandings or disagreements. We rejected him from the beginning. In our opinion, he was not a professional capable of leading an arts institution."

Kasík's resignation announcement was also well accepted by current Culture Minister Jiří Besser.

"I provided Kasík with sufficient space for his decision so that he can reconsider everything very carefully," said Besser at an Aug. 31 press conference. "Personally, I consider his nomination a mistake, even his own mistake. I think he was already feeling the same for some time."

Kasík showed no interest in the musical side of the orchestra, nor did he move forward on international contacts with future guest conductors or soloists, Pazour said.

"Within a few months, he stopped doing anything. He neglected absolutely everything," he said. 

Darjanin's dismissal earlier this year and Kasík's subsequent nomination contributed to a series of canceled concerts, protests and complaints on the part of the musicians.

The Philharmonic staged a free performance on the Rudolfinum steps as a protest in May, just weeks after refusing to take the stage for a scheduled performance.  

Musicians describe the ongoing turmoil as part of a bigger problem where major arts institutions are heavily dependent on government funding and officials serve at the pleasure of the culture minister.

"The tactics are like those used during communism in the 1950s," Pazour told The Prague Post in May. "It's dictatorship, not leadership."

Now, however, the musicians hope a new director will help unify the institution with the eventual leader being the opposite of what Pazour described as an "assigned official" or what Vácha called a "puppet" of the Culture Ministry.

While the search for a new director is conducted, Besser entrusted Deputy Director of Arts and Libraries Radek Zdráhal with overseeing the orchestra.

"For the most part, I want to calm the tense situation among the Philharmonic and bring to the forefront as quickly as possible a decent and, ideally, professionally accomplished director," Zdráhal said at an Aug. 31 press conference.

The continued turmoil has harmed the reputation of the Philharmonic, which considers itself a cultural standard-bearer of the Czech Republic.

"My goal and that of my closest associates is to bring the Czech Philharmonic orchestra back to Europe's elite," Besser said. 

While some musicians say they would like Darjanin back in the position, ultimately all that counts is to find a person that will lead this organization with a clear vision, they say.

"There is no choice but to hope that despite all the obstacles, a person will apply for the position who will comply with the criteria and will be able to not only formally lead this institution but have a vision, contacts and goodwill," Vácha said.

Caroline Korsawe can be reached at

Tags: philharmonic, Vaclav Kasik, culture, czech classical music, prague classical music, music in prague, arts, orchestra.

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