The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra (SPh)
was established in 1949. Two highly reputed, internationally acclaimed personalities, Václav Talich (Principal Conductor, 1949 – 1952) and Ľudovít Rajter (1949 – 1976, and the orchestra’s Artistic Director until 1961), stood at the orchestra’s birth. Other chief conductors who have played an instrumental role in the orchestra’s musical evolution include Tibor Frešo, Ladislav Slovák, Libor Pešek, Vladimir Verbitsky, Bystrík Režucha and Aldo Ceccato. Between 1991 and 2001 the role of Chief Conductor and Music Director was held by Ondrej Lenárd. In the 2003/2004 season Jiří Bělohlávek acted as Artistic Director. In 2004 Vladimír Válek became Chief Conductor, and was succeeded by Peter Feranec in 2007 – 2009. From 2009 – 2016 the French conductor Emmanuel Villaume was the orchestra’s Chief Conductor and in the 2017/2018 season James Judd took over this appointment. Leoš Svárovský was the orchestra’s Permanent Guest Conductor from 2007 to 2018. At present the Slovak Philharmonic has two Permanent Guest Conductors, Rastislav Štúr (since the 2011/12 season) and Petr Altrichter (since the 2018/2019 season).
Among the many guest conductors who have worked with the Slovak Philharmonic over the years, international personalities like Claudio Abbado, Hermann Abendroth, Petr Altrichter, Karel Ančerl, Pavel Baleff, Serge Baudo, Roberto Benzi, Miltiades Caridis, Sergiu Celibidache, James Conlon, Oskar Danon, Christoph von Dohnányi, Vladimir Fedoseyev, János Ferencsik, Mariss Jansons, Neeme Järvi, James Judd, Peter Keuschnig, Dmitri Kitayenko, Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, Kirill Kondrashin, Franz Konwitschny, Zdeněk Košler (who, thanks to his longstanding fruitful collaboration with orchestra, was awarded the honorary title of ‘Chief Conductor in memoriam’ in 1996), Alain Lombard, Fabio Luisi, Jun Märkl, Wayne Marshall, Jean Martinon, Kurt Masur, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Riccardo Muti, Václav Neumann, Antonio Pedrotti, George Pehlivanian, Alexander Rahbari, Karl Richter, Mario Rossi, Witold Rowicki, Kurt Sanderling, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Peter Schreier, Václav Smetáček, Pinchas Steinberg, Otmar Suitner, Yevgeny Svetlanov, Juraj Valčuha, Ilan Volkov, Ralf Weikert and Carlo Zecchi, among others must be mentioned, as well as composers and artists of own works like Krzysztof Penderecki and Aram Khachaturian.
The orchestra has made numerous recordings for radio, television and the music publishers OPUS, Supraphon, Panton, Hungaroton, JVC Victor, RCA, Pacific Music, Naxos and Marco Polo. The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra regularly gives guest performances on leading European stages and at festivals. In the course of its numerous tours abroad, the Slovak Philharmonic has performed in nearly every European country, as well as in Cyprus, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, the USA and Oman.
Among the highlights of the 2017/2018 season were performances of the Slovak Philharmonic at the Murten Classics Festival in Switzerland under the leadership of the conductors Kaspar Zehnder and Rastislav Štúr, the closing concert of the Prague Spring festival with the Chief Conductor James Judd, the concert tour in Japan with the conductors Daniel Raiskin and Leoš Svárovsky and performances at summer festivals in Sankt Florian and Neuberg an der Mürz in Austria.
During the 2018 Bratislava Music Festival the Slovak Philharmonic will perform four concerts with the conductors James Judd, Juraj Valčuha, George Pehlivanian and Eivind Gullberg Jensen. In October 2018 the orchestra will play under the baton of Leoš Svárovský at the Musikverein in Vienna and undertake a tour of South Korea in November 2018, performing also at the Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul. In April 2019 the Slovak Philharmonic will be led by Rastislav Štúr in the concert cycle Kontrapunkt-Konzerte at the Cologne Philharmonic in Germany and will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 under the baton of Emmanuel Villaume at the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman. In June 2019 the orchestra will be playing at the Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern in Switzerland.