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 (from 2007 – 2018), Rastislav Štúr (from 2011 – 2019) and Petr Altrichter (for the 2018/2019 season) have been Permanent Guest Conductors of the Slovak Philharmonic.
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.
The most important performances of the 2018/2019 season included four concerts as part of the 2018 Bratislava Music Festival with the conductors James Judd, Juraj Valčuha, George Pehlivanian and Eivind Gullberg Jensen, a performance at the Musikverein in Vienna under the baton of Leoš Svárovský, a tour of South Korea where the Orchestra also performed at the Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul, Dvořák’s cantata The Wedding Shirts under the leadership of Rastislav Štúr in Ljubljana, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 conducted by Emmanuel Villaume at the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman, a performance led by Rastislav Štúr in the concert cycle Kontrapunkt-Konzerte at the Cologne Philharmonic in Germany, a concert at the Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern in Switzerland, and a performance at the festival in Neuberg an der Mürz with Stefan Vladar.
At the 2019 Bratislava Music Festival, the Slovak Philharmonic will perform in three concerts led by the conductors James Judd, Juraj Valčuha and Pinchas Steinberg. The Orchestra will open the 2019/2020 season under the baton of Chief Conductor James Judd in two special concerts to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Slovak Philharmonic. On 17 November 2019 a concert by the Slovak Philharmonic, in cooperation with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and the conductor Peter Valentovič, will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. In April 2020 the Orchestra will perform at the closing concert of the Central European Festival of Concert Art in Žilina. In June 2020 they will perform together with James Judd and the bass baritone Adam Plachetka at the festival Smetana’s Litomyšl. At the close of the season the Slovak Philharmonic will undertake its first concert tour of China with the conductor Daniel Raiskin.