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. For the 2020/2021 season, Daniel Raiskin will take up the position of Chief Conductor.
Among the many guest conductors who have worked with the Slovak Philharmonic over the years, international personalities like János Ferencsik, Witold Rowicki, Václav Smetáček, Karel Ančerl, Franz Konwitschny, Arvīds Jansons, Václav Neumann, Hermann Abendroth, Antonio Pedrotti, Sir Eugene Goossens, Sir Malcom Sargent, Roberto Benzi, Kurt Masur, Sir Charles Mackerras, Carlo Zecchi, Serge Baudo, Claudio Abbado, Kurt Sanderling, Zdeněk Košler (who, thanks to his longstanding fruitful collaboration with the orchestra, was awarded the honorary title of ‘Chief Conductor in memoriam’ in 1996), Riccardo Muti, Karl Richter, Kirill Kondrashin, Leif Segerstam, Alain Lombard, Sergiu Celibidache, Thomas Sanderling, Oskar Danon, Mario Rossi, Neeme Järvi, Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, Evgeny Svetlanov, Mariss Jansons, Christoph von Dohnányi, Dmitri Kitayenko, Otmar Suitner, James Conlon, Valery Gergiev, Alexander Rahbari, Fabio Luisi, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Peter Schreier, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Ralf Weikert, Miltiades Caridis, Pinchas Steinberg, Peter Keuschnig, Tomáš Hanus, Jakub Hrůša, Juraj Valčuha, Tomáš Netopil, Ion Marin, Pavel Baleff, George Pehlivanian, Jun Märkl, Ilan Volkov, Wayne Marshall, Eivind Gullberg Jensen, Alan Buribayev must be mentioned, as well as composers and artists of own works like Jean Martinon, Krzysztof Penderecki a 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.
One of the most important events of the 2019/2020 season, which had to be ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, was a trio of concerts by the SPh at the Bratislava Music Festival with the conductors James Judd, Juraj Valčuha and Pinchas Steinberg, a special concert to commemorate the Milan Rastislav Štefánik Year, gala concerts to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Slovak Philharmonic, and the 30th Anniversary Concert of the Velvet Revolution. As part of the BHS 2020 festival, the SPh will perform with the conductor James Judd and the renowned soloists Josef Špaček, Andrew van Oeyen and Christian Vásquez in Silvestre Revueltas’s revelatory work La noche de los Mayas, and with Peter Valentovič, who will conduct the farewell concert of the opera diva Edita Gruberová. During the 2020/2021 season, apart from concerts at home, the Slovak Philharmonic will also perform at the Musikverein in Vienna with the conductor Leoš Svárovský and the soloist Sophia Jaffé, at the F. Liszt Academy Concert Hall in Budapest with the conductor Gábor Káli and the conductor Stefan Vladar, together with the Slovak Philharmonic Choir, in Neuberg an der Mürz in Austria. The planned SPh concert tour to South Korea and Japan, which should have taken place this season, has been moved to 2022 as a result of the overall situation in the world.