It is with deep sadness that we learnt that Libor Pešek KBE died yesterday in Prague. Libor was Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 1987 until 1997. Everyone at Liverpool Philharmonic sends their deepest sympathies to Libor’s family at this time.
Sandra Parr, Artistic Planning Director (Orchestra and Ensembles), shares her memories:
“Without doubt he lifted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to international heights whilst principal conductor for ten seasons from 1987. I remember clearly my first tour with the Orchestra in October 1988, when he took the Orchestra to Prague and to quote him, “to show off his new love” to his home city. Taking an orchestra pre-Velvet Revolution was no easy task but his determination won, and it was a great success. From there the happy relationship between Libor and Liverpool grew.
His famous quips in rehearsals were collected by musicians and printed in a collection called “Linguistic Gems and Quotations”. In fact, even today the occasional quote can be found scribbled inside some of the Orchestra’s music parts. He conducted for over 70 years and said one of his proudest moments was when he took the Orchestra to be the first non-Czech orchestra to open the Prague Spring Festival. His parties were as much a highlight of any tour as the concerts that he gave with the Orchestra around Europe, America and Asia. The recordings they made together are still played today and he introduced much hitherto unknown Czech music into the veins of Liverpool Philharmonic. In 1992 he insisted that the repertoire for the American tour include Suk’s Asrael Symphony, not a popular choice according to the tour agents but he won the audiences on the East Coast of the US over with his commitment to the work.
His philosophy for life was basically to enjoy it and share that enjoyment with friends. He addressed everyone as colleague in a most warm, friendly way that everyone who met him liked him immediately. A humble man who adored his dogs and Land Rovers, and since retiring from conducting at the age of 85, grew closer to nature more each year. He last conducted in Liverpool for his 80th birthday in June 2013 and gave over 300 concerts with the Orchestra in Liverpool and worldwide. He conducted many other orchestras but was most well known in his own country. He said he was humbled when HM The Queen bestowed a KBE on him in 1996 during her visit to Prague. The twinkle in his eye, his generous friendship and heartfelt music making will be missed by thousands – especially his friends back in Liverpool. It was an honour to have met and worked closely with our colleague and we send our condolences to all his family and friends in Prague.”