Ladislav Slovák

Ladislav Slovák


• 1919 1999


Ladislav Slovák was the chief conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1960s. He was especially noted as an interpreter of the music of Shostakovich, having participated in rehearsals of his symphonies with the composer present.

Slovák was born on September 10, 1919, in Bratislava, then part of Czechoslovakia, and the capital of modern-day Slovakia. He grew up poor but was able to enroll in classes at a local music school and then at the Bratislava Conservatory, where he studied organ at first and then switched to conducting, studying with Kornel Schimpl, working as a producer at Czechoslovak Radio, and graduating in 1946. That year, he formed an amateur choir that was soon engaged for concerts on Czechoslovak Radio. He continued conducting studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava with Vaclav Talich, and in 1954, he moved to Leningrad in the Soviet Union, to become an assistant to Leningrad Philharmonic (now the St. Petersburg Philharmonic) conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky. Mravinsky was the conductor most trusted by Shostakovich, and Slovák was able to attend rehearsals for performances of Shostakovich symphonies, including the world premieres of the Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 ("The Year 1905"), and Symphony No. 12 in D minor, Op. 112 ("The Year 1917").

Back in Bratislava, Slovák was appointed chief conductor of the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, taking over the baton from Talich. He also often appeared as a guest conductor with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, taking that group on tour to the Soviet Union, East Asia, and Australia in 1959. In 1961, Slovák became the chief conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, remaining in that post until 1968. He continued to appear in many guest conducting posts and led the Slovak Radio Symphony (as the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony was renamed) in a long series of recordings that included a complete Shostakovich cycle in the early 1990s on the Naxos label and a set of recordings of the symphonies of neo-Romantic composer Alexander Moyzes in the mid-1990s for the Marco Polo label. Those recordings were reissued by Naxos in the late 2010s, and much of Slovák's recorded output remains in print. Slovák died in Bratislava on July 22, 1999.