Prague Symphony Orchestra
• Founded 1934
Often appears with
The Prague Symphony Orchestra, not to be confused with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra or the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded with an orientation toward film and radio, and it has continued to pursue cross-genre projects in addition to core classical repertory. The group's origins are reflected in its Czech name, Symfonický orchestr hlavního města Prahy FOK, or "Symphony Orchestra of the Capital City of Prague FOK"; the "FOK" stands for Film-Opera-Koncert. The orchestra was founded in 1934 by conductor Rudolf Pekárek. It was the go-to group for Czech film scores in the 1930s and was also often heard on Czech radio. As its renown grew, the orchestra established a regular concert series.
The figure who shepherded its growth was Vaclav Smetacek, who became chief conductor in 1942 and held the post for three decades. Under his direction the orchestra grew in numbers and reach, embarking in 1957 on a tour to Poland, Italy, Austria, and Germany. The orchestra has had mostly Czech conductors; one of them, Jiří Bělohlávek, chief conductor from 1977 to 1989, went on to international prominence, and several others have achieved high renown in Czech musical circles. Since 2015 the orchestra's chief conductor has been Pietari Inkinen. The list of guest conductors who have mounted the podium includes many of the musical world's top names: Rafael Kubelik, Karel Ancerl, Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta, Charles Mackerras, and more. The list of soloists who have appeared with the orchestra is similarly stellar, ranging from David Oistrakh in the orchestra's first decades to the American soprano Renée Fleming.
The Prague Symphony Orchestra has recorded extensively for the Czech national label Supraphon, releasing the album Hunting Music of Old Czech Masters in 2018. The group has also stayed true to its cross-genre origins with a series of contributions to albums in the metal genre; the first of these was Rage's Lingua Mortis album of 1996, and the orchestra's involvement has continued on albums by Therion, Iced Earth, and most recently Helloween. The orchestra has been heavily involved with programming for young people with its Music for Touch and Fík Music Club educational concerts in Prague.