THE DESIGNATED Artistic Director of the Slovak Philharmonic, professor Jiří Bělohlávek, ended his contract with the institution on May 31, 2004. The world-renowned Czech conductor was supposed to become fully engaged with the philharmonic as its chief conductor in 2005.
The reasons behind the sudden act, according to Bělohlávek, were conflicts with the Slovak Cultural Minister Rudolf Chmel that concerned keeping certain promises.
"Because I have repeatedly seen that the minister's originally declared unconditional support for my conception of the development of the Slovak Philharmonic has not become a reality and was additionally questioned in its very foundation, I do not see any possibility for continuing to administer to my function of designated artistic director of the Slovak Philharmonic," the conductor stated in an announcement published by the daily SME on May 7.
At the beginning of 2004, Bělohlávek requested that the minister fulfil his promise to increase its grant for the philharmonic by around Sk20 million a year (€500,000), a condition he stated before accepting the position. Chmel denied ever officially promising the conductor an adjustment of the institution's budget to meet the demand. They had only agreed that cultural institutions in Slovakia, including the philharmonic, were underfinanced, Chmel said.
The quarrel intensified in the spring, when the general director of the art department at the ministry, Andrej Zmeček, told the daily Pravda that the state would save money if it dismissed and re-established the Slovak Philharmonic. Bělohlávek criticised the statement, saying that the ministry should publicly distance itself from such opinions and fulfil what it promised.
At that time, the minister said he had no intention of closing the philharmonic, and backed that up by pointing to a contract closed between the conductor and the institution.
The situation resulted in the miniter's recalling the general director of the philharmonic Jozef Tkáčik on June 8. Pianist Marián Lapšanský will be named as his successor on June 14.
According to Tkáčik, Bělohlávek's departure was a tragedy, as the ex-director himself was the main initiator behind his coming to the philharmonic.
- Zuzana Habšudová
14. Jun 2004 at 0:00