You may remember an interview we broadcast last year with Zdenek Macal, when he was appointed chief conductor of the greatest of all Czech orchestras, the Czech Philharmonic. Despite a huge international reputation after many years with top orchestras abroad, Macal was not particularly well known in his native Prague. The Czech Philharmonic had been going through a difficult few years, with financial problems, internal disputes and even fears that its artistic standards were suffering. So Zdenek Macal inherited a difficult job. Today, just a few months later, critics are united in praising his work with the orchestra. Not least among them is Petr Vlha, the secretary of the Year of Czech Music, who sees the changes at the Czech Philharmonic as little short of miraculous:
"I heard about him two or three years ago, but I didn't know him. When I met him, I said to myself - 'Great - he is an exceptional conductor.' His work at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, at the Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra and the New Jersey Orchestra is very famous and I am happy that he is now the conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
"Zdenek Macal spent twenty years in America and in Western Europe. Now he is in the Czech Republic with his orchestra. I think that Zdenek Macal and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra are one. It is an orchestra with a head, with a leader, and Zdenek Macal is a perfect leader.
"His perfection in the art of the conductor is fascinating. He is absolutely steeped in the music and his work is fascinating to watch. He said - 'It is alchemy, music and me,' and his hand is the hand of a magician. His baton is a magic wand. Zdenek Macal is one of those conductors who sense the music as a magical thing. The music is a river of tones of melody and rhythm, and he, as creator, brings the idea back to earth among us - the conductor, conducting the opus."
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