Merseyside is mourning the death of Libor Pešek, the Czech classical music conductor who was Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra from 1987 to 1997. 

Mr Pešek died on October 23, aged 89. He was among the most famous conductors of his time.

He last conducted in Liverpool for his 80th birthday in June 2013 and gave over 300 concerts with the orchestra in Liverpool and worldwide.

Glyn Môn Hughes, a Merseyside-based music journalist and former LJMU lecturer, met Mr Pešek on multiple occasions. He said: “As a person he was very warm, very sparkling. One of these people who always called you colleague, even if he didn’t know who you were.

Former LJMU lecturer Glyn Môn Hughes © MNL
Former LJMU lecturer Glyn Môn Hughes © MNL

“So he would always make you part of the family and he was a really refreshing person to be around as he was always so positive about everything.

“He left that legacy of change in the orchestra’s perception around the world, because the orchestra would go on tours but they would not do very much.

“However, he took them to places like the United States, Japan, China. He will have made the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra a byword in Europe for excellence.”

Originally born in Prague, Mr Pešek studied at the city’s Academy of Performing Arts under eminent Czech musicians, during which time he learned to conduct in addition to playing piano, cello and trombone.

Mr Pešek worked regularly across Europe during his truly impressive 70-year-long career and won multiple awards from Great Britain. He claimed that one of his proudest moments was when he took the orchestra to be the first non-Czech orchestra to open the Prague Spring Festival. 

Sandra Parr, Artistic Planning Director at Liverpool Philharmonic, shared her memories of the conductor: “Without doubt he lifted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to international heights

“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. 

“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.

Exterior of Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall © MNL
Exterior of Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall © MNL

“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.

“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.” 

Mr Pešek leaves behind his partner Jarmila and his son, Philip – along with his musical legacy, which will be remembered forever.

Watch Rachel Cowan’s video report:

Feature image: Rachel Cowan


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