Critics drive German conductor from Prague

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Gerd Albrecht, the controversial German conductor, yesterday stormed out of his job with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, contending he had been the victim of blatant anti-German sentiment, writes Adrian Bridge.

Mr Albrecht, who in 1993 became the first non-Czech ever to lead the orchestra, said the artistic merits of his work had never been fairly acknowledged by the Czechs and that he felt squeezed out as a result of "political narrow-mindedness".

His dramatic departure, which caps months of tension, underlined the continuing prickliness of Czech-German relations, still badly scarred by the Second World War. In an ironic twist, Mr Albrecht said he had originally taken on the job out of a desire to improve bilateral relations. But he acknowledged that his period in Prague had instead served to fuel bad feelings on both sides.

Czech officials tried to play down the resignation, insisting that it was essentially a question of personalities. President Vaclav Havel said he was sorry that what should have been "artistic problems" had been turned into a political issue but added, ''it is not our fault''.

Mr Albrecht, who is also director of the Hamburg Opera, found international acclaim but was never warmly received in Prague, where critics often described him as second rate.