Proms star made chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra

THE CZECH conductor Jiri Belohlavek has been appointed chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, one of the most prestigious positions in British classical music.

Belohlavek, 58, succeeds the American Leonard Slatkin, who ended his tenure as chief conductor after the Last Night of the Proms in September.

Belohlavek was principal guest conductor for the orchestra for four years from 1995. He will be the 12th chief conductor of the orchestra, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra, based at the corporation's Maida Vale studios in London, is the mainstay of the Proms, making at least a dozen appearances at the Royal Albert Hall each summer, as well as a winter season at the Barbican Centre.

The orchestra gave Belohlavek a standing ovation when he was presented as its new chief conductor yesterday. Paul Hughes, the orchestra's general manager, said: "They were thrilled. They know him well. They admire and respect his deep musicianship and the rigour of his approach and attention to detail."

Due to commitments, Belohlavek will not officially start his three- year tenure until the first night of the Proms in 2006, although as chief conductor designate he will be involved in drawing up programmes and planning tours. He will not conduct the orchestra for the Last Night of the Proms that year, but the BBC says it hopes he will do so during his tenure.

A former artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the founder of the Prague Philharmonia, Belohlavek, who recently made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra, is renowned for his interpretation of classical and romantic pieces, in particular Czech composers such as Dvorak, Martinu and Janacek.

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