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Czech Conductor Zdeněk Mácal has Died, Aged 87

Over the course of his life, Mácal led more than 170 orchestras — including the New Jersey Symphony and the Czech Philharmonic


The Czech conductor Zdeněk Mácal, who held music directorships at several major orchestras, has passed away at the age of 87.

Born in Brno, Czech Republic, Mácal began his musical life with the violin, learning initially from his father. Alongside his early classical training he also learned a great deal from appearing in his father's jazz band.

Following studies at the Brno Conservatory and the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Mácal was appointed conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. In the early years of his career he received a number of honors and won both the Besançon International Conducting Competition and the Dimitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition (in New York) in 1965 and 1966 respectively.

In 1968, conflict between Soviet-led armies and the more liberal Prague Spring movement meant that Mácal uprooted his young family from Czechoslovakia and left for West Germany, where he conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. While in Germany, he also held posts at the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and at the NDR Orchestra Hanover.

Later in his career, Mácal headed for the United States, where he made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After a short diversion in Sydney, he also held posts at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and at the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra — where he recorded a complete cycle of the works of Antonín Dvořák.

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of former music director Zdeněk Mácal," said the New Jersey Symphony in a statement. "During Mácal’s tenure with the symphony he increased the number of commissions and premieres the orchestra performed, and facilitated the Symphony’s recordings of the works of his compatriot Antonín Dvořák, including a GRAMMY-winning recording."

"We send thoughts and prayers to Zdeněk’s family during this time."

Our condolences to Mácal's family, friends, and colleagues.

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