On today’s date in 1950, Karel Ančerl was named the artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic, a position he would hold for the next 18 years.
Ančerl had first conducted the Philharmonic in 1930, when, upon graduation from the Prague Conservatory, he led that orchestra in one of his own compositions. For a time, Ančerl debated whether to be a composer or a conductor. He opted for the later, demonstrated a mastery of both classical and contemporary scores with other orchestras in Czechoslovakia.
With all that in mind, it might not seem all that surprising that in 1950 he was eventually tapped to lead the Czech Philharmonic—but that would be ignoring the miracle that Ančerl was even ALIVE in 1950.
In 1942, Ančerl and his family were imprisoned in the Nazi’s notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp, and in 1944, they were transported to Auschwitz, where his wife and young son were killed; Karel alone survived.
In 1968, when Czechoslovakia was invaded by Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops, Karel Ančerl emigrated to Canada in protest, and served as music director of the Toronto Symphony until his death in in 1973.
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