Zdeněk Mácal, music director of New Jersey Symphony from 1993 to 2002 (when it was known as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra) and then the chief conductor of the Prague-based Czech Philharmonic from 2003 to 2007, died in Prague on Oct. 25, at the age of 87.
New Jersey Symphony posted on social media that “We are saddened to learn of the passing of former music director Zdeněk Mácal. 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.”
That Grammy-winning album featured Dvořák’s Requiem and his Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” recorded at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark in 1999 and released on the Delos International label in 2000. It won in the Best Engineered Album, Classical, category.
In 2002, Willa Conrad, then the Newark-based Star-Ledger newspaper’s classical music critic, summed up Mácal’s tenure with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra by saying “He’s moved it from being an orchestra you can admire to one that really moves you, one that really communicates with you from the stage. There’s absolutely no question he’s the most significant music director this orchestra has had.”
Michael Redmond, The Star-Ledger’s classical music critic before Conrad, remembered Mácal on social media yesterday as “A warm, engaging man and an exciting musician. He led the only live performance of Smetana’s complete MA VLAST I’ve ever heard, and it was gorgeous, thrilling stuff.”
In an obituary published yesterday on the Czech website ceskenoviny.cz, pianist Ivo Kahánek said “I remember him with great respect as a charismatic conductor, a witty companion and one of the last men who knew how to wear a hat.”
According to the obituary, Mácal was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia; conducted “more than 170 major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and the Chicago and Boston Symphony Orchestras”; and focused, as a conductor, on the works of Mahler and Brahms, in addition to Dvořák.
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