Czech-born US conductor Zdenek Macal dies at 87

Czech-born US conductor Zdenek Macal, who led over 170 orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic, has died aged 87, his friend Filip Wagner told AFP.

Macal died in a Prague hospital late on Wednesday, he added.

Born in the second Czech city of Brno on 8 January 1936, Macal gained experience in his father’s jazz band.

He won international recognition at conductor competitions in France and the United States in the 1960s.

Macal left former communist Czechoslovakia for West Germany with his wife and young daughter after Soviet-led armies crushed the liberal Prague Spring movement in 1968.

He led orchestras in various cities including Cologne, Chicago, and Sydney before settling down in the United States in 1982.

He notably conducted the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra from 1993 to 2002, with whom he recorded almost the entire symphonic work of his compatriot Antonin Dvorak.

“This was his number one orchestra abroad,” Wagner said.

Macal could only return to his homeland after the communist rule of four decades was toppled in 1989.

He led the Prague-based Czech Philharmonic from 2003 to 2007.