The Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Europe . It was founded in 1835 by composer, violinist, and conductor Josef Labitzky as a seasonal spa ensemble . Forty years later, Labitzky’s son August turned it into a permanent symphony orchestra with a versatile repertoire . A significant achievement of the orchestra was the perfor- mance of the continental premiere of Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony in Poštovní Dvůr (The Postal Court) on July 20, 1894 .
It is impossible to name all of the important people who were and are connected with the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra . We must name at least one violinist and conductor Robert Manzer, thanks to whom the orchestra gained excellent relations with important personas of the European music world, including Pablo Casals and Richard Strauss . Many re- nowned conductors performed with the orchestra such as Jiří Bělohlávek, Dean Dixon, Aram Chačaturjan, Zdeněk Košler, Charles Mackerras, Libor Pešek or Petr Altrichter as well as famous soloists such as Ivo Kahánek, Ivan Klánský, Václav Hudeček, David Oistrach, Pavel Šporcl, Adam Plach- etka, Josef Suk, Ivan Ženatý, Mstislav Rostropovič, Jiří Bárta, Magdalena Hajóssyová, Dagmar Pecková and many others .
Among the permanent conductors who significantly contributed to the orchestra were Václav Neumann, later chief conductor of the Czech Phil- harmonic, Vladimír Matěj, Josef Hercl, and Radomil Eliška . Their legacy was later followed by the British conductor Douglas Bostock, who was
KSO ́s chief conductor during 1991 – 1998 and recorded numerous CDs with the orchestra . From 2004 to 2009 the chief conductor was
Prof. Jiří Stárek, from 2011 to 2016, a French conductor Martin Lebel, followed by Jan Kučera, under whose leadership the orchestra attracted audiences of not only classical repertoire but also from crossover pop-music pro- grams, film music, and family programs . Ondřej Vrabec, who is not only an award-winning conductor but also a renowned solo horn player of the Czech Philharmonic, a sought-after chamber musician and teacher at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, took over the chief conductor role in September 2022 .
Traditionally, the orchestra participates in the city’s special events such as the Opening of the Spa Season, JazzFest Karlovy Vary, or the prestigious Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition .
Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra has been organizing two festivals: Beethoven Days, and one of the oldest music festivals in Europe Dvořák’s Karlovy Vary Autumn Festival which will celebrate its 65th anniversary in September 2023 .
Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra has always been part of the cultural pil- lars of Karlovy Vary . In recent years it has significantly expanded its scope both within the Karlovy Vary region and beyond, by participating in con- certs and music festivals in our country and abroad .