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Former BBC Symphony Orchestra chief conductor Jiri Belohlavek dies

Former BBC Symphony Orchestra chief conductor Jiri Belohlavek has died in Prague aged 71.

The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra chief conductor had been suffering from an unspecified serious long-term illness.

Belohlavek was in charge of several Czech orchestras, including Brno Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra and Prague Philharmonia.

After his time in charge of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 2006-2012, he was awarded an honorary CBE by the Queen.

Since 2012, he had been chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, the top Czech orchestra which he also led after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

He was also guest principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

Belohlavek conducted the popular final concert of the BBC Proms festival, the Last Night of the Proms, three times, and was the first conductor not from an English-speaking country to be given the prestigious role.

He conducted Dvorak's "Requiem" in his last appearance with the BBC SO on April 13.

The orchestra said on Twitter: "We are deeply saddened to hear that Jiri Belohlavek, Conductor Laureate & our great friend has died. We send our condolences to his family."

Belohlavek will be remembered for his interpretations of the music by Czech composers including Bohuslav Martinu, Antonin Dvorak, Leos Janacek, Josef Suk and Bedrich Smetana.

His other credits across the world include work with the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, New York Philharmonic and others.

The Czech Philharmonic said in a statement: "It is him who deserves credit that the Czech Philharmonic has experienced numerous successes in the last five years and again reached a respectable position at home and abroad."

He had also been guest principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013.

"Music was my life," Belohlavek once said. "I even feel joy when I read it."

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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