The roots of the Brno Philharmonic go back to the 1870s, when the young Leoš Janáček endeavoured to establish a Czech symphony orchestra in Brno. The works of the famous twentieth-century composer constitute the core of the orchestra’s repertory, and to this day the Brno Philharmonic continues to be considered the authentic performer of his oeuvre. The present orchestra was created in 1956 by merging the Brnobased Radio and Regional orchestras, and since then has been among the leading Czech orchestras in terms of both size and importance. On its tours abroad, it has performed about a thousand concerts throughout Europe, the United States of America, Latin America, and both the Middle and Far East. The Philharmonic is a regular guest at festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad, frequently joining forces for these appearances with the excellent Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno. The orchestra regularly records for the Czech Radio, Czech Television and a number of music labels (Supraphon, Sony Music, IMG Records, BMG, Channel 4), and is also receiving a growing number of commissions from global clientele through the agency Czech Orchestra Recordings.
Throughout its history, the orchestra has had a number of Czech and international conductors, including Břetislav Bakala, František Jílek, Petr Altrichter, Jiří Bělohlávek, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil, Charles Munch, Kurt Masur, Sir Charles Mackerras, Yehudi Menuhin and Aleksandar Marković. The orchestra offers about hundred concerts a year in 12 subscription series, collaborating with specialised ensembles for its non-orchestral series. The face of each season is the resident artist (previously Olga Kern, Vadim Gluzman, Radek Baborák, Fazil Say, Benjamin Yusupov and Alina Pogostkina), with British cellist Matthew Barley serving the role in the 61st season. Since 2000 the Philharmonic has been organising the open-air summer festival at the Špilberk castle in Brno, and in 2012 has become the organiser of the renowned traditional festivals Moravian Autumn, Easter Festival of Sacred Music and Exposition of New Music. The orchestra sponsors the internationally lauded children’s choir Kantiléna, has been involved since 2010 in the popular educational project Mozart’s Children, and in 2014 founded the Brno Philharmonic Academy.
Today Brno Philharmonic is not only a strong player in the field of symphonic music at home and abroad, but also the primary organiser of the musical season in the second largest Czech city, an active instigator of festivals and a creative leader in orchestral programming. Its home is the beautiful building of Besední dům, the Brno counterpart to Vienna’s Musikverein, built in 1873 according to a design by Theophil Hansen, though the orchestra is now looking forward to its new modern concert hall.