Zden?k Ko?ler (March 25, 1928 - July 2, 1995) was a Czechoslovak conductor, who played an important role in Czechoslovak musical life of the second half of 20th century, notably during the sixties and the eighties. He was particularly well known as an opera conductor.
Ko?ler came from a musical family. His father was a member of the Prague National Theatre Orchestra, and his younger brother Miroslav was a choirmaster.
After finishing his studies at the gymnasium, he enrolled at the AMU in Prague. In 1948, still as a student, he began to work as a répétiteur at the Prague's National Theatre. In that time he began also to gain some experience with the baton. In 1949 Ko?ler joined the Olomouc opera, where he conducted works by Leo? Janá?ek (The Makropulos Affair) and by W. A. Mozart (Così fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro). In 1959 he won the International Young Conductors Competition in Besançon, France, and in 1963 he won the respected Mitropoulos conducting competition in New York, together with Claudio Abbado and the Argentinian Pedro Ignacio Calderón, after which he became assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic for one year. From 1962 to 1964 Ko?ler was appointed to the Opera [Theatre]] in Ostrava. He worked also with foreign ensembles and opera houses, conducted Richard Strauss's opera Salome at the Vienna State Opera, performed the complete cycle of Dvo?ák's symphonies with the Vienna Symphony. In the late sixties he also became the guest-conductor at the Comic Opera in Berlin. Ko?ler was hired as the second conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and became the principal conductor of the Bratislava opera house in 1971. From 1980 to 1984 he also led the orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague. He retired in 1992.
Zden?k Ko?ler was well known outside Czechoslovakia, as he recorded works by Mozart, Dvo?ák and Tchaikovsky in Barking Town Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and made concert tours to Austria, United States, and Canada. He toured most often to Japan, where he performed with various orchestras thirty times.
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