Tuesday, March 15, 2011: Bands, on the Run

From Auschwitz to Australia, Rudolf Pekárek never let history stop the music

By Zuzana Sklenková

Rudolf Pekárek 'at his desk' in an undated photo

The Prague Symphony Orchestra, or FOK (for “Film, Opera, Koncert”), started off as the idea of just one man, Rudolf Pekárek (1900-1974). He was not only a music organizer and oboe player, but also a conductor.

Although he was the founder of one of the foremost classical music ensembles in Prague, his name is not listed in encyclopedias nor engraved on plaques.

But even the little that can be found about this father figure of FOK shows a life far from the ordinary.

Nothing is known about Pekárek’s life before the founding of FOK. The first mention of Rudolf Pekárek is from October 1934, when he called together unemployed musicians for a meeting in a Vinohrady restaurant. He wanted to start a new orchestra.

But the economic crisis was hitting musical life very hard. Concert attendance was decreasing rapidly. Some newly-founded orchestras had already disbanded. Starting a new orchestra must have seemed a very bold move.

This is the beginning of Zuzana Sklenková’s fascinating article about Rudolf Pekárek, who escaped from Auschwitz, avoided the German army, and fled communism, all after founding the FOK (the Prague Symphony Orchestra).

You can read the complete article by clicking on Magazine, at the top of your screen. oo

Photo Credits: Sydney Jewish Museum, donated by Eva Klug

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