Before the Chief Conductor’s baton was taken up by the first internationally known conductor, Václav Talich, in 1919, the orchestra was directed by Ludvík Čelanský and Vilém Zemánek, as well as, briefly, by Oskar Nedbal. Talich’s great personality was succeeded by other outstanding conductors such as Rafael Kubelík (1942-1948), Karel Ančerl (1950-1968) and Václav Neumann (1968-1990). During the 1990s, the position of Chief Conductor was passed in succession to Jiří Bělohlávek, Gerd Albrecht and Vladimir Ashkenazy, who directed the orchestra until the end of the 2002/2003 season. From the beginning of the 2003/2004 season until 8 September 2007 Zdeněk Mácal held a position as the tenth Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. In the 113th season there was no Chief Conductor; some of his powers and duties were exercised by the Principal Guest Conductor Manfred Honeck.
Ever since the time of Ančerl’s leadership, the Czech Philharmonic has typically been faced with an extensive travel itinerary that has taken in all the continents. This was also hold true during the 112th concert season, when in addition to concerts in Europe the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra traveled to the USA and Japan. In the 2009/10 season the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra performed in Ireland and the United Kingdom with the conductor Jakub Hrůša; in Japan with Herbert Blomstedt; in Spain with Eliahu Inbal; in Russia with Ion Marin; and in Germany with Nikolas Znaider and Manfred Honeck.
Of the latest CDs released by the orchestra, recordings made for the Japanese market have recently met with unprecedented acclaim. Zdeněk Mácal and the Czech Philharmonic have been working with Octavia Records to progressively record the complete symphonies of Antonín Dvořák, Gustav Mahler, P. I. Tchaikovsky and Johannes Brahms. The set of Dvořák symphonies conducted by Zdeněk Mácal is almost finished. With Manfred Honeck the Czech Philharmonic continuously records symphonies of Anton Bruckner also for Octavia Records. In the concert season 2007/2008, the Czech Philharmonic recorded symphonies of Robert Schumann under Lawrence Foster for the label Pentatone. Bělohlávek’s previous recording of Martinů’s Third and Fourth Symphonies for Supraphon was nominated for the prestigious Grammy Award in 2004. In 2005, the Czech Philharmonic’s live recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony conducted by Zdeněk Mácal won the Recording of the Year award in Japan. In December 2008, a unique recording was made of Three Fragments from the Opera “Julietta” by Bohuslav Martinů under the direction of Sir Charles Mackerras with a plethora of renowned soloists led by Magdalena Kožená. The recording released by Supraphon has received international recognition. In June 2009 the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra published a unique historical recording – 2CDs with Smetana’s My Country and the second series of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances. The live recording has been compiled from concerts conducted by Václav Talich in 1939.The orchestra makes most of its recordings in the perfect acoustical environment of the Rudolfinum’s Dvořák Hall.