Vilém Tauský

The much-honoured Czech conductor and composer Vilém Tauský was born at Prerov in Moravia on 20 July 1910 into a musical family - a Viennese mother who had sung at the Vienna Court Opera and an uncle (Leo Fall) who wrote the operetta The Dollar Princess.  He studied with Janáček, Vilem Petrzelka and Zdenek Chalabala, and became a repetiteur at Brno Opera. He conducted Turandot there at the age of nineteen when Chalabala was ill.

The combination of the Nazis and his Jewish ancestry necessitated a move to France, and he later served in a musical capacity with the Free Czech Army, ending up in the UK when France fell to the Nazis. He was honoured by the Czechs at the end of World War II with a Czech Military Cross, and by the British with a CBE.

In the UK he continued to work as a military band and choir leader, becoming musical director of the Carl Rosa Opera Company (1945-9) and Welsh National Opera (1951-6). From 1956 until 1966 he was principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, appearing with the orchestra regularly on the BBC's Friday Night is Music Night radio programme. From 1966 until 1992 he was director of opera and head of the conducting course at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Tauský's conducting career peaked in the 1950s and 60s, but his biggest hit as a composer was with a 1973 Harmonica Concerto for Tommy Reilly.

Although dismissed in some quarters as an entertainer (due probably to Friday Night is Music Night and his show work with comedians such as Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd and Morecambe and Wise) he knew Janáček and Martinů, and made important contributions to the promotion of Czech music in the UK, introducing, for example, Smetana's folk opera The Kiss. He also gave first performances of many British works.

Tauský died in London on 16 March 2004, aged ninety-three.


A selection of articles about Vilém Tauský

CD Spotlight. Neo-classical Verve - Music by victims of the Nazi death camps, heard by Howard Smith. 'Worth its weight and then some, in Euros.'