Jaroslav Krcek (also Krecek) is an important contemporary Czech composer and conductor. Most listeners familiar with his name are more likely to know him as a conductor from his numerous recordings on Naxos, Supraphon, Panton, and other labels. Krcek's compositions are eclectic and often contain folk elements meshed with older musical styles as well as modern techniques, sometimes performed on newly designed instruments fashioned after the composer's specifications. Krcek, like Bartók, is also well known for his many arrangements of folk tunes. He has produced a large body of original compositions across a range of genres, including chamber, orchestral and choral music, concertos, and stage works.
Krcek was born in the southern Bohemian town of Ctyri Dvory. Though his family had a musical background (his grandfather was accomplished on several instruments and his mother was an amateur singer), Krcek did not begin music studies until age 14. His first lessons were on the accordion, but he switched to the cello when he studied at the Jaremias School of Music in Ceske Budejovice, Czechoslovakia. He later enrolled at the Prague Conservatory, where his primary teachers were Miloslav Kabelác (composition) and Bohumír Liska (conducting).
After his 1962 graduation Krcek, already the author of several orchestral works, worked briefly as a music editor at the Pilsen-based Czechoslovak Radio Studio and, until 1973, for the recording label Suprahon. He was busy composing during this first decade of his career, too, turning out such works as the Piano Quartet and Variations for Symphony Orchestra, both from 1965. He also co-founded the instrumental ensemble Chorea Bohemica in 1967.
In 1975 Krcek was named artistic director of Musica Bohemia, a group he would lead in numerous recordings in the 1980s and '90s. Among the more popular recordings was the 1995 CD Bohemian Christmas Songs on Supraphon. Since the early '90s Krcek has written few new compositions. Among his last major works was the 1991 Czech Mass, for soloists, choir, and chamber orchestra. Krcek has, however, remained active as a conductor, both in the concert hall and recording studio. Most of Krcek's later recordings were made for Naxos with the Capella Istropolitana ensemble, among them a DVD of Handel's Messiah. A fair number of Krcek's older recordings have been given a second life in the new century, like the 2006 Supraphon reissue of Brixi's rarely performed oratorio Judas Iscariot with Musica Bohemia.