The Slovak Philharmonic (in Slovak, Slovenská filharmónia) is one of the youngest among Europe's great symphonic ensembles, yet it has gained international renown in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The orchestra has recorded extensively and has attracted top-notch international collaborators. The Slovak Philharmonic was founded in Bratislava, then part of Czechoslovakia, in 1949. Its first conductor, Vaclav Talich, and first music director, Ludovit Ratjer, were key figures in the orchestra's formation and emergence. In the 1950s, the orchestra began giving concerts in the handsome 1773 Reduta Bratislava concert hall, which has remained its home base. After Rajter stepped down as conductor in 1976, the orchestra had several other highly regarded conductors including Ladislav Slovak (until 1981), Libor Pesek, and, in 1990 and 1991, Aldo Ceccato, its first conductor from outside Czechoslovak lands. After Slovakia split peacefully from the Czech Republic in 1993, the Slovak Philharmonic went from being a strong orchestra in a country with many of them to something of a national flagship, and it increasingly attracted foreign conductors and instrumental collaborators as guests. Among the former group have been Claudio Abbado, Sergiu Celibidache, and Mariss Jansons. The permanent conductorship, however, remained mostly in Slovak and Czech hands; the renowned Jiří Bělohlávek served a term in the 2003-2004 season. That changed with the appointment of France's Emmanuel Villaume in 2009; he remained in the job until 2016, when he was succeeded by Britain's James Judd, a former conductor of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the founder of the Miami Music Project. The orchestra has also been led in recent years by its permanent guest conductors, Leos Svarovsky (until 2018), Rastislav Stur, and Petr Altrichter. The orchestra has a large collection of recordings, most of them on the Naxos, Zebralution, and Denon labels; on Naxos the group released a recording of symphonic poems from Bedřich Smetana's Swedish period.