C1311. RAFAEL KUBELIK Cond. Czech Phil, Wiener Phil., Danish Radio S.O., Royal Phil. & Philharmonia Orch.: The Complete HMV Recordings, incl. Bartók, Beethoven, Berlioz, Borodin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Gluck, Janácek, Martinu, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Nielsen, Schubert & Smetana). (E.U.) 13-Warner 25646319015, in Boxed Set, w.elaborate booklet. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 825646319015
"Alongside Orfeo d’Or and Deutsche Grammophon, the most extensive archive of the conductor’s recordings is in the possession of EMI Classics (Warner Classics), the heir to His Master’s Voice, which paid ample tribute to the Kubelík centenary with a 13-CD box set featuring intriguing creations of his dating from 1937 to 1983, and furnished with an extraordinary booklet. The oldest recordings contained on the compilation were made in London (1937) and Prague (1946) with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, including the London accounts of Smetana’s symphonic poems VLTAVA and From BOHEMIAN FIELDS AND GROVES, and the cycle of Dvorák’s programme overtures In Nature’s Realm, Carnival and Othello, and Janácek’s Sinfonietta, recorded in Prague and produced by the legendary Walter Legge. Although the performance of the Czech Philharmonic on the studio albums lags in technical terms behind the creations of the other orchestras, it is imbued with a sonic ardour and an impressive transparency of the middle parts. Legge was also behind a number of recordings Kubelík made with the Philharmonia Orchestra during the first years of his living abroad, of which the anthology includes his deliveries of Dvorák’s Symphonies #7 (1951) and #8, Scherzo capriccioso, the absorbing recording of Martinu’s Double Concerto, the account of Mendelssohn’s overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, and a set of spirited renditions of overtures to Mozart’s operas (1951–1952).
In addition to Martinu’s Double Concerto, whose sonic whirlwind is unmatched by any of the oldest recordings (Sejna for Supraphon), noteworthy too is Dvorák’s Symphony #7, whose dramatic, ferocious rendition and emotional charge is miles off many Biedermeier creations of the present time.
In the late 1950s, Kubelík and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra made in London a series of, in part mono, in part stereo, recordings, which are also featured on other compilations marking the conductor’s anniversary (Bartók, Schubert). The recordings of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, Schubert’s ‘Great’ Symphony, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Dvorák’s Third Slavonic Rhapsody and Scherzo capriccioso, Janácek’s Taras Bulba and Martinu‘s Frescoes of Piero della Francesca, dating from 1958 and 1959, conceal many a surprise for the listener, be it the sonically delicate universe of Viennese music of the first third of the 19th century, Brahms’ old-worldly, agogically loose dances, or the intoxicating compositions by Martinu and Janácek. The most compact in terms of interpretation are Kubelík’s studio creations of the Mozart and Tchaikovsky symphonies, recorded with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The deliveries of the’ Haffner’, ‘Linz’, ‘Prague’ and ‘Jupiter’ Symphonies, as well as ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’ (1961), bear witness to Kubelík’s congenial partnership with the orchestra, who, compared with other contemporary recordings, were led by the conductor in transparent sound and lightened rhythmisation. Yet perhaps even more engrossing than the Mozart symphonies is Kubelík’s sonically delicate and melancholically tinted conception of Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4, and ‘Unfinished’ Symphony (1960). The majority of the recordings came into being during Kubelík’s frequent successive appearances in Vienna, yet they do not bear the slightest trait of haste or superficiality - quite the contrary.
In all these compositions, Kubelík was rivalled by recordings for Deutsche Grammophon made by his contemporary Ferenc Fricsay, who may have attained a greater tempo-rhythmic elasticity and sonic transparency, yet Kubelík and the Wiener Philharmoniker succeeded in gaining a singularly exalted expression and unsentimental Slavonic melancholia, with prime examples being the accounts of Tchaikovsky’s three paramount symphonies, recorded in January 1960, which had previously been released on CD only by Testament. They, even more than in the case of Borodin’s ‘Heroic’ Symphony, reveal Kubelík’s understanding of the 19th-century Russian symphonic canon.
Perhaps it is no exaggeration to claim that the Warner Classics compilation is the greatest surprise of 2014, the year marking Kubelík’s centenary, as it serves to prove his indisputable mastery, which made him one of the most original conductors of the second half of the 20th Century."
- Martin Jemelka, Czech Music, 2015
“A Czech by birth, Rafael Kubelik left his homeland after the Communist takeover in 1948 and lived in London for several years before settling in Switzerland. He became a Swiss citizen in 1973. He was the son of Jan Kubelik, one of the great violinists of the early 20th century.
Mr. Kubelik was a regular guest of the New York Philharmonic until heart disease and severe arthritis forced him to retire from conducting in 1985. His performances were considered highlights of the concert season by those who prized a warm, probing, grandly scaled style of music making that was quickly being eclipsed by a more streamlined, modern approach. He conducted a broad repertory, and championed many modern works during his nearly five decades on the podium. His performances of Czech works, like Smetana's patriotic MA VLAST and the Dvorák symphonies were especially authoritative, and his 1971 recording of the Smetana with the Boston Symphony Orchestra is considered by many to be the best version available.
But Mr. Kubelik avoided specialization, and near the end of his career, he devoted himself with increasing vigor to the Viennese classics. The accounts of the Mozart and Haydn symphonies that he recorded in the early 1980s, for example, defied the trend toward light-textured, chamber-scale readings. Using the full weight and coloristic resources of the modern symphony orchestra, he gave performances that have a freshness and energy that transcend interpretive fashion.
In 1971, he accepted an invitation from Goeran Gentele, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, to become the company's first music director. Gentele died before Mr. Kubelik's tenure began, with a performance of LES TROYENS in October 1973, and Mr. Kubelik faced criticism for spending too much time in Europe and for being a weak administrator. In February 1974, five months after his début as director, he submitted his resignation. He was succeeded by his deputy, James Levine.
After 1985, Mr. Kubelik conducted only once. Having declared when he left Prague in 1948 that he would not return until the situation changed, he went back in 1990 to conduct MA VLAST at the opening of the first Prague Spring Festival after Vaclav Havel's Velvet Revolution. Mr. Kubelik had conducted the work 45 years earlier to celebrate the liberation of Prague from Nazi occupation.”
Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Aug., 1996