Rafael Kubelik, the Czech conductor, was in every way a big man: tall and robust in physique, he was the most generous of human beings and he inspired devoted affection among his friends and colleagues. This complete Decca collection finds Kubelik working with the Wiener Philharmoniker, the Israel Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, and for a single operatic extract, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
ORIGINAL JACKETS LIMITED EDITION.
Rafael Kubelik had made his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic at the 1950 Salzburg Festival, and together they made a series of recordings during the late 1950s which have long been prized for their warmth and spontaneous-sounding expression. The Mahler First introduced countless listeners to the composer for the first time, as did the Janacek Sinfonietta. After the spectacular success of Kubelks first Ma Vlast recording, made in Chicago, the Vienna remake is softer edged but no less scored with the nationalistic fervour and colour that made the conductor synonymous with the piece until his death in 1996. Cast in the same mould as the Smetana are the Brahms symphonies and Tchaikovskys Romeo and Juliet.
In fact few other label-focused anthologies of Kubeliks recordings survey so wide a span: a quarter of a century from the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Pierre Fournier in 1954 to the 1979 recording of Der Freischutz, Webers foundational work of German Romantic opera, strongly cast in the Decca tradition and led by the radiantly sung Agathe of Hildegard Behrens, then at the start of a career that would soon establish her as the leading Wagnerian soprano of her generation. In this Bavarian Radio appendix to his Decca career, Kubelik made a no less attractive recording of Nicolais Merry Wives of Windsor, likewise transferring the atmosphere of the stage into the studio with the experience of decades behind him.
Towards the end of Kubeliks Vienna years with Decca, he also performed and recorded in Israel. The Decca sessions in a cinema outside Tel Aviv yielded an account of Dvoraks Serenade for Strings in which critics had no trouble hearing the authentic voice of the Czech nation in exile, embodied in the figure of Kubelik for half a century.
The booklet includes a full contextual account by Peter Quantrill of Kubeliks Decca career.
A first-class version, which may be highly recommended The recording is brilliant, with a richness equal to Deccas best. Gramophone, March 1955 (Dvorak: Cello Concerto)
Kubelik gets an extremely good performance from the Vienna Philharmonic, and conductor, players and Decca engineers have seen to it that the colours and lines are kept sharp, bright and clear. Every instrument sounds quintessentially itself. Gramophone, February 1956 (Janacek)
A beautifully warm, sane performance from beginning to end the Vienna Philharmonic is in its best form. High Fidelity, August 1960 (Brahms, Symphony No. 4)
Kubelik avoids Kleibers tendency to over-emphasise detail [he] also has the slightly stronger, more consistent cast. Behrens is the most convincing Agathe. Opera, February 1981 (Weber, Der Freischutz)