ORFEO International


June 2014

Rafael Kubelik 100th Anniversary

Today, people are quick to speak of the “end of an era” – sometimes far too quick, with barely half a decade sufficient these days to declare the passing of an epoch. Rafael Kubelik
Rafael Kubelik
Foto: Fayer
On the other hand, when we speak of a “Kubelík era” in Munich, we have the best reasons for doing so. Rafael Kubelík was born on 29 June 1914 in Býchory in Bohemia. For a full 18 years (1961-1979) he was Chief Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, remaining with it as a guest conductor until the mid-1980s. In terms of recording history it would be an understatement to say that Kubelík brought the Bavarian orchestra into the stereo age. In fact, that epoch was itself in large part shaped by Kubelík and his orchestra, far beyond what was the core repertoire of the time. Of course Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn and Mozart were among those composers whose music Kubelík illuminated, and which under his baton achieved a natural flow (with the necessary thrills, storms and moments of calm along the way). Exemplary recordings of all these composers under Kubelík are also to be found in the Orfeo catalogue. But Kubelík offered so much more to discover, such as the music of Mahler that in the course of the 1960s was tentatively finding its way into public awareness, or the works of Karl Amadeus Hartmann, who was also just one of many musical representatives of the 20th century whose music Kubelík presented to his audiences (those composers also included Kubelík himself, though Kubelík the conductor never gave undue attention to his composing alter ego). And as a native of Czechoslovakia who had emigrated and spent decades in exile, it was also especially important to Kubelík to assign the repertoire of his own homeland an appropriate place in his repertoire. There was perhaps no one else who interpreted the symphonic works of Dvořák, Janáček and Smetana in so compelling a fashion, realising their musical profundities so precisely with a similarly lovely, warm sound as did Kubelík with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (alongside other ensembles). Even 18 years after his death on 11 August 1996 in Kastanienbaum near Lucerne, Kubelík retains a firm place in the memory of innumerable classical music lovers, both in Munich and in the wider world beyond.