RAFAEL KIBELIK - Complete Deutsche Gramophone Recordnmgs
DGG 4799959 (64 CDs / 2 DVDs) Limited Edition

Rafael Kubelik (1914 - 1996) was one of he legendary conductors of the century. He lead some of the world's great orchestras. Kubelik was appointed director of the Brno Opera in 1939 and became Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic, a position he held until 1948, leaving when the Communists invaded. This was the beginning of a long association with this orchestra. He was Music Director of the Chicago Symphony (1950 - 1953), and in 1948 began his long association with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. He also appeared frequently with many major orchestras, and recorded profusely. Many years ago (January 1952) I attended a concert he gave with the Chicago Symphony featuring Mahler's Symphony No. 1 and the he Sibelius violin concerto with Ida Handel as soloist. The audience was wildly enthusiastic, but Chicago Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy was vitriolic in her reviews and her strong influence on the Chicago musical scene resulted in his contract not being renewed. During his brief tenure in Chicago, Kubelik made a highly praised series of recordings for Mercury which were he rage of the pre-stereo audiophile world, richly capturing the warm acoustics of Orchestra Hall in remarkably well-balanced sound. These fine recordings have been reissued various times and are worth searching out.

This fine new issue is of major interest as it contains most of Kubelik's recordings for Deutsche Gramophone—it seems odd they omitted the conductor's superb 1964 Stockholm recoding of Stenhammar's Serenade. We have all of his Dvorak recordings, the symphonies of Beethoven, Schumann and Mahler. Also there are works of Hartmann, Janacek, Martinu, Pfitzner, Schoenberg, Tcherepnin and many other composers. There also are three complete operas: Lohengrin, Oberon and Rigoletto, as well as Orff's Oedipus.

Má vlast was a specialty of Kubelik, He first conducted it in Prague in 1945, and recorded it with the Chicago Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony. Most exciting of all is his 1984 Bavarian Radio performance available on DVD (REVIEW). This DVD offers an emotionally-charged reading beautifully played and well-presented in video. There is an 11-minute "bonus" with an unidentified narrator giving an illustrated lecture on this music and the tragic life of its composer—with brief comments by Kubelik.

This is a rather basic issue, with 64 CDs (with original jacket artwork, and 2 DVDs. There is a 120-page booklet that gives track and recording information, but no program notes or libretti, with a few photos. One brief CD (33:09) offers Kubelik discussing Maher and his music. DVD 1 offers videos of Kubelik rehearsing and performing music of Mozart and Beethoven; DVD 2 contains Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 with the Vienna Philharmonic and brief videos of the conductor. These videos are available either stereo or 5.1. It is said that for years DGG has been recording in four-track, and doubtless all of these recordings were made that way. None of these CDs are muli-channel, which is unfortunate. Pentatone has licensed from DGG the original multi-track masters of Kubelik's Beethoven symphonies and Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, reviewed on this site—check the Surround Sound Index. These are not new digital remasterings, but audio is always excellent.

This is an excellent issue as far as it goes, and the price is modest. But check the many other Kubelik issues on other labels for a more comprehensive view of the Czech conductor's repertory.

RE.B. (June 2018)