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Great Conductors of the 20th Century: Rafael Kubelik

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 13, 2004
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Product Details

  • Conductor: Rafael Kubelik
  • Composer: Antonin Dvorak, Paul Hindemith, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler, et al.
  • Audio CD (July 13, 2004)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B000239AMY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,606 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Those familiar with my reviews on Amazon know of my love for the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" series. With a recent batch of six releases (Reiner, Toscanini, Furtwangler, Karajan, Celibidache and this title of Kubelik), the series now has a total of 40 volumes. And while the "Great Conductors" website claims that 60 releases will eventually be made, it is hard to imagine that this series is not concluding with these six big name conductors. What is also a shame is that while all of these releases boast "rare and previously unreleased material on CD," most of the last six sets have, inevitably I suppose because of these conductors' popularity, lots of material that has been readily available on disc for years. Take this Kubelik set, the majority of the first-time CD tracks are mono recordings from the late 40s and early 50s -- Martinu's 4th Symphony, Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, a Berlioz "Damnation de Faust" excerpt and Janacek's Sinfonietta (the latter being one of the set's highlights IMO). To my knowledge the only new to CD stereo reissues are the 1960 Schubert 3rd Symphony with the Vienna PO and a 1959 Dvorak Slavonic Rhapsody with the Royal PO, and both are wonderful. The remainder of the set is a re-tread -- Kubelik's 1953 Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis is included on a Mercury Living Presence title, still currently available though that line has seen many recent deletions. The 1964 Berlin Philharmonic performance of Schumann's Genoveva Overture is currently available on a DG "Double 2CD" title of Kubelik performing the four Schumann Symphonies. Finally, the Adagio from Mahler's unfinished 10th Symphony is included on the box set of Kubelik's Mahler Symphony Cycle with the Bavarian RSO (see my review).Read more ›
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The Great Conductors series has unearthed few treasures in terms of unreleased performances, so the fact that this Kubelik collection lacks a major new release didn't bother me. It contains many things Kubelik was good at--Mahler, Schumann, and a host of Czech composers. The lovely Dvorak Slavonic Rhapsody that begins CD 1 is in excellent 1959 stereo; for those of us who don't know the work, it sounds like one of the famous Slavonic Dances extended to 11 min. We then descend into murky 1948 mono for a vigorous, idiomatic Martinu Sym. 4, a fascinating document of a half-remembered composer (still famous in his native Czechoslovakia). The other major work on CD 1 is the familiar Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphoses in clear, wide-ranging 1953 mono, recorded during Kubelik's ill-starred interregnum in Chicago before Reiner arrived. Here Kubelik favors a lean line and detailed inner voices, so there is a certain restrained coolness to the whole reading.

CD 2, which is mostly in stereo, starts with a lovely Schumann Genoveva Over. with the Berlin Phil., a very accomplished account. A 1960 Schubert 3rd Sym. sparkles because of the Vienna Phil. and Kubelik's animated, alert condcuting. The sonics are fairly dated, unfortunately. The Adagio from the Mahler 10th, taken from Kubelik's complete cycle on DG, is neither intense nor virtuosic; I'm not sure it holds up that well. It certainly gives us a fair portrait of his natural, sometimes understated style in Mahler. Finally, one of Kubelik's specialties, the Janacek Sinfonietta. This version from 1955 with the Vienna Phil. (soudning pretty scrappy) is in boxy mono and really doesn't show the conductor at his best--I guess it was included as the least available recording he made of the piece.
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Format: Audio CD
Great series. Too bad they stopped at #40
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