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CD Review

Great Conductors of the 20th Century

EMI 62863
1 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
2 Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
3 Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
4 Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
5 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
6 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
7 Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
EMI Great Conductors of the 20th Century 562863-2 2CDs 155m ADD
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This is one of the most satisfying retrospectives in the whole Great Conductors of the Century series as it brings together a number of fine recordings from Kubelík's varied and chequered conducting career. This is demonstrated by the labels at the back of the disc with no less than five major labels represented and seven orchestras participating.

An excellent Slavonic Rhapsody #3 with the Royal Philharmonic kicks off proceedings and after the opulent Kingsway Hall sound, one is rather taken aback by the dull acoustics of the Studio Domovina in Prague where a bitingly fierce Martinů Fourth is recorded. Kubelík's youthful vigour is definitely apparent for a lithe "Dance of the Sylph's" from Berlioz's "Damnation of Faust" whilst the Midsummer Night's Dream Overture is also beautifully done in stunning 1952 sound. The Mercury recording of Weber's Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber is also a classic of the gramophone and does need much praise from yours truly! Just listen and relish!

The second CD contains what are arguably the more interesting recordings. I was fascinated by Kubelík's conducting of the "Genoveva" Overture; surely top notch due to the conductor's fabled hand for Schumann that is amply demonstrated in his classic Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra cycle of the symphonies (DG). The Schubert Third is similarly ebullient and delightfully buoyant on all counts with the Vienna Philharmonic truly in their element. Kubelík's Mahler cycle has only recently been reassessed and found to be extremely desirable so this Tenth Symphony's First Movement is a handy item to sample.

Finally, Janáček's "Sinfonietta" in a glorious performance with the Vienna Philharmonic again on their toes and this compares excellently with Ančerl (Supraphon), Mackerras (Decca/Testament) and the same Kubelík recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony (DG) which was my introduction to the work. This is definitely an issue to treasure and a fine memorial to a great conductor whose grasp of the core repertoire was uncanny and masterful.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech

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