Another historic concert this week. Former Music Director of the Chicago Symphony in the early 1950s, now guest conducting the orchestra in the first of 5 concerts in 1983. This one, a live concert from October 27, 1983 features Kubelik and the Orchestra in the complete version of Smetana’s Ma Vlast.
A Czech by birth, Mr. Kubelik left his homeland after the Communist takeover in 1948 and lived in London for several years before settling in Switzerland. He became a Swiss citizen in 1973.
Mr. Kubelik was a regular guest conductor of numerous orchestras, including Chicago until heart disease and severe arthritis forced him to retire from conducting in 1985. His performances were considered highlights of the concert season by those who prized a warm, probing, grandly scaled style of music making that was quickly being eclipsed by a more streamlined, modern approach.
He conducted a broad repertory, and championed many modern works during his nearly five decades on the podium. His performances of Czech works, like Smetana’s patriotic ”Ma Vlast” and the Dvorak symphonies were especially authoritative, and his 1971 recording of the Smetana with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (on Deutsche Grammophon) is considered by many to be the best version available.
But Mr. Kubelik avoided specialization, and near the end of his career, he devoted himself with increasing vigor to the Viennese classics. The accounts of the Mozart and Haydn symphonies that he recorded for CBS (now Sony) in the early 1980’s, for example, defied the trend toward light-textured, chamber-scale readings. Using the full weight and coloristic resources of the modern symphony orchestra, he gave performances that have a freshness and energy that transcend interpretive fashion.
After 1985, Mr. Kubelik conducted only once. Having declared when he left Prague in 1948 that he would not return until the situation changed, he went back in 1990 to conduct ”Ma Vlast” at the opening of the first Prague Spring Festival after Vaclav Havel’s Velvet Revolution. Mr. Kubelik had conducted the work 45 years earlier to celebrate the liberation of Prague from Nazi occupation.
Needless to say, this performance with the Chicago Symphony was warmly received and considered a highlight of the 1983-1984 concert season. In case you missed it – here it is.
Relax and enjoy.