Rafael Kubelík : [EuroArts 2072388] Smetana: Má vlast (My Fatherland)
The cycle Má vlast (My Fatherland) is Smetana's glorious declaration of his love for his homeland, and who else could be better qualified to conduct this icon of Czech national music than Rafael Kubelik whose career has been interwoven with the Czech music scene for decades? Few conductors have taken as keen an interest in this work, or been more closely identified with its contents than he has. Here we hear it performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, often labelled "Kubelik's orchestra", at the Herkulessaal in Munich in 1984. Kubelik conducted the ensemble for nearly two decades, starting in 1961, a period described by music critic Joachim Kaiser as the conductor's "Golden Age". Born in 1914, the son of the internationally acclaimed Czech violinist, Jan Kubelik first conducted the Czech Philharmonic in 1934 and became its principal conductor in 1941. But in 1948 the Communists' seizure of power forced him to emigrate, and he subsequently was principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Always particularly close to the music of his home region, he became famous for his interpretations of Dvořak, Janáček and Smetana. Kubelik died in 1996 and Bedřich Smetana's Má vlast had often featured at decisive turning points in his life. In June 1945, for example, he first conducted it at an open-air concert in Prague's Old Town Square to mark Czechoslovakia's newly restored political freedom. As a co-founder of the Prague Spring Festival, Kubelik ensured that Má vlast should be performed at the festival's opening ceremony every year and when he returned to Prague in 1990 he conducted it again. The DVD comprises all six of the symphonic tone poems, written between 1874 and 1879 that make up Má vlast. The bonus film features an introduction to both the work and the conductor. Altogether a document of one of the most fascinating symphonic poems ever written performed by the all-time specialist for that repertoire.