The secret passion of a great conductor

The secret passion of a great conductor


norman lebrecht

July 12, 2018

From the new issue of the Spectator:

Rafael Kubelik is watching Wimbledon when I enter his suite at the Savoy. ‘Tennis fan?’ I ask, slightly surprised. He shakes his head. ‘No. Just her.’

It is 1983, the high summer of Martina Navratilova….

Read on here.




  • Thomas Roth says:

    There was also a Parsifal that DG did not release. The 1964 Stenhammar Serenade could not be located for this release.

  • John Kelly says:

    I remember him well – with the BRSO in Mahler 1 in Sheffield and a great concert with the LSO at the RFH – Tallis Fantasia and a transcendent Bruckner 9. His recording of Janacek’s Sinfonietta remains a favorite for me.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Fischer-Dieskau digging in his heels to forbid release of the Meistersinger recording should remind us of Jessye Norman doing the same to block release of the Abbado/VPO Elektra with her in the title role. After 30 years it remains shelved. Both recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, by the by. Schade! How is it that some divas are given full run of the house? What of the other artists who participated in the recordings? Shouldn’t the majority overrule these divas’ caprices?

  • Petros Linardos says:

    After 42 years, Kubelik returns to Prague in 1990 after the fall of communism. Here he conducts Ma Vlast at 1990 Prague Spring.

    I don’t know of any other digital era audiovisual recording of classical music that is as historically significant as it is musically supreme. And impossible to watch and listen to with dry eyes.

    I have used the beginning to my pre-teen daughter as a starting point to talk about European communism. What a relief having to discuss it in past terms. I couldn’t have dreamt of it before 1989.

    On the web one can also find a 1991 performance of Mozart’s c-minor concerto KV 503, with another great Czech emigre, Rudolf Firkusny. One of my very favorite recordings of all time.

    • MacroV says:

      Kubelik at Prague Spring is extraordinary. Before even Ma Vlast, the fanfare from Libuse and Havel’s entrance, and the national anthem, are incredibly moving.

      It pained me in other ways when I saw a more recent performance with Zeman entering the box.

  • msc says:

    He was truly one of the greats, with an impressive range, and so few of his recordings haven’t stood up over the years (oddly, I’d put a few of his DG Dvorak symphonies among the less successful ones). Fortunately, his 1967 Meistersinger is available, and it is my favourite. The linked article should also have mentioned his Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.
    1984 was Navratilova’s third Wimbledon title in a row. She would win the next three also, and again in 1990. So Kubelik saw them all.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Kubelik was a very fine conductor of Bruckner symphonies too. To me, he had a knack for finding just the right tempos and balances. I am especially fond of his recording of the Fourth symphony with the BRSO. Unfortunately I am unaware that he performed or indeed recorded all nine Bruckner symphonies.

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    I heard him conduct the Bruckner 6th in Cleveland. I think that was the same year I heard Tennstedt there in the 4th. Those two concerts were my intro to Bruckner.