Notes and Editorial Reviews
RAFAEL KUBELIK - MUSIC IS MY COUNTRY
A Film by Reiner E. Moritz
With commentary by Elsie and Martin Kubelik, Daniel Barenboim and Albert Scharf. Special Features: Photo Gallery showing the musician and man Rafael Kubelik.
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Picture Format: 4:3
Region Code: 0 worldwide
Menu Languages: German, French, English, Spanish
Subtitle Languages: German, French, English, Japanese, Spanish, Czech
Running Time: 80 mins
DVD 5/ NTSC
On December 14, 2004 Rafael Kubelik would have been 90 years old. The son of the famous violinist Jan Kubelik and the Hungarian countess Csaky-Szell, Rafael Kubelik became one of the most important conductors of
the 20th century.
His conducting is described as warm, human, with an emphasis on melody and a warm orchestral sound, with a dance-like rhythm. Daniel Barenboim said of Kubelik: "Kubelik was one of those rare musicians whose human qualities were evident both in music making and outside. You could feel in the way he treated the musicians and in the way he behaved generally, what a generous and free human being he was."
R E V I E W S
Subtitled “A Film by Reiner E. Moritz,” this biographical DVD examines Rafael Kubelík as artist and as human being, including his widely expressed political beliefs. The sound format is PCM Stereo; the menu languages are German, French, English, Spanish, Czech, and Japanese; subtitles are in German, French, English, and Spanish. The picture ratio is 16:9 but can be set to 4:3, and the region code is zero (worldwide). The whole is in the NTSC system. Although running time is listed as 125 minutes on the box, the film lasts only 78 minutes, including the closing credits. Twelve chapters provide entry points. The film was created in 2003, using still photos, video, and audio from Kubelík’s lifetime (1914–1996) as well as interviews with musicians and music managers: Kubelík himself (speaking in German, Czech, and English), his son Martin Kubelík, his widow Elsie Morison, plus Daniel Barenboim, Albert Scharf (director general of Bavarian State Radio), and Fanfare’s own Henry Fogel, who was managing director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Additional brief comments come from music critic Robert C. Marsh and Metropolitan Opera General Manager-designate (in 1971) Göran Gentele. The interviews are obviously unscripted and are much the better for that, as these people all knew Kubelík well. They testify to his high ideals and his personal warmth both as conductor and as friend. Thoughtful and insightful as always, Fogel describes the characteristics of Kubelík’s music-making.
The conductor’s father was the internationally famous Czech violinist Jan Kubelík; Rafael was the sixth child but first son; a photo shows him as a boy with his five older sisters. His father saw to it that he had the widest possible education, taking him along on tours, even a year-long one to the United States. A musical prodigy, Rafael became a fine pianist, violinist, and composer, turning to conducting late in his studies. At age 20, he conducted the Czech Philharmonic; by 27, he was its musical director, replacing the ailing Václav Talich. A scene from a 1940s film shows the young conductor leading the Czech Philharmonic in portions of The Moldau. He led the orchestra throughout the Nazi occupation during World War II, and this gave him an understanding of the ways of dictatorship. When the Soviet Union took over Czechoslovakia in 1948, Kubelík took his first wife—violinist Ludmilla Bertlová—and young son on a plane to London, vowing not to return until the Russians were thrown out, never doubting that they would be. Invited by the Communist government to conduct in Prague, he used the formal invitation as a public forum to excoriate them. In 1990, after a 42-year exile, he returned to a free Prague and to the Czech Philharmonic, leading the never-matched performance of Má Vlast which we all know from its Supraphon live recording. In the interim, Kubelík had been musical director of the Chicago Symphony, the Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, and for 18 years the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, as well as a welcome guest throughout the free world.
Musical excerpts are many and varied, from Mozart (the Andante of the “Prague”) to Karl Amadeus Hartmann (Toccata variata from Symphony No. 6). Beethoven, Bruckner, Britten, and Stravinsky are also represented. We see Kubelík rehearsing and conducting, in the concert hall as well as the opera house, including a brief excerpt from Cornelia Faroli, one of five operas he composed. We also hear snippets from some of his recordings: Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta from Chicago, and Mahler’s Fourth with his second wife as soprano. And there’s the rub; in such a documentary, we can never hear a complete work, nor even enough to give us a true picture of his music-making. Sometimes a voice-over interferes with the music after a few bars. Cut short are especially promising performances of a noble Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto with Barenboim and a superbly dramatic beginning to act II of Jen?fa, followed by rehearsals for it. Another highlight features Kurt Moll singing the bass solo from the Gloria of Haydn’s Missa Sancta Caeciliae, Hob. XXII:5. That, at least, is available on an Orfeo CD. Only one or two of the musical selections are identified anywhere on the DVD; the meager accompanying booklet names a few more.
Video and audio quality are consistently fine; even the black-and-white stills and home movies from Kubelík’s childhood are clear and detailed. The only extra is a gallery of 46 still photos, some of which are taken from the film. In all, this DVD proves as enjoyable as it is informative. There is one very special moment near the end: rehearsing the Czech Philharmonic in Dvo?ák’s “from the New World,” the 76-year-old Kubelík says, “It is my joy to hear this. I always wanted it to sound like this but never really found it with any other orchestra in the world. That eighth [note] is great!” James H. North
Works on This Recording
Work(s) by Karl Amadeus Hartmann
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