Rafael Kubelik's highly chromatic, poetic Mahler recordings have been staples in Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue since their inception. Tempos overall tend to be quicker than the norm, yet never at the expense of glossing over the composers renowned wealth of inner details. Many Mahler aficionados still regard Kubelik's readings here of the Symphonies No. 1 and No. 7 as reference recordings. Distinguished soloists include Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Mathis, Norma Proctor, Franz Crass, and Julia Hamari. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as the various outstanding choirs employed throughout the cycle couldn't be more in sync with Kubelik's inspired visionary interpretations.
A top conductor of large orchestral works of the late nineteenth century, Rafael Kubelik was born near Prague in 1914. The son of violinist Jan Kubelik (1880-1940), he studied violin, piano, composition, and conducting at the Prague Conservatory. He made his debut before the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at age 19, and in 1939 became the music director of the National Opera in Brno, Czechoslovakia. In 1941, he became the music director of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he held until 1948. In 1948, with the establishment of a Communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia, Kubelik left his homeland and became an exile for the next 40 years…
Rafael Kubelik was one of the 20th century's most brilliant and charismatic conductors, yet under-appreciated because of his reluctance to embrace the "star" system. Here he is seen working with the great orchestras of Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam, and featured in a bonus biographical documentary acclaimed for "stylish camera-work and a counterpoint of image, word and music reflecting Kubelik's spontaneity, exuberance, trust in emotion, and ability, even in tailcoat, to retain his warmth and humanity" (Süddeutsche Zeitung).
The Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler was composed in 1901 and 1902, mostly during the summer months at Mahler's cottage at Maiernigg. Among its most distinctive features are the funereal trumpet solo that opens the work and the frequently performed Adagietto.
Karajan's way with Mahler is smoother, less anguished or conflicted than many critics like, but he isn't glib or glossy–this is excellent, insightful conducting. I can't imagine why DG doesn't have more faith in this recording or why critics haven't discovered it. It's not as though Karajan is a hidden talent. After collecting Das Lieds from Rattle, Bernstein, Horenstein, Tennstedt, Kubelik, Giulini, Salonen, Sinopoli and Walter–the list goes on–I sitll rank this version almost as high as the Klemperer. Certainly no one has done it better since. - from Amazon.com
Fischer’s performance of the Sixth is quite similar to Abbado’s recent live recording for DG. Textures are generally light and transparent, with a swift opening march that, by the same token, never sounds unduly rushed or trivialized. The andante comes second, not the best option in my view, but Fischer has the intelligence to treat it as a true andante, and not as an adagio (which is a more legitimate possibility when it’s placed third). However, in contrast to Abbado’s boring Berliners, Fischer’s orchestra plays better, and he’s much better recorded. Just listen to the characterful brass in the coda of the first movement, with a particularly fine first trumpet, or the splendid woodwinds in the trios of the scherzo. The emphasis on fleetness never compromises expressivity, as happens in Berlin.