Rafael Kubelik

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Monday, June 29, 2020

Today's date marks anniversary of the birth of the famous Czech conductor Rafael Kubelík. He was born on June 29, 1914, in the Bohemian village of Býchory, as the son of a very musical father, namely the violin virtuoso Jan Kubelík, known as the "Czech Paganini."

Rafael Kubelík studied violin, composition, and conducting at the Prague Conservatory, and was an excellent pianist to boot—good enough to accompany his father on several concert tours. At the age of 19, Kubelík made his conducting debut with the Czech Philharmonic, and later became that orchestra's artistic director.

In 1950, Kubelík became director of the Chicago Symphony, in 1955, the director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in 1961, conductor of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. It was with the Bavarian orchestra that Kubelík made the bulk of his recordings, including a critically-acclaimed set of the Mahler symphonies. Like Mahler, Kubelík was both a conductor and a composer.

"In public, I am practicing more as a conductor," said Kubelík, "but I could not live without composing, just as I would not be able to conduct without composing." Kubelík wrote five operas, three symphonies, chamber music, choral works, and songs.