Commemorating Rafael Kubelik

Rafael Kubelik

This Tuesday, Rafael Kubelik, one of the country's most renowned 20th century conductors and composers, would have celebrated his 90th birthday. Born on June 29 1914, in the Central Bohemian village Bychory, Rafael Kubelik was the youngest of eight siblings - his father the famous Czech violin player and composer Jan Kubelik and his mother a Hungarian Countess.

Kubelik started his exceptional career at the young age of 19 when he first conducted the Czech Philharmonic. He succeeded Vaclav Talich as chief conductor at the age of 28 and also conducted opera at the Brno National Theatre until 1941.

When the Communists came to power in 1948, he left the country in protest. His enormous talent earned him guest performances with the best orchestras around the world, including America, Australia, Moscow, London, Italy, Chicago, and Vienna. He held the post of Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, headed the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich from 1961 to 1983, after which he devoted much of his free time to composing.

After the Communist regime collapsed in Czechoslovakia, he returned home and was named honorary chief-conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. After a gap of 42 years, Rafael Kubelik once again conducted the philharmonic with an unforgettable opening concert at the Prague Spring Festival, when the orchestra performed Bedrich Smetana's My Homeland. Kubelik died in 1996 leaving behind not only dozens of recordings, but his work as a composer, including five operas.