On June 29, 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rafael Kubelík, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s fifth music director and a beloved guest conductor, who was a presence on the Orchestra Hall podium from 1949 until 1991.
On November 17, 1949, thirty-five-year-old Kubelík made his United States conducting debut, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the first of three weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall. Those programs (*including a few first CSO performances) were as follows:
November 17 and 18, 1949
SMETANA Overture to The Bartered Bride
MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (Prague)
*JANÁČEK Taras Bulba
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
November 24 and 25, 1949
*MÍČA Symphony in D Major
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219
Erica Morini, violin
*MARTINŮ Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)
December 1 and 2, 1949
HONEGGER Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor
Barely a month later, on December 29, the Chicago Tribune announced that Kubelík would “become musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra next fall.”
Kubelík began his tenure as the Orchestra’s fifth (and youngest) music director in October 1950, opening the sixtieth season with Bach’s Fourth Orchestral Suite; the Orchestra’s first performances of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; and Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. During his three-season tenure, he introduced over seventy works to the Orchestra’s repertory, and his interpretations of works from his native Czechoslovakia drew critical praise.
His final concerts as music director, given on April 23 and 24, 1953, included a single work, a concert version of Wagner’s Parsifal with Set Svanholm in the title role. Margaret Harshaw, Sigurd Björling, Jerome Hines, Andrew Földi, and Frederich Lechner filled out the rest of the principal cast.
Following his music directorship, Kubelík returned to guest conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions. His final appearance with the Orchestra was on October 18, 1991, when he conducted Dvořák’s Husitská Overture concluding the Gala Centennial Finale concert, a re-creation of the Orchestra’s first concert on October 16, 1891.
Stay tuned for part 2 . . .