Kubelik conducts Dvorak, Martinu & Beethoven | Testament SBT1421

Kubelik conducts Dvorak, Martinu & Beethoven

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Label: Testament

Cat No: SBT1421

Barcode: 0749677142124

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 25th February 2008



July and August 1957 were mostly slack summer months for the Philharmonia Orchestra, with plenty of free time when members could go on holiday or undertake freelance engagements. Then at the end of August it was back to concentrated orchestral work. After two days of rehearsal in London’s St. Pancras Town Hall the orchestra travelled to Edinburgh on the evening of 27 August in order to continue preparations for three concerts in three days under three different conductors.

Kubelík’s concert, reproduced on this disc, contained the first European performance of Martinu’s Fourth Piano Concerto, with  Rudolf Firkusny (1912-1994) as soloist. Firkusny had given the first performance of this concerto in New York in October 1956. He was a friend of the composer and had given the first performances of the second and third as well as the fourth piano concertos. All three concertos had been written for him, and he was also the dedicatee of the Third Concerto. Rafael Kubelík had moved to the West from Communist Czechoslovakia in September 1948, and his early reputation in the UK was to a large extent built upon concerts and recordings on the HMV label with the Philharmonia Orchestra. His contract with EMI had expired in September 1952 and he was now an exclusive Decca artist: practically all his recordings for this company were made with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he was currently recording a Brahms symphony cycle. He now appeared rarely with the Philharmonia: he had not conducted the orchestra since March 1955.

Kubelík’s Edinburgh Festival concert took place during the Opera House’s summer break. He had performed with Firkusny frequently over a number of years (they had given Martinu° ’s Second Piano Concerto together in London before the war), and he too was a  friend of the composer. He conducted the first performances of his Fifth Symphony and Les fresques de Piero della Francesca, the first performances in Prague of the Second Symphony, Field Mass and Memorial to Lidice, and he made first recordings of the Fourth Symphony and the Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano and timpani.

Dvorak was always a composer closely associated with Kubelík, and the Symphonic Variations was an apt choice of work to begin the first, Czech half of the concert. It would have been understandable if the Philharmonia had given a routine performance of the unimaginative choice of work for the second half,Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, given the number of times that the orchestra had recently played it, but The Scotsman’s reviewer wrote that it sounded like a first performance, such was the enthusiasm of the playing, and the correspondent of the Evening Dispatch wrote of “an exciting, crisp and fullblooded performance, with its glorious scherzo and finale”.

From the booklet note © Alan Sanders, 2008

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