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Rafael Kubelík & Berliner Philharmoniker

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Rafael Kubelik

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Biography

Rafael Jeroným Kubelík (29 June 1914 – 11 August 1996) was a Czech conductor and composer.

Kubelík was born in Býchory, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary, today’s Czech Republic. He was the sixth child of the Bohemian violinist Jan Kubelík, whom the younger Kubelík described as “a kind of god to me.” His mother was a Hungarian countess Csáky-Széll. Rafael Kubelík studied violin with his father, and later violin, composition, and conducting at the Prague Conservatory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1933, at the age of 19; at his graduation concert he played a Paganini concerto and a composition of his own for violin and orchestra. Kubelík was also an accomplished pianist, and served as his father’s piano accompanist on a tour of the United States in 1935.

In 1939, Rafael Kubelík became music director of the Brno Opera, a position he held until the Nazis shut the company down on 12 November 1941. The Nazis allowed the Czech Philharmonic to continue operating, and Kubelík became its principal conductor. (He had first conducted the Czech Philharmonic in 1934 when he was 20 years old.) In 1944, after various incidents, including one in which he declined to greet the Nazi Reichsprotektor Karl Hermann Frank with a Hitler salute — along with his refusal to conduct Wagner during the War — Kubelík “deemed it advisable to disappear from Prague and to spend a few months undercover in the countryside so as not to fall into the clutches of the SS or Gestapo” (Albert Scharf, in Rafael Kubelík: His Life and Achievement, p. 114).

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