"Rafael Kubelik was a great conductor, whom I have alot of respect for. However, I just could not sink my teeth into these performances. I found them to be brash and over the top. They were played way too heavily for Dvorak. It was as if they thought they were playing Brahms. Now, I know Dvorak was a great admirer of Brahms, and that he definitely can be considered a Brahmsian, but the the music of these two men is very different. I prefer a lighter, more rustic approach to these works, like one finds in the Istvan Kertesz set on London. This is certainly the set to stick with for these symphonies. I have long since sold my Kubelik recording, because it just didn't do it for me... the Kertesz recording is a keeper."
What blighted soul finds this recording lacking?
bianchi virata | chicago, IL United States | 05/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being of Czech & Slovak heritage, I revere and adore Antonin Dvorak. As a used record store owner, I had access to unlimited versions of his symphonic works, and own many many many single disk recordings, and in addition own both the Kertesz & the Kubelik cycles.
Why insist one is better than the other? I can tell you that Kertesz' gets my Bohemian blood coursing merrily through my veins, while Kubelik's makes my heart sing like a nightingale.
And then there's the stunning 8th done by Carlo Maria Giulini and the CSO on DG back in 1979. It violates every rule of Slavic symphony interpretation, particularly in Giulini's characteristically laid back tempi. The final movement is about half the speed of Kertesz! But the attention to inner voicing and detail, combined with the (at that time) unmatched virtuosity of the CSO, and the sublime sonic quality of the DG recording allow it to stand on its own as a valid intepretation.
Every conductor and every orchestra, along with every sound engineer is going to put his personal stamp on any interpretation. The urge to rate them comparatively is almost irresistible, but let's not criticize what we don't understand, and get in the way of people's decisions on what to listen to!"
Imperfect but mysteriously haunting
Loo Clifford King Fai | Hong Kong, HK SAR China | 07/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Kubelik's set shines especially in the early symphonies, where inspiration is matched by first-class execution by the Berliners, who outdid the Londoners for Kertesz (e.g. in Symphony No.5). Kubelik elicits some highly pointed rhythms and sprightly phrasings, which help a great deal in giving shape to these sometimes meandering early symphonies.
There are technical imperfections. The early 1970s recordings at Berlin's Jesus-Christus-Kirche (No.8 in 1966, the rest 1971-73) generally sound very dry, have some noticeable tape splices, tend to be compressed at fortés, not to mention a bit shrilling at times too. The tonal lushness of the Berliners, however, compensates for the typical dryness served by the DG engineers in Berlin during the 70s, creating a signature Berliner-DG sound (whether for Karajan or Kubelik).
And despite the Berliners' polish and virtuosity, the hot-blooded Kubelik is able to get them into frenzied moments of abandon. The 1st mvt climax before the coda of No.7 is a case in point, where the 1st violins, separated from the 2nd violins across the stage in Kubelik's favorite divided violins seating, threaten to get out of sync with the rest of the orchestra. (The divided violins seating, btw, is not used in No.8---a pity.) Such technical imperfections notwithstanding, this Dvorak 7, along with the Colin Davis and the Harnoncourt (both, incidentally, with the Concertgebouworkest), holds a special place in my heart and keeps me coming back to it since I first heard it on radio 20+ yrs ago.
Taken individually, very characterful performances with heart. As an integral set, the best Dvorak symphonies. I should also mention that Kubelik's Bavarian recordings of Dvorak's Scherzo capriccioso, Carnival and The Wood Dove are exemplary. Except for the Scherzo capriccioso, however, you could get them with all the rest (overtures, symphonic poems and slavonic dances) on a TRIO set."
David Saemann | 05/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's little doubt that Rafael Kubelik performing the Czech repertory is a cornerstone of the recording catalog. That said, there are some problems with this box. The best sounding recording in the set is the 8th, which paradoxically is the earliest recording of all of them. It sounds virtually the same as my old cassette (original issue, no Dolby) of the recording, without the tape hiss. It also is the least representative performance in the set, being fairly straighforward and sounding like it could be the work of a number of different conductors. The rest of the interpretations are undeniably Kubelik. Compared to other counductors in this repertoire, and I have good sets by Valek and Gunzenhauser, Kubelik's readings of the symphonies sound much more lived in and reflected on than the others. Sometimes the rhythmic flow bogs down as Kubelik elicits a phrasing or balance that eludes other conductors. But after listening to this set in its entirety, it is very hard to settle for the interpretations of less personally involved conductors, even Kertesz and Rowicki. The sound on the first 6 symphonies is quite good, with much detail and fine dynamics, although they are a bit bass shy. The 7th has sound that is basically good, although it can become cloudy in tuttis. The 9th, a great performance (I heard Kubelik do this live with the N.Y. Philharmonic, and this version is representative of him in concert.), is hampered by sound that is often dry and murky. The Scherzo Capriccioso, Carnival Overture, and The Wood Dove are all given elastic and sensitively phrased readings by Kubelik's own Bavarian Radio Symphony, forming an interesting contrast with the more virtuosic Berliners. In sum, this is a set with problems, but the joy of hearing Kubelik in the lesser known pieces compensates for them. I also would recommend his Chicago Symphony New World, recorded in excellent Mercury Living Presence monaural sound."