1961 – 1979: Rafael Kubelík
Alongside with Karajan, Bernstein and Solti, Rafael Kubelík is one of the great conductors of the second half of the 20th century. The successor of Eugen Jochum was Chief Conductor of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks for quite a long time: from 1961 until 1979.
With the internationally experienced Chief Conductor of Czech origin came the “wonderful era Kubelík”, as former oboist Gustav Meyer called it. It was a very fruitful chapter of the orchestra’s history. Kubelík knew how to fascinate the musicians with his passion and artistic expertise. Under his conductorship the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks rose to a “smoothly operating, technically confident ensemble with a great sound” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung).
The Czech music was entrenched in Kubelík’s soul. The conductor added pieces by Slavic composers such as Smetana, Janáček und Dvořák to the repertoire of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. He also stood up for composers of the 20th century such as Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Since the times of the NS-Regime the works of Jewish composer Gustav Mahler had not been played in Germany very often – under Kubelík’s leadership the orchestra was the first German orchestra to record a Mahler cycle. Kubelík’s repertoire also ranged from Bach and Mozart to Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner and Brahms, to Reger, Pfitzner, Bartók, Debussy and Schönberg.
Courageous political opinion
Kubelík observed the political happenings in his home country closely and even called out for protest, when the Soviet troops invaded Prague in 1968. In Munich he also expressed his political opinion against the new Bavarian Broadcasting Law, which should have been passed in 1972. This law would have given the State more power over the public service broadcasting authorities. Kubelík threatened not to renew his contract, because he could not agree to working with the BR underthose circumstances. His words were successful: the law was rewritten and Kubelík stayed Chief Conductor. When he reached his pension age he withdrew from his post in 1979. He returned to the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks as guest conductor for a few years, after his designated successor Kyrill Kondraschin had surprisingly died in March 1981.
On August 11, 1996 Rafael Kubelík died at the age of 82 in Luzern.