Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996) was the son of the well-known Bohemian violinist
Jan Kubelik. He studied music in Prague and made his conducting debut at 20
at the head of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Later he became the
principal conductor of this famous orchestra and founded the "Prague
Spring" Festival. After the Communist takeover of the government, Kubelik
emigrated to the West and returned to his native land only after the end of
the Communist regime. From 1950 to 1953 he headed the Chicago Symphony,
from 1955 to 1958 he was music director of the Covent Garden Opera in
London. A period of great artistic successes began in 1961, when he was
appointed principal conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Many recordings document Kubelik's mastery and sense of artistry, his
enjoyment of music and his temperament. His connection with the Munich
orchestra lasted 18 years; in between, he also briefly served as music
director of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Kubelik retired from the concert
staged in 1985. But on the occasion of the first Prague Spring Festival
after the fall of Communism in 1990, he returned to the podium of the
Czech Philharmonic after more than 40 years in exile and conducted
Smetana's "My Fatherland" cycle. His profound bonds with his native land
and its composers were always clearly visible. Rafael Kubelik was a
full-blooded musician. Every performance of his radiated a feeling of
spontaneity, impulsiveness and joy. Kubelik died in Lucerne in August 1996
at the age of 82 after a long illness.
Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, was composed about 1803. As do so many of
the composer's works, it glorifies the struggle against tyranny and
celebrates heroism and humanitarianism. The first performance, which took
place in Vienna in 1805, was ill-received; and the opera required 10 years
of revision before it was accepted by the public in 1814. Beethoven wrote
four overtures to his opera: three are known as the "Leonore Overtures"
(named after the heroine of the opera); the fourth, the Overture to
Fidelio, is the version now used as a prelude to the opera .The music of
Leonore No. 3 refers to the climax of the story in the last act of Fidelio.
Today, it is usually played as an interlude between the second and third
acts of the opera.