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 originally dedicated this symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, whom
he saw as the champion of the common man, a hero pursuing the newly
founded ideals of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
However, upon hearing that Napoleon had declared himself emperor, Beethoven
became furious and tore up the title page containing the dedication. The
"Eroica" marks one of the turning points in music history, heralding a new
age in symphonic style. Prior to this work, Beethoven had been a composer
with roots in the 18th century. The Third Symphony's length and the nature
of its thematic material, emotional depth, range and harmonic daring set it
apart from any earlier symphonic work.