Rafael Kubelik

Smetana: Má vlast [DVD Video]

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This digital video disc may not be Czech conductor Rafael Kubelik's best recorded performance of Smetana's Má Vlast -- his luminous final recording with the Czech Philharmonic surely holds that title -- but it is a terrific performance with one manifest advantage over all this other recordings. Taped in stereo in Munich in 1984 with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, this performance has drama, poetry, strength, and tremendous heart. Kubelik clearly knows and loves the score and he finds every moment of beauty in it but always keeps the music moving forward. With the ardent and refined playing of the Bavarian musicians, Kubelik treats Má Vlast with the love and reverence that befits this cornerstone of Czech musical nationalism. But what truly sets this recording apart is the fact that it is also a video, and the viewer can thus see as well as hear the performance. This means one can see the dedication and deep sincerity in Kubelik's countenance as he leads the manifestly inspired Bavarian orchestra through a musical tour of his home country. Using few gimmicks and focusing mostly on the conductor, the camera work and direction are exemplary. Though not perhaps the first and only Má Vlast one ought to have, this DVD is still wholly worth watching by those who love the work and the conductor.