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On the 100th anniversary of his birth, discover the extraordinary conductor who escaped Communist Czechoslovakia to direct the world's greatest orchestras.
Rafael Kubelík was born on 29 June 1914 in Bohemia, part of today's Czech Republic. The young Rafael worshipped his father, the outstanding violinist Jan Kubelík. He was "a kind of god to me," said Rafael.
Kubelík studied the violin with his father, and entered the Prague Conservatory, pictured, at the age of 14. He studied violin, piano, composition, and conducting.
At his graduation concert, Kubelík played a Paganini concerto and a composition of his own for violin and orchestra. Also an accomplished pianist, Rafael served as his father's accompanist on a tour of the United States in 1935. They are pictured here together on board ship. Photo: AP
In 1939, Rafael Kubelík became music director of the Brno Opera, a position he held until the Nazis shut the company down in November 1941. They did allow the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to continue however, and Kubelík became its principal conductor.
Kubelík went into hiding after making a number of anti-Nazi stands, including declining to use a Hitler salute and refusing to conduct to Wagner. He spent a few months hiding in the countryside so as not to be arrested. In 1943 he married the Czech violinist Ludmilla Bertlová, with whom he had one son. She died in a road accident in 1961. Photo: Getty
After the Communist coup of February 1948, Kubelík left Czechoslavakia, vowing not to return until the country was liberated. He defected during a trip to Britain, where he was conducting Mozart's Don Giovanni with the Glyndebourne company at the Edinburgh Festival. For more than four decades, he declined several invitations to return to Czechoslavakia. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty
In 1950, Kubelik became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, choosing the position over an offer to succeed Sir Adrian Boult as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He was later dismissed from Chicago for introducing too many contemporary works, demanding exhaustive rehearsals and engaging several black artists. Photo: Getty
Kubelík became musical director of The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, from 1955 to 1958. Among his achievements there was the first practically complete production anywhere of Berlioz's The Trojans. Photo: Getty
In 1961 Kubelík accepted the position of music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO) in Munich. He remained with the BRSO until 1979, when he retired. Photo: Getty
Kubelík's own compositions include five operas, three symphonies, three settings of the Requiem Mass and other choral works, numerous pieces of chamber music, and songs. Photo: Getty
In 1985, ill-health caused Kubelík to retire. But after the fall of Communism in his native land he accepted an invitation to return to conduct the Czech Philharmonic at the festival he had founded, the Prague Spring Festival. He is pictured here in June 1990 following the first democratic elections since 1946, which brought the first completely non-Communist government to Czechoslovakia in more than 40 years. Photo: Getty
Kubelík died in 1996, aged 82, in Kastanienbaum, in the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland. His ashes are interred next to the grave of his father in Slavín, Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague.