The Great Conductors series has unearthed few treasures in terms of unreleased performances, so the fact that this Kubelik collection lacks a major new release didn't bother me. It contains many things Kubelik was good at--Mahler, Schumann, and a host of Czech composers. The lovely Dvorak Slavonic Rhapsody that begins CD 1 is in excellent 1959 stereo; for those of us who don't know the work, it sounds like one of the famous Slavonic Dances extended to 11 min. We then descend into murky 1948 mono for a vigorous, idiomatic Martinu Sym. 4, a fascinating document of a half-remembered composer (still famous in his native Czechoslovakia). The other major work on CD 1 is the familiar Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphoses in clear, wide-ranging 1953 mono, recorded during Kubelik's ill-starred interregnum in Chicago before Reiner arrived. Here Kubelik favors a lean line and detailed inner voices, so there is a certain restrained coolness to the whole reading.
CD 2, which is mostly in stereo, starts with a lovely Schumann Genoveva Over. with the Berlin Phil., a very accomplished account. A 1960 Schubert 3rd Sym. sparkles because of the Vienna Phil. and Kubelik's animated, alert condcuting. The sonics are fairly dated, unfortunately. The Adagio from the Mahler 10th, taken from Kubelik's complete cycle on DG, is neither intense nor virtuosic; I'm not sure it holds up that well. It certainly gives us a fair portrait of his natural, sometimes understated style in Mahler. Finally, one of Kubelik's specialties, the Janacek Sinfonietta. This version from 1955 with the Vienna Phil. (soudning pretty scrappy) is in boxy mono and really doesn't show the conductor at his best--I guess it was included as the least available recording he made of the piece.
Overall, as enjoyable as this set was, one has to ask why there isn't a single great performance on it. Kubelik turned them in, and Orfeo seems to have uncovered a batch of unreleased live performances that outstrip what we have here. Too bad that Great Conductors settled for average.