Life of Jan Kubelik

Life of the Mister

Kubelík was born in Michle as a son of Josef Matěj Kubelík, a tailor. At the age of 12, he was accepted to the Prague conservatory by Otakar Ševčík although at the time this was not allowed by the schools rules. His professor applied a new method on him and he became a perfect artist in the following six years. His interpretation of Paganini’s violin concerto in D major at the graduate concert in Prague in 1898 was astonishing. After concerts in Vienna, music critics wrote about him, that he would be “burnt as a sorcerer” in the Middle Ages.

At the age of 22, he was considered to be a more capable violinist than his collegues, e.g. Fritz Kreisler, Pablo de Sarasate, Jenö Hubay, August Wilhelmj, Joseph Joachim, or František Ondříček. His technique was brilliant. The airiness and lightness of his expression were reached by the weight of a heavily strained bow. He played the world-famous Stradivarius “Emperor“ violin made in 1715.

He set out in the USA in 1901, where he performed 78 concerts with piano accompaniment by Rudolf Friml, the world-famous operetta composer of Czech origin. His Christmas concert at San Francisco square was listened to by more than 100 thousand hearers. In 1904, he used his royalties to buy a castle in Býchory by Kolín, where he lived with his wife, Countess Marianna Czáky-Széll until 1916. They had eight children. Kubelík visited America ten times. He reached great success in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil as well. He even played in Australia several times, and performed 40 concerts in New Zealand. He concertized in Turkey, Palestine, India, China, Japan, the Philippines, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), played in all countries of northern Africa and so on. Later, in 1928, he performed a concert in Soviet Russia as the first Czech artist ever.

Kubelík set up his new residence in a castle in the Slovak village of Orlová; then he bought a villa in Yugoslav (Croatian) Opatija near the Adriatic Sea, where he would always like to return from concert tours. Due to purchasing a new residence, the Rotenturm water castle in Burgenland in 1930, he lost all of his fortune. He fought for the favour of the world again, but the times of romantic worship of virtuosos had already been over.

He returned home for good in 1938. During the occupation, he and the Czech Philharmonic prepared ten concerts with fifty artworks of world literature, which he played by heart to confirm his timeless mastery. On 11th May 1940, he performed a concert in the hall of Sokol gymnasium in Neveklov, in the beloved region of his ancestors. This was his last public performance. He died in Prague, from cancer which could not be cured by operation any more. The Slavín tomb at the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague became the place of his eternal rest.

For his whole life, he tirelessly promoted Czech music and helped Czech artists – not only with the weight of his authority, but his substantial income allowed him to financially provide ensembles like the Czech Philharmonic, that he financially supported as an open (and later hidden) benefactor. In the beginnings of the orchestra, he helped to solve their financial crisis by employing them as his accompanying orchestra for his English tour at his own cost, even though he later had to earn the money for two years. With his approach and excellent mastery, Kubelík became an example to the following generations of Czech music artists.

Copyright © 2018 Nadační Fond Jana Kubelíka. Created by Alunico

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