In Memoriam Erich Kunzel

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Erich Kunzel, long-time conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, died a year ago, at the age of 74. Kunzel wasn’t just Cincinnati’s conductor -- for nearly two decades, he led the National Symphony Orchestra in A Capitol Fourth and Memorial Day concerts on the lawn of the Capitol Building that were broadcast around the country on PBS.

In late April 2009, Erich Kunzel was diagnosed with three kinds of cancer. Despite his indomitable will, by late summer, it became apparent that some kind of tribute would be in order. So I started interviewing people he’d worked with: Dave Brubeck, Frederica von Stade, Doc Severinsen, Michael Feinstein, Keith Lockhart, John Morris Russell -- plus members of the orchestra and his production team. They all had riotous (and occasionally touching) tales to tell about a man who combined Pierre Monteux-trained musicianship with P.T. Barnum showmanship.  

Weaving those stories with tracks from Kunzel’s 100-plus recordings with the Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Symphony (same musicians, different jackets), I produced a two-hour program called The Spectacular Legacy of Erich Kunzel, which just won the 2010 Clarion Award for Radio Documentary. Click on the "Listen" link above to hear the full program.

I hope the maestro would be pleased.