From the Vaults: Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops

Recorded June 26, 1965, Symphony Hall, Boston

Friday, June 24, 2011

With the modern pops concert undergoing vast changes, it's instructive to consider the legacy of Arthur Fiedler. Conductor of the Boston Pops from 1930 to 1979, Fiedler defined the modern pops concert. This WQXR concert broadcast of the Boston Pops was recorded in 1965.

A quintessential example of the Pops sound and style under Fiedler, this program, recorded at Symphony Hall, features music by Saint-Saens, Glinka, Morton Gould, Aaron Copland, Henri Vieuxtemps, Victor Herbert, Leroy Anderson and Earnest Gold. In a performance of Copland's Lincoln Portrait, Fiedler's wife, Ellen Bottomley Fiedler, is the narrator.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

About Arthur Fiedler

Born in 1894 to a Boston Symphony violinist and a piano teacher, young Arthur found practicing a chore, but was driven nonetheless. After attending conservatory and working at music publishing houses in his family's native Austria, Fiedler joined the Boston Symphony as a violinist, though he went on to play several parts in the orchestra. His conducting of the Boston Sinfonietta, a chamber group of musicians from the symphony, took off and he became a proponent of free outdoor concerts for the everyman.

Despite his illustrious conducting career between 1930 and his death in 1979, Fiedler never earned as much respect as the conductors of purer classical fare like Toscanini and Bernstein. His programs typically contained one serious work surrounded by lighter fare. The Pops produced more recordings under Fiedler than any other contemporary orchestra. A 1930's recording of a Beethoven overture sold one million copies and some estimates place the sale of Boston Pops recordings at a whopping total of 50 million records.


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Comments [9]

Willis Fagg

Many years ago, probably in the 60s, we had a box set of Arthur Fiedler LPs. The final selection on the set was Arthur Fiedler telling his history including his tenure with the Boston Pops. Throughout the story, a recording of the Boston Pops playing the 1812 overture was playing in the background. As he was finishing his story the volume of the performance was increasing to the point of the cannons firing as he finished.

It was a great recording. Unfortunately as we migrated to CDs, we gave away all our old vinyl recordings thinking that the collection would be republished on CD; which to my knowledge never happened.

The set was a multi LP collection packaged in a brown box. As I recall, it was purchased through a TV or some other special mail-order offering.

From time to time, I try searching for that recording without success.

I'm hoping someone may be able to identify the recording and direct me to a source.


Willis Fagg

Jun. 29 2014 03:00 PM
carolyn sielski from new jersey

When I was in HS during an all regional orchestra rehearsal, Arthur Fiedler was the guest conductor.Everyone knew what a great honor this was!! Suddenly there was an announcement on the PA system that President John F Kenndy had been shot! We were all horrified, but Fielder was very upset with the interruption and wanted to continue his his rehearsal!.... My second experience was when I was a violinist in the Bergen Philharmonic in Teaneck. During a performance of Beethoven's Leonora , where Arthur Fiedler was again the guest conductor. At one point , the orchestra got absoulute lost. But Fielder, being the great conductor that he was, with one grand swoop gave an upbeat and magically, we all landed on the downbeat in the same place. It was a great relief to everyone!! I also loved reading his biography by Robin Moore

Jul. 14 2011 11:38 AM
Michael Meltzer

If the question is, "Can Pops Save the American Orchestra?" then bringing up Arthur Fiedler only confuses the issue. That really changes the question to, "Can popular, imaginative and charismatic conductors save the American Orchestra?"
I would think there's a good chance.

Jul. 10 2011 10:48 AM
Mike Gadziala from Connecticut

Boy does this bring back memories. Arthur and Ellen Fielder were neighbors of mine when I attended college back in the 1970's and was renting a room on the thrid floor of a mansion just two doors away. It was during Fiedler's cresendo years with the Bicentennial, his 50th on the Esplanade and of course his 50th as conductor of the Pops held on May 1, 1979. Mrs. Fielder was such a dear woman, so very nice to talk with and always made time for me. Arthur was also very pleasant and nice despite stories that have come out (all true I know) but I'm just reporting from my own visits and chats with him. Boston will never see a man like this again. An innovator and pioneer of music , who brought music to the masses. His esplanade concerts free to the public have encouranged young musicians as well as entertinaed. I will never forget him or Ellen.

Jul. 09 2011 01:26 PM
kiminnyc from New York, NY

I grew up listening to the Boston Pops, it was a big part of my childhood. Love it!

Jun. 30 2011 05:17 PM
richard g from brooklyn

I was talking about Fiedler just last night. With all this talk about Pops orchestras, I'm as confounded as ever by what the powers that be think the role of the "serious" orchestra season and the "pops" season.

Fiedler played and recorded LOTS of serious music. Basically Pops was a way of saying "this is music you will like."

Now the serious orchestras play the same warhorses over and over, and the Pops moved away from all music over 4 minutes long.

Fiedler was a great American original. Too bad his legacy was lost with him. Boston was fortunate in having Williams - with his great music and fame carry the torch for another 13 years.

Jun. 30 2011 11:17 AM
Lewis from New York City

My memory of Arthur Fiedler dates to my childhood and a Boston Pops broadcast of the 1812 Overture on PBS.

A television camera was postitioned backstage to give an 'up close and personal' view of the conductor congradulating soloists after the performance before taking curtain calls. Fielder strode offsage after the final chords, walked up to a percussionist who had bungled the cannon solo (shotguns fired into buckets) and before a national television audience slapped him across the face then strode back on stage to take his bows.

It was an early lesson on just how exciting classical music can be.

Jun. 30 2011 10:56 AM
Paul Brustowicz from Middletown, NJ

In the 1970's the Boston Pops participated in the International Orchestra Festival at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I remember Mr. Fiedler conducting the 1812 Overture with canons! What a showman and conductor!

Jun. 29 2011 03:49 PM
Gary Friedland from Teaneck N.J.

Fiedler, to me always meant great music to listen too!!!!!!!

Jun. 29 2011 02:09 PM

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