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Arthur Fiedler

long-time conductor of the Boston Pops

Arthur Fiedler

Arthur Fielder was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 17, 1894. His father, Emanuel Fielder, was an Austrian-born violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and his mother, Johanna Bernfeld Fielder, was an accomplished pianist. He attended the Prince and Latin Schools until 1910, when his father moved the family first to Vienna, Austria, and then to Berlin, Germany. From 1911 to 1915, Arthur studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where his violin teacher was Willy Hess. He also studied piano and conducting, and made his podium debut at the age of 17 by conducting three of Mozart's German Dances and Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G minor. He returned to Boston following outbreak of the First World War.

In 1915 Fiedler became the second violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, then under Karl Muck. He subsequently switched to the viola, and also played piano, organ, celesta, and percussion.

In 1924 Fielder formed the Boston Sinfonietta, a chamber music orchestra made up of 25 Boston Symphony Orchestra members. Its aim was was to bring greater variety to the music heard both in Boston and throughout the surrounding areas. To further that goal Fielder initiated a campaign for a series of free outdoor concerts in Boston, and those efforts were rewarded in 1929 with the first Esplanade Concerts on the Charles River. The mix of American and European light music, played by featured musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was so successful that Fiedler was appointed the eighteenth conductor of the Boston Pops in 1930.

Under his leadership, the Boston Pops quickly became one of the best-known orchestras in the country. Although he was often criticized by "purists" for watering down music, particularly when adapting popular songs or edited portions of the classical repertoire, Fiedler deliberately kept performances informal, light, and often self-mocking to attract more listeners. Fiedler and the Pops made their first recording in July 1935, and went on to make more recordings than any other orchestra in the world. The Pops recorded exclusively for RCA Victor until the late 1960’s, when they switched to Deutsche Grammophon for classical releases with co-owned Polydor Records for his arrangements of pop music compositions and then London Records.

In addition to the Boston Pops, Fiedler was also associated with the San Francisco Pops Orchestra for 26 summers (beginning in 1949). He also guest conducted many orchestras throughout the world, including the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New York Philharmonic Orchestras, and major orchestras in Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and Canada. He and the Boston Pops also appeared on numerous telecasts of Evening at Pops, carried on PBS stations nationwide. A highlight of his career was the Esplanade concert of July 4, 1976, which was heard by over 400,000 people and declared by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the largest single audience for a classical music concert.

Fielder was studying music scores for an upcoming Boston Pops concert when he died of a heart attack, on July 10, 1979. He was survived by his wife, Ellen M. (Bottomley) Fiedler, whom he had married in 1942, and three children.



See Also

Felix Mendelssohn
First World War

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The Robinson Library >> Music >> Biography: Other

This page was last updated on 12/31/2018.