Back to Biographies
Arthur Fiedler -- Boston Pops Conductor
Arthur and the Boston Pops brought music lovers from all over the country and the world to Symphony Hall for a remarkable 50 years. Mr. Fiedler conducted the Pops for five seasons longer than all of his seventeen predecessors combined, and through his originality, his warm and sometimes mysterious stage presence, and his inimitable style, the distinguished white-haired gentleman on the podium became one of Boston's best-known, best-loved citizens.
Among memorable events of the Fiedler era were the Fiftieth Anniversary Esplanade concert of July 4, 1978; the building of the Hatch Shell in time for the Esplanade season of 1940; the occasion of the Maestro's seventy-fifth birthday, when his son Peter presented him a surprise gift on behalf of the whole family: an honest-to-goodness, full-size fire engine(!); and the Esplanade concert of July 4, 1976, which was heard by over 400.000 people, declared by the Guinness Book of World Records the largest single audience for a classical music concert.
Arthur Fiedler was born in Boston on December 17, 1894, his background deeply rooted in European musical tradition. His father, Emanuel Fiedler, was an Austrian-born violinist who played in the Boston Symphony for 25 years. His mother was a gifted pianist and musician who gave young Arthur his first piano lessons, which he admits were, along with the practicing, a chore. He was schooled at the Prince Grammar School and the Boston Latin until his father retired from the orchestra and took the family back to Austria. but that was not before Arthur had absorbed some of the music and culture that belongs to Boston. He worked in publishing houses in Vienna and Berlin and then entered the Royal Academy in Berlin to study violin, piano and conducting.
Fiedler returned to Boston at the start of World War I and in 1915 joined the Boston symphony Orchestra under Karl Muck. He was not only a violinist, but also played as orchestra violist, pianist, organist, and percussionist.
In 1924 he formed and was the conductor of the Boston Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra made up of Boston Symphony Orchestra members. Then in an effort to bring as much music to the public as possible, he initiated a campaign for a series of free outdoor concerts. His efforts were rewarded in 1929 with the first Esplanade Concert on the Charles River. In 1954, to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of those concerts, the Arthur Fiedler Foot Bridge was dedicated over what is now Storrow Drive. He was appointed the eighteenth conductor of the Boston Pops in 1930.
Arthur Fiedler was a national figure. Under his direction, the Boston Pops had been recorded more than any other orchestra in the world. One work alone (Jalousie, a piece by Jacob Gade) has reached the million mark, and, today, the total sales of Pops albums, singles, tapes, and cassettes have exceeded fifty million.
Fiedler has not only distinguished himself as a musician and conductor, but as a leading citizen as well. On January 10, 1977 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony. In February of 1977 Mr. Fiedler was also awarded the Freedoms Foundation American Exemplar Award. He has received honorary degrees from many educational institutions, among them Harvard and Dartmouth, which he received in 1976. A few of his numerous other awards include the Morality in Media Award, the Sword of Loyola, the Stereo Review Award, and the National Arts Club Award.
Mr. Fiedler was also closely associated with the San Francisco Pops Orchestra for 26 summers. In the United States he had conducted the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New York Philharmonic Orchestras among many, many others. He had also led major orchestras in Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and Canada.
Mr. Fiedler died on July 10, 1979, His wife, Ellen Bottomly Fiedler, died in
November 1984. They are survived by three children; Johanna, Deborah, and