Arthur Fiedler: Papa, the Pops and Me

Johanna Fiedler, Author
Johanna Fiedler, Author Doubleday Books $24.95 (268p) ISBN 978-0-385-42391-5
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
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The oldest daughter of the founder/conductor of the long-lived and immensely popular Boston Pops concerts has written a memoir that is at once touching and appallingly frank. For Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979), despite his dashing, twinkly appearance and bluff, avuncular persona, was a very difficult man. He lived for his music, the constant touring and national acclaim-more akin to that granted to a pop singer than an orchestra conductor-but at home was depressed, irritable, censorious. He and his wife both drank heavily, she eventually to her death, and family occasions among the Fiedlers-the author has a younger sister and brother-were the very model of dysfunctionalism. But the interest in the book is clearly centered on the very strange career of the author's lionized father. Beginning as a viola player in the Boston Symphony, he pioneered concerts of light classics at the end of the 1920s. These became institutions in Boston, then through radio, recordings and ultimately TV, became internationally famous. Fiedler, presenting undemanding programs, including skillful arrangements of popular and movie music, beautifully played by crack musicians, introduced more Americans to ``classical'' music than any other performer. Although he always yearned to be taken seriously as a musician, his adoring public would have none of it and even the BSO, whose coffers Fielder greatly enriched, was sniffy toward his pops concerts-amazingly, he received no pay raise in 40 years. He will be remembered as a solid musician ever capable of sprightly, effective performances, but one worshipped out of all proportion to his accomplishments. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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