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August 1985 The Boston Pops – An American Traition, By Arthur Fiedler

I wonder if those of you who have attended the Boston Pops or heard it on radio have any idea of what goes on before a performance. The first difficulty that must be overcome is the making of the program. A usual Pops program consists of approximately ten different compositions – excluding encores. Each program must have some semblance of form. That is to say the numbers are chosen so as to make pleasing contrasts in mood, pace, and key.
   Another important factor in programming is the need to include familiar music with a liberal admixture of unfamiliar works. Each program, of course, contains music that is appropriately in the lighter vein, but compositions of more or less serious nature are by no means omitted.

Musical Snobs
   In discussing programs I am reminded that musical discussions often whirl into a rondo of arguments about classicism, romanticism, modernism, and other isms. But one ism that really is overdue for discussion is what I call snobbism. By this I mean a bad habit of many alleged music lovers who accept music of one sort and close their ears to everything else. My own feelings were neatly put into words by Rossini: “Every kind of music is good – except the boring kind.”
   To my mind, there is popular music as good in its own way as a so-called classical composition. On the other hand, there is a great wealth of music by the great masters that can be popular if offered to the general public, as distinguished from the sophisticated symphony audience. The response to the Boston Pops proves the point with programs ranging from Bach to Offenbach. Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss to Rich-and Rodgers – with an infinite variety of classic and popular composers in between. As a recent case in point, an audience of 15,000 at one of the open air Esplanade Concerts this summer was very enthusiastic about an all-Beethoven program.

Transcriptions • Arrangements
   Some purists – or musical prudes — are opposed to arrangements and transcriptions from voice to orchestra or orchestra to band. My only reservation is that the new version must be absolutely first class, showing that the arranger or transcriber understands both the original composer’s intentions and the best mode of adapting these intentions to the capacities of the new body of instruments.
   Thru such skilled adaptations, stepping stones to the appreciation of master works in many categories are made available to youngsters and their parents at school concerts, and to the general public at outdoor band concerts. This is a conviction that 1 base on my experiences with the Pops and the Esplanade concerts using first-class arrangements and transcriptions of Bach. Handel. Beethoven. Schubert, and Chopin, for example.

Encouraging Young Soloists

   Some changes have added themselves to the tradition of the Pups in recent years. One of these is the inclusion of complete concertos performed, in many cases, by excellent though not very widely known young artists. The opportunities for young soloists to appear with orchestras are so few and far between, that I believe we are doing a real service by inviting worthy young musicians to take part in the Pops programs.
   Each year American music schools produce a greater number of fine talents. There is a consequent steady increase in the difficulty of obtaining opportunities to work professionally – particularly as soloists with an orchestra. Some of the major orchestras occasionally invite a young American artist as soloist, but it seems to me that the smaller organizations are not satisfied to engage a soloist unless he or she be very well known and well advertised. I know specifically of one orchestra that survives only because of the list of its famous and highly paid soloists who make up the season.
   I should like to plead for your encouragement and support for the young artist in every way possible. Community bands and orchestras, amateur and professional, as well as school groups should seek out every available opportunity to help our young instrumental soloists.     

   Arthur Fiedler, who will celebrate his 66th birthday by conducting the Sixth All American Bandmasters Bond at the Mid-West Notional Band Clinic in Chicago on December 17th, has been conductor of the Boston Pops Concerts for 31 years. Born in Boston, the son of a Symphony violinist, Fiedler was educated in Boston and at the Royal Academy of Music in Berlin, and became a violinist in the Boston Symphony at the age of 20. In 1929 he founded the Esplanade outdoor summer concerts and in 1930 was appointed conductor of the Boston Pops, the 18th to assume the position since the founding of the Pops in 1885.