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Arthur Fiedler — Papa, the Pops and Me. By Johanna Fiedler.
Doubleday, New York, 1994. 268 pp. $24. 95.
Reviewer's Note: Fiedler was the founder and longtime maestro for the Boston Pops Orchestra.
By Henry C. Mayer
I have never read a more candid biography. This feat is more remarkable because its author is the daughter of the man about whom she writes. She is equally candid not only about their lives and interactions but also about the woman who was Fiedler's wife and her mother. She is, in my view, candid to a fault; it is not clear that she had to reveal some of the more intimate aspects about all three persons and their interrelationships.
I do not see any reason why this review should comment about those details. The important matter is that she has recorded Arthur Fiedler's achievement of opening a new chapter in American musical history. The "Pops" began a new trend in concert making which has enriched the lives of millions on a global basis. Locally, it has inspired George Schramm and "Skitch" Henderson.
Ms. Fiedler makes it unmistakably clear that her "Papa" was a musician of genius who knew his art in all its various genres. He also had the will to so present them. That fact about him was not always accepted in his lifetime. However, this reviewer having witnessed two Fiedler performances locally, never doubted it.
It has become painfully clear his employer, the Boston Symphony's high command, had members who could not and would not admit that. Yet it was from their members that Fiedler drew most of his members and it was from the receipts of their concerts that the Symphony remained solvent. Only a word like snobbish adequately describes the ideas of some persons of prestige in American classical music.
If in retrospect Fiedler's genius and extremely hard work of a lifetime can only be described as a triumph, this book reveals that what he achieved was during a life which can only be described as tragic. Yet Johanna Fiedler has written this narrative in a straightforward way without sentimentality and self-pity. She has set some very high standards for writing biography. I am not sure how often her "Papa" has been remembered by musical devotees in the 15 years since he died, but her book should go along way to remedy that. It deserves a wide readership as well as several editions as well as translations. Fiedler also deserves a commemorative stamp at least as much as some of the performers now decorating our envelopes.