One of the last century’s great popularisers of art music who introduced the names of Mozart and Strauss to millions, Arthur Fiedler recorded for several labels during his half century as music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Eloquence has already reissued the Deutsche Grammophon ‘Sleigh Ride’ album (480 6715) of festive-themed treats by Handel, Humperdinck and Tchaikovsky. Here are two Decca albums, reissued and compiled together for the first time on a single, generously filled (79-minute) CD.
‘Fiedler Encores’ was a 1978 album of substantial works somewhat belying its title and displaying Fiedler’s gifts as a fiery, sympathetic interpreter of core-classical repertoire: included here are the roistering ‘Finlandia’ of Sibelius and the equally fervent nationalism of Smetana in ‘Vltava’ from Ma vlast. The remainder of the album covers a still wider range of repertoire, encapsulated by the original title of the Decca LP (also recorded in Phase 4 stereo), ‘The Two Sides of Fiedler’. There are charming classical miniatures by Dvorak (two Slavonic Dances), Mendelssohn (the Wedding March from A ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’) and balletic extracts from Humperdinck’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and Verdi’s ‘Aida’.
The disc is rounded off in style by smooth arrangements of film and popular music, the kind of hits that kept the crowds coming to Boston Pops concerts with Fiedler the ever-genial bandmaster, throughout the postwar decades. John Williams’s themes for Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ and ‘Star Wars’; a swoony instrumental version of Sondheim’s ‘Send in the clowns’; and even songs by Streisand (‘Evergreen’) and Neil Sedaka (‘Love will keep us together’).
As Fiedler himself remarked, quoted by Raymond Tuttle in the compilation’s new booklet essay, ‘One thing I have always believed in is music as a universal language and my years with the Boston Pops reflect the range and scope of this interest as we work our way through a vast repertoire from Country to Classics. This span of musical poles truly accents the universality of music.’ It’s a disc to remind any listener of how and why, by 1963, Fiedler records had already sold over two million copies.
JEAN SIBELIUS: Finlandia, Op. 26 No. 7
BEDRICH SMETANA: Vltava (Má Vlast)
Slavonic Dance in C major, Op. 46 No. 1
Slavonic Dance in C major, Op. 72 No. 7
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Wedding March (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK: Pantomime (Hänsel und Gretel)
GIUSEPPE VERDI: Ballet Music from Aida
FREDERIC CHOPIN: Polonaise No. 3 in A major, Op. 40 No. 1 ‘Military’ (orch. Glazunov)
JOHN WILLIAMS: Theme from ‘Star Wars’
STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music)
JOHN WILLIAMS: Theme from ‘Jaws’
BARBRA STREISAND: Evergreen
NEIL SEDAKA: Love Will Keep Us Together (arr. Richard Hayman)
Boston Pops Orchestra
Recording Producers: Raymond Few (Sibelius, Smetana, Dvořák Op. 46); Raymond Few, Ray Minshull (Dvořák Op. 72, Mendelssohn, Humperdinck, Verdi, Chopin, Williams, Sondheim, Streisand, Sedaka)
Balance Engineer: Michael Mailes
Recording Location: Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 17–18 June 1977 (Sibelius, Smetana, Dvořák Op. 46); 15 & 17 June 1978 (Dvořák Op. 72, Mendelssohn, Humperdinck, Verdi, Chopin, Williams, Sondheim, Streisand, Sedaka)
Original Decca Releases: PFS 4426 (Fiedler Encores); MOR 527 (The Two Sides of Fiedler)
‘Collections of encores do not usually show such originality in compilation as this well-balanced programme … Fiedler invests Finlandia with an imposing sonority.’ Gramophone, June 1978