APM: Composers Datebook
Jul 10, 2018 Today marks the birthday of a much-loved American musical tradition: the Boston “Pops.” On July 11, 1885, the “Promenade” Orchestra (later dubbed the “Pops”) gave its first concert at Boston’s old Music Hall. The German conductor Adolf Neuendorff led a program that included Franz von Suppé’s “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna” Overture, and Johann Strauss’s “Pizzicato Polka,” among other selections. Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the Boston Symphony, had proposed this new series in the hopes of re-creating the ambience of summer evenings in the concert gardens in Vienna, where he had been a music student. He also hoped to provide summer employment for the members of the Boston Symphony, who at that point had to search for other work six months out of the year. By 1929, the American-born conductor Arthur Fiedler had started the first outdoor “Esplanade Concerts” in Boston, and the following year assumed the post of Pops director, a position he would hold until his death in July of 1979. And we should note that it was also on today’s date in 1940 that a 22-year-old musician named Leonard Bernstein made his first appearance as conductor of a professional orchestra, leading the Boston Pops at an open-air Esplanade Concert.