Born: January 8, 1892; Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Died: August 30, 1949; Watch Hill, RI
Hans Kindler was born in Rotterdam; by the age of 14 he had exhausted the Rotterdam Conservatory's instrumental music program, taking first prize in his exams for cello and piano. At 18 Kindler appeared as cello soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic and was named first cellist with the Charlottenburg Opera; at 19, he was made a professor of cello at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin. In April 1914, he performed the cello part in theRead more world premiere of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. On a concert tour of the United States that same year, Kindler was stranded by the outbreak of war in Europe and then accepted the first chair cello with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski. Kindler only did so under the proviso that he could continue his solo career, and he first recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1916. Hans Kindler was one of the first famous cellists to make phonograph records.
Some sources state that Kindler left the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1920, whereas others put him in its ranks until 1930. In any event, Kindler made his debut as a conductor in 1927 with Philadelphia. In 1930 he held a pilot concert in Washington, D.C., with out-of-work musicians themselves stranded by the advent of talking pictures; this proved so successful that in 1931 he founded the National Symphony Orchestra there. He managed to keep the NSO alive on a shoestring throughout the Great Depression and afterwards, and musicians took on menial jobs such as driving cabs in the off-season to help keep the struggling orchestra afloat. He was broadcasting on network radio with the NSO by 1937, and in 1940 Kindler began to make commercial recordings with the NSO for Victor. Kindler also recorded for the Armed Forces Radio Service throughout the 1940s. He commissioned many works from living composers including William Schuman, Dai-Keong Lee, Mary Howe, Peter Mennin, Henry Cowell, Robert Ward, and others in addition to arranging many older works for his own use. Kindler's temperament as a conductor was very similar to Stokowski's, and he also favored the same divided arrangement of the string section that resulted in the "Stokowski Sound." Owing to a disagreement over his contract, Hans Kindler and the NSO parted company in spring 1949 after 18 seasons. For reasons that remain unclear, Hans Kindler apparently committed suicide at his home in Watch Hill, RI, on August 30, 1949. He was 57.
By most accounts, Hans Kindler was a mean-spirited and autocratic conductor, and the position of concertmaster in the NSO must have seemed like a revolving door during his tenure. However, Eleanor Roosevelt noted in the wake of Kindler's death "those who worked with [Kindler] were warm friends, and will want to pay a tribute to the fine work accomplished during his lifetime." That they did; in 1952, the Kindler Foundation was established and through its auspices the Kindler Cello Society, which remains a major source of support and education for cellists in America. The National Symphony Orchestra has risen from its salad days with Kindler to earning its right as the "nation's orchestra" and now holds its concerts at Kennedy Center. Some musicians who worked with Hans Kindler attributed his perpetual bad mood to his desire to hide his shortcomings as a conductor. His recorded legacy, though, tells a different story: Kindler delivered credible recordings of contemporary music at a time when the standard for such recordings was invariably low, and some of his readings of standard literature remain important performances that rank along with the work of acknowledged greats of conducting. Read less