Cincinnati Pops



Active: 1977
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is the name assumed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for an annual series of 13 to 20 Pops concerts currently conducted by American Erich Kunzel. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra was officially established in 1977, and has played an important role in popularizing the Orchestra with Cincinnati audiences, particularly through their summertime Concerts in the Park series. Pops has been a tradition of Cincinnati since the 1870s. The progenitor to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Grand Orchestra, performed pops concerts as a part of their regular programs. Musicians from the Grand Orchestra would later form the nucleus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, who, at 45 members strong, gave their inaugural performance on January 17, 1895.

The first director of the Orchestra was Frank Van der Stucken, a Texan of European parentage. His programming focused on modern composers such as Strauss (who also appeared as a guest conductor), Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and American Edward MacDowell.

The Orchestra disbanded in 1907 due to increasing debt and a labor dispute. It was reconstituted in 1909 with seventy-seven hand-picked members, and a 27-year-old director named Leopold Stokowski. One of his most important achievements during his three-year tenure was the programming of regular pops concerts.

After Stokowski left the Orchestra in 1912, Austrian Ernst Kunwald assumed the position of Director. Under him, the Orchestra undertook its first tour and first recording, both in 1917. The following season saw another new director, this time a Belgian, Eugène Ysaÿe. Ysaÿe led the Orchestra through four very successful seasons, and expanded its season, touring schedule, and membership. Whereas Kunwald's programming emphasized the Germanic repertoire, Ysaÿe emphasized the French. Ysaÿe left the Orchestra in 1922, to be replaced by Hungarian Fritz Reiner.

Reiner was a strict disciplinarian and held the Orchestra to a high standard. He made significant changes to the Orchestra's personnel, including hiring the first woman. His goal upon taking the position was to make the Orchestra one of the premier Orchestras in the country. When he left after nine years, his mission was clearly a success.

Eugene Goossens succeeded Reiner in 1931. Like his predecessors, he emphasized modern music, including American music, but he also led the Orchestra in opera and ballet performances. After Goossens left in 1947, American Thor Johnson became the music director. He continued the focus on modern and American music. Johnson started an outreach program to the communities of Cincinnati and increased the number of concerts held for young people.

After Johnson left the Orchestra in 1958, Max Rudolph assumed the position of director. Under his leadership, the Orchestra grew in size and expanded its concert series with Concerts in the Park and Area Artists Concerts. He led the Orchestra on a State Department sponsored world tour in 1966 that brought them world recognition. In 1965, Rudolf's assistant conductor, Erich Kunzel, assumed leadership of the Eight O'Clock Pops concerts that would lead to the development of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in 1977. Rudolph resigned from the CSO in 1969, and was followed by Thomas Schippers, Walter Susskind in 1978, Michael Gielan in 1980, and Jesús López-Cobos in 1986, all continuing the commitment of the CSO to the people of Cincinnati, and the world.

There are 71 Cincinnati Pops recordings available.

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