I was truly sad to learn of the death of my colleague and boss at the Cincinnait Pops, Erich Kunzel. He was a complete pro and an absolute master of his craft, and I learned a lot from watching him and working with him. He was someone who seemed completely indestructable- a force of nature. I find it hard to believe he’s really gone. If time allows, I’d like to share some more personal reminiscensces of him later. Meanwhile-


From the Cincinnati Enquirer

By Janelle Gelfand

An era has ended. 

Erich Kunzel, 74, Cincinnati’s music man for more than 44 years, has died. 

He died Tuesday at about 10 a.m. in Bar Harbor, Maine, near his home on Swan’s Island, according to his personal manager Peter Throm. He had battled cancer since receiving a diagnosis in late April. 

The Pops maestro is survived by his wife of 44 years, Brunhilde. The couple’s homes are in Newport, Ky.; Naples, Fla.; and Swan’s Island. 

“Erich Kunzel built the Cincinnati Pops into one of the best known orchestras in the world and is not only beloved in Cincinnati, but around the globe,” said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra president Trey Devey. 

Orchestra members learned that Kunzel died in a special meeting that had been called at Music Hall at noon on Tuesday. The meeting’s original purpose was to announce Kunzel as the founder and conductor emeritus of the Cincinnati Pops. Earlier on Tuesday, the board of trustees established the Erich Kunzel Pops Legacy Fund to carry on Kunzel’s vision for the orchestra, Devey said. 

“In speaking to Erich over the last couple of weeks, there are consistent themes. One was his passion and intensity and resolve for the pops to be as good as it can be. The other was his feeling for the people that he touched in this institution – for the board, the staff, the musicians, and for his audiences. That’s what he was thinking about.” 

“He was a remarkable spirit and a tremendous musician,” said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Paavo Järvi. “His many years of music making with the Cincinnati Pops brought joy to literally millions, and I join with our community in Cincinnati as well as his fans around the world in mourning the loss of this great musical icon.” 

The Reds planned a moment of silence for Kunzel before their game at Great American Ball Park tonight. 

The Cincinnati Pops has launched a special memorial Web page where the public is encouraged to view photos from Kunzel’s career, as well as post tributes and remembrances.  The link can be found at www.cincinnatipops.org.  The Pops is also accepting cards and notes for Mr. Kunzel’s family at the organization’s Music Hall office located at 1241 Elm Street in Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202. 

The orchestra’s board of directors met in a special session this morning and unanimously conferred upon Kunzel the title of founder and conductor emeritus. 


http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090901/ENT03/308120004http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090901/ENT03/308120052”  http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090901/COL/308140005”  http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090901/ENT03/309010051

Read the whole thing here.

From the New York Times

Mr. Kunzel was involved in music in Cincinnati for more than 40 years. He joined the Cincinnati Symphony in 1965 as an associate conductor and quickly earned local popularity, becoming the founding conductor of the Cincinnati Pops when the Symphony’s board of trustees created it in 1977. (The musicians for the Symphony and the Pops are the same; their concert attire, conductors and repertories differ.)

Trained as a traditional symphonic conductor, Mr. Kunzel (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable) was eventually consumed with the Pops mission of expanding the audience for symphonic music with an accessible repertory and an atmosphere of entertainment. An engaging presence, he addressed the audience and bantered with the players. He conducted “The 1812 Overture” and the works of Copland, but also the Beatles and Billy Joel. He led the orchestra in music from movie scores and the Disney catalog. He created concerts for the Public Broadcasting Service to celebrate holidays; at Halloween, he and the musicians wore costumes, and pumpkins exploded onstage. He conducted the Pops on an entire album of music having to do with sailing, and on another of music from James Bond movies.

“What was always so interesting to us — because some of his ideas were so completely cockamamie — was that there was always a broad appeal to a wide audience,” said Paul Frankenfeld, the associate principal violist of the Cincinnati Symphony, who worked with Mr. Kunzel for 30 years. “He had this arrangement of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,’ which we would play at parks’ concerts whenever it began to rain. It was a particular favorite of mine because he had the viola section sitting with our instruments in our laps, strumming them as if they were ukuleles.”



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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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1 comment on “Kunzel”

  1. Foster Beyers

    When I met you at an ASOL workshop in St. Louis long ago, I distinctly remeber you telling me that Kunzel was one of the only conductors to really tune the orchestra. There you have it, even a segue into your next topic!

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