100 Fiedler Favorites
To commemorate the Arthur Fiedler Centennial in 1994, RCA Victor put together a seven-disc anthology that summed up his achievements with the Boston Pops better than any single album to that date. Unlike the three-LP omnibus, Forever Fiedler, this chunky box limits the field to Fiedler's stereo recordings for RCA; from the experimental mid-'50s sessions to some stray freelance recordings from the 1970s. But the trade-off for excluding Fiedler's earlier recordings is more than worth it, for the seven discs rummage through almost every corner of his vast repertoire, often in depth. Also, since Fiedler re-recorded his classical repertoire whenever technology advanced a peg, it's possible to explore a good representation of his legacy in excellent stereo sound -- and the remastering of these tracks is far superior to that on the earlier LP set. The discs are neatly laid out by subject or mood; in effect creating seven separate, remarkably self-contained Fiedler albums. The first two discs are devoted to zesty performances of short, classical, mini-masterpieces that have become a lost repertoire in the 21st century, while disc three takes a similar classical theme but at slower tempos and quiet volume levels. Disc four is devoted to the Viennese -- mostly Johann Strauss II -- yet despite his Austrian heritage, Fiedler was not a natural Straussian. You won't hear much of an authentic Viennese lilting rhythm in these performances; they have a feverish, metrical, Americanized energy that is not quite the real thing. But there is no resisting the bustling swagger and yes, dignity, that Fiedler brought to the pop and classical marches on disc five. Disc six is given over to the Americans -- classics by Gershwin, Copland, Gould, and Rodgers (led by a hothouse rendition of Gershwin's "Cuban Overture"), as well as the Boston Pops' discoveries Leroy Anderson and George M. Cohan. And for dessert, disc seven takes in no less than 19 of the famous Boston Pops encores -- big sumptuous arrangements that range from high-toned mood music to tongue-in-cheek fun ("Mack the Knife," in particular, is a classic of its genre). If there is one element of the the Boston Pops' experience that is not touched upon much, it is Fiedler's collaborations with guest stars like Chet Atkins, Stan Getz, and Duke Ellington -- the sole representative is pianist Earl Wild in "Rhapsody in Blue." Otherwise, this mid-priced box may be all the Fiedler a casual fan would ever need.