Maestro Erich Kunzel Dies at 74

BAR HARBOR — Erich Kunzel, conductor of the Cincinnati Pops for more than 30 years, and a performer the Chicago Tribune called “The Prince of Pops,” died in a hospital here Tuesday while staying at his summer home on Swan’s Island.


He was 74. He had been diagnosed with liver, colon and pancreatic cancer earlier this spring.

Kunzel’s credits include a catalog of 79 Pops recordings that sold more than 10 million copies on the Telarc label; four consecutive years as Billboard magazine’s Classical Crossover Artist of the Year; seven nationally televised Pops specials on PBS; and national and international appearances with the Pops including 10 Carnegie Hall concerts, two tours to Taiwan and three tours to Japan.

Maestro Erich Kunzel
Maestro Erich Kunzel
The Pops recording “Copland: Music of America,” earned a Grammy Award as Best Engineered Album, Classical in 1997. In addition, Robert Woods, the Telarc president who produces Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops albums, was named as Producer of the Year, Classical for the Pops’ “A Celtic Spectacular” and “Scary Music” in 2002. Five other recordings have received Grammy nominations, and American Jubilee was awarded France’s Grand Prix du Disque in 1989.

Born in New York City, raised in Connecticut and educated at Dartmouth, Harvard and Brown universities, Kunzel studied with and was personal assistant to the great French conductor Pierre Monteux. He made his professional debut in 1957 conducting the Santa Fe Opera Company. By 1970, when Arthur Fiedler invited him to conduct the Boston Pops for the first time, Kunzel’s commitment to “pops” was assured. Since then he has led the Boston Pops in more than 100 performances in Boston’s Symphony Hall and on tour in the United States and England. In 1965, he was invited by Max Rudolf to conduct the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and was named conductor of the Cincinnati Pops in 1977.

Kunzel was the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the 1987 Post-Corbett Award from the Cincinnati Post and the 1989 Sony Tiffany Walkman Award for “visionary recording activities.”

Kunzel has served on the faculties of Brown University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He held honorary degrees from Northern Kentucky University, The College of Mount St. Joseph and the University of Cincinnati.

Kunzel was chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center, an organization with which he planned to fulfill his personal dream of building a new School for the Creative and Performing Arts adjacent to Music Hall.

He and his wife, Brunhilde, enjoyed visits to their summer home on Swan’s Island. They could often be spotted in their 44-foot Hinckley jet cruiser, Pops.

No service information was available.

Cards and notes for Kunzel’s family can be sent to the Cincinnati Pops Music Hall office located at 1241 Elm St. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202

Know when to pay your respects.