The Kennedy Center

Hans Kindler


A native of Rotterdam, Hans Kindler taught and performed cello professionally by the young age of 17. He then served as principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski, and in 1920 left to pursue a career as a soloist and a conductor. As a touring musician, Kindler became an American citizen and made his Washington conducting debut in 1928 at the Library of Congress. This successful appearance spurred discussions of having an orchestra in Washington, D.C. Although attempts had been made previously, the establishment of a permanent orchestra had not yet been successful. It was Hans Kindler who turned out to be proverbial “right man in the right place at the right time.”

Kindler first conducted the cooperatively formed National Symphony Orchestra on March 4, 1930, during a trial season of three concerts. He became the driving force and visionary leader of the fledgling ensemble, becoming, in the process, the National Symphony’s founding music director. He worked tirelessly to acquire subscribers, donors, musicians, and staff, and in 1931, Kindler presented a long-range plan for the NSO. The National Symphony was formally incorporated in November of 1931, and Kindler would continue to serve as its music director for 18 years.

Kindler was not only very demanding of the musicians, but also proved to be a great organizer of the newly formed ensemble. Making the NSO’s commitment to the twin causes of artistry and education known from the outset, under his directorship the orchestra presented concerts for children and young people in the very first season, performed summer concerts at the Watergate, and toured North America. Also Kindler embarked on giving meaning to the name “National” with the tradition of performing Presidential Inaugural Concerts. By the end of Kindler’s tenure, the NSO was presenting close to 100 concerts each season.
Hans Kindler