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Rick Steves with the Boston Pops (Photo by Michael Blanchard)
Rick Steves with the Boston Pops (Photo by Michael Blanchard)

Rick Steves’ first trip to Europe wasn’t about history or food or culture. It was about music.

“My father, who was a piano tuner, decided to import pianos from Europe,” Steves told the Boston Herald. “So my very first trip, when I was 14 years old, was to see the piano factories in Germany.”

If you watch his public television travel series, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” you notice that between the castles and cuisine, there’s a lot of music: flamenco from Spain, fado from Portugal, Italian operas. Not a big slice of the program, music will take center stage when the Boston Pops presents “Rick Steves’ Europe: A Symphonic Journey” on June 8 and 9.

Steves has deep affection for all kinds of music (he’s only had two jobs in his life, tour guide and piano teacher). His collaboration with Pops will focus on European classical music from the Romantic era, the age of Verdi, Wagner and Beethoven.

“I love Romanticism and I love national struggles,” he said. “It’s cool that music, Romantic music, was a cheerleader for the national struggles that were going on in Europe in the late 1800s… What we do is drop down in seven different countries and we get some context, what was going on when Wagner was doing that, or Verdi was doing that, or (Czech composer Bedřich) Smetena was doing that, or (Norwegian composer Edvard) Grieg was doing this.”

Each of the countries touched upon were struggling for independence at the time, or as Steves puts it, “the countries were trying to get their act together.”

“Romanticism champions the underdogs, liberty, equality, fraternity,” he said. “We’re going to Vienna and hear the Strauss waltzes, then we’re going to go to Norway and hear ‘Peer Gynt’. It’s a fun exercise to get away from the ethnocentric approach to music and to celebrate music through the emotions of different cultures and understand what was going on in this period that meant so much to these people.”

“As a tour guide, my challenge is to set this up in two or three minutes before each piece,” he added. “The quintessential challenge and responsibility of a tour guide is to give context to the art.”

Steves will play MC for the night, while the Pops will perform classics and more obscure pieces alongside stunning videos of Europe from Steves’ TV shows.

It’s part history lesson, part travel show, part artistic journey.

“It’s one thing to see the visuals and one thing to listen to the music,” he said. “But if you can put the visual with the music, preceded by context that I get to provide as tour guide, it’s a beautiful marriage.”

Like so much of Steves’ work, the concert will be a gentle nudge into the unfamiliar, a gateway into the amazing world of classical music, and European history, and geography, and architecture, and on and on.

For tickets and details, visit