A celebrated composer and conductor in Europe and the United States, Frank was a child prodigy born in Texas to Flemish and German immigrants. When his parents realized his genius, they returned to Antwerp so he could study music in Europe. By age 16 he had completed 2 major works and caught the attention of Franz Liszt who became his lifelong friend and master. Frank studied with Edvard Grieg and worked with Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi and Jules Massenet. Although steeped in European music culture, he was a champion of American music and conducted the first all American concert in Europe at the 1889 World Exposition in Paris. He was appointed Kapellmeister of Breslau Stadttheater (a rare honor for an American), conducted New York's Arion Chorus, the Metropolitan Opera, and was awarded state and royal honors throughout Europe.
When Helen "Nellie" Herron Taft (President Wm. H. Taft's wife) was forming the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), she was determined to recruit this international superstar; but Frank was not impressed with Cincinnati and responded with extraordinary salary demands. Undeterred by his renowned arrogance, Nellie was able to put together an irresistible package, including his appointment as Dean of the Cincinnati College of Music. He divided his time between New York and European engagements while conducting the CSO from 1895-1907, (perhaps explaining why he called himself a "lodger" at 1215 Elm in the 1900 census). He also conducted the May Festival Chorus from 1906-1912 and again from 1923-1927.
His tenure at the CSO was remarkable: his friend Richard Strauss guest conducted new works, Edward MacDowell performed his compositions (pictured below, right), and he conducted American premieres of European works such as Mahler's No. 5. Frank stubbornly recruited the best musicians from around the world, finessing Mrs. Taft's and the musician union's requirements, and establishing the CSO as a world class orchestra.