The following is a guest post from Music Division archivist Anita M. Weber.
In the late 1920s, newly naturalized American citizen Andre Kostelanetz became so enamored with the possibilities that radio offered for sharing music across his vast new country that he decided to forego working as a vocal coach and cast his lot with conducting for the new medium.
The Music Division’s newest digital collection, the Andre Kostelanetz Collection, presents the Kostelanetz sound through a selection of correspondence, photographs, scores, diary entries, sound recordings, and moving image material. Site visitors will be able to read letters the maestro exchanged with composers as they created new works and examine programs and other materials related to Kostelanetz’s long conducting career. But it is the opportunity to listen to excerpts from radio programs, concerts, and LPs that makes the Kostelanetz sound come alive. The site is an auditory feast with some 70 sound clips from across Kostelanetz’s entire career.
A classically trained pianist and conductor, Kostelanetz was a musical evangelist at heart. Conducting—on the radio, in the concert hall, or at the battle front—gave him freedom to share his musical interests with the world.
Rich, lush with strings, and up-to-the-moment, the music that aired on Kostelanetz’s many radio programs between 1931 and 1946 presented his listeners with Broadway’s latest hits, classical arias sung by leading concert singers of the day, and big band-influenced dance tunes. Kostelanetz used his musical curiosity, conducting prowess, and technical proficiency in the recording studio to develop a repertoire to showcase his signature sound.
His musical curiosity also led him to commission concert works from composers as varied as Aaron Copland, Ferde Grofé, Jerome Kern, William Schuman, Paul Creston, Ezra Laderman, and Alan Hovhaness. The most well-known of these commissioned pieces is Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, created shortly after the United States entered World War II. Each commissioned piece is presented in whole or in part on the site.
As interest in his radio program waned after the war, Kostelanetz added to his already busy guest conducting schedule and turned his attention to recording LPs, activities that would occupy the remainder of his career. Between 1940 and 1980 Kostelanetz released some 100 albums of pop, classical, Broadway and movie music on the Columbia label selling over 52 million records during this forty year period. The LPs provided listeners with music by Brian Wilson, Carl Maria von Weber, Cole Porter, and Alfred Newman to name just a few of the hundreds of composers he recorded.
Researchers may read about the complete contents of the Andre Kostelanetz Collection through its finding aid. Researchers are welcome to consult the Kostelanetz Collection in person in the Performing Arts Reading Room, although two weeks advance notice is required. Questions about the Kostelanetz Collection? Contact us via Ask a Librarian – our reference librarians are ready to help!