Papers of conductor and arranger André Kostelanetz are being donated to the Library of Congress by the musician’s estate, marking a significant expansion of the collection Kostelanetz provided to the Library during his lifetime. Kostelanetz, who died in 1980, was a major figure in U.S. popular music and on radio for half a century.
Early in his career, he was best known for his interpretations of classical pieces, and over his lifetime he was credited with selling more than 50 million recordings that tapped a public appetite for popular arrangements of classical and Broadway music.
“During his lifetime, André Kostelanetz donated hundreds of his unique orchestral arrangements and ‘off-air’ recordings to the Library. This addition of his personal and professional papers adds a tremendous resource for researchers and students of American music,” said Susan H. Vita, chief of the Library of Congress’ Music Division.
“It will be of great value to students and historians of American music, show business and broadcasting,” said Vita. “From his musical imprint to his innovations in broadcasting, André Kostelanetz was a fascinating figure of the 20th Century.”
Born in 1901 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Kostelanetz was conservatory-trained in piano as a teenager and learned conducting in his native country, then came to the United States in 1922, and began conducting concerts for radio broadcast. By the 1930s he was named conductor of the CBS Orchestra and had his own show on CBS radio, “André Kostelanetz Presents.”
Over the years he became well-known for arranging and recording light classical pieces and instrumentals of songs and Broadway material that appealed to general audiences.
He also pioneered sound-recording techniques in his field that made his recordings for CBS noteworthy and highly popular. Music historian Gary Marmorstein credits Kostelanetz with selling more than 50 million records during his career, and notes in his book “The Label, the Story of Columbia Records” that Kostelanetz’ innovations in such recording techniques as studio microphone and musician placement were so highly regarded he was deemed “unfireable” in the words of legendary CBS chief Goddard Lieberson.
Kostelanetz was also instrumental in development of a technology that let U.S. and allied ships and submarines, during World War II and in later years, differentiate between friendly and hostile vessels.
Kostelanetz conducted the New York Philharmonic in pops concerts for 27 years. His last concert was with the San Francisco Symphony in 1979.
The Kostelanetz papers, comprising 73 containers of correspondence, scrapbooks, photos, clippings, posters, business papers, posters, sound recordings, and materials related to his USO tours with his wife, opera star Lily Pons, will supplement Kostelanetz’ previous gift to the Library during his life of full scores and parts for many of his arrangements.
Kostelanetz’ niece, donor and filmmaker Lucy Kostelanetz, said his family feels “great satisfaction in the belief that this is what André would have wanted – to be again in the company of his musical colleagues.” He knew, and worked with, many people represented in the Library’s collections, she said.
The newly donated material includes love letters in French between Kostelanetz and Pons from the first years of their relationship, 1935 and 1936; correspondence with four former U.S. presidents and numerous musical figures including Beverly Sills, Irving Berlin, Leopold Stokowski, Cole Porter, George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers and Harold Arlen; documentation of Kostelanetz’ role in Leonard Bernstein’s 1943 debut as conductor of the New York Philharmonic; thousands of photos, sketches, drawings and cartoons; documentation of Kostelanetz’ 1955 worldwide trip; and personal letters to the avid art collector from artists Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.
“André Kostelanetz saw in America, his adopted country, ‘a great music hall with the roof lifted off,’” said former President Jimmy Carter in an earlier tribute. “He traveled and conducted all over America – raising the roof – and our country in turn adopted him.”
Kostelanetz’ papers will be the newest addition to collections in the Library of artists eminent in American music. These include George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner, Leonard Bernstein, and Irving Berlin.
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