Andre Kostelanetz (Russian : Абрам Наумович Костелянец; December 22, 1901 – January 13, 1980) was a Russian-born American popular orchestral music conductor and arranger who was one of the major exponents of popular orchestra music.
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Abram Naumovich Kostelyanetz was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia to a prominent Jewish family. He was a cousin of physicist Lew Kowarski.
His father, Nachman Yokhelevich (Naum Ignatyevich) Kostelyanetz, was active on the St. Petersburg stock exchange; his maternal grandfather, Aizik Yevelevich Dymshitz, was a wealthy merchant and industrialist, engaged in timber production. He began playing the piano at four and a half years old. He studied composition and orchestration at the Petrograd Conservatory of Music. When he was 19, the Grand Petrograd Opera Company held a competition to select a chorusmaster and assistant conductor, in which he was selected despite being the youngest applicant.Kostelanetz continued there until leaving Russia in March of 1922 after the Russian Revolution, when he stayed in Paris for a time before moving on to the United States.
He arrived in the United States that year, and in the 1920s, conducted concerts for radio. In the 1930s, he began his own weekly show on CBS, Andre Kostelanetz Presents. Kostelanetz was known for arranging and recording light classical music pieces for mass audiences, as well as orchestral versions of songs and Broadway show tunes. He made numerous recordings over the course of his career, which had sales of over 50 million. For many years, he conducted the New York Philharmonic in pops concerts and recordings, in which they were billed as Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra.[ citation needed ]
Kostelanetz may be best known to modern audiences for a series of easy listening instrumental albums on Columbia Records from the 1940s until 1980. Kostelanetz actually started making this music before there was a genre called "easy listening". He continued until after some of his contemporaries, including Mantovani, had stopped recording. Outside the United States, one of his best known works was an orchestral arrangement of the tune "With a Song in my Heart", which was the signature tune of a long-running BBC radio program, at first called Forces Favourites, then Family Favourites , and finally Two Way Family Favourites.[ citation needed ]
He commissioned many works, including Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait , Jerome Kern's Portrait of Mark Twain , William Schuman's New England Triptych , Paul Creston's Frontiers, Ferde Grofé's Hudson River Suite, Virgil Thomson's musical portraits of Fiorello La Guardia and Dorothy Thompson, Alan Hovhaness's Floating World, and Ezra Laderman's Magic Prison. William Walton dedicated his Capriccio burlesco to Kostelanetz, who conducted the first performance and made the first recording, both with the New York Philharmonic.
His last concert was A Night in Old Vienna with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at that city's War Memorial Opera House on December 31, 1979.
His first wife was actress/singer Sarah Loy; they were married from 1923 to 1937, when the marriage was dissolved. He was then married to soprano Lily Pons from 1938 to 1958, when they divorced. They owned a home in Palm Springs, California which was built in 1955.In 1960 he married Sara Gene Orcutt; the marriage lasted several years. All three unions were childless.
His brother, Boris Kostelanetz (1911–2006), was a prominent tax defense lawyer.
After the December 31, 1979 concert with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Kostelanetz left for a vacation in Haiti. While in Haiti, Kostelanetz contracted pneumonia and died on January 13, 1980, aged 78.
Many of the early LP releases were actually re-releases of albums released earlier on 78 rpm records. Musical Comedy Favorites, for example, was released as Volume 1 (album M-430) in late 1940 for songs 1 through 8, and Volume 2 (M-502) in 1941 for the remaining 8 songs on the second side of the LP.
Four of Kostelanetz's albums made the Billboard Hot 200, no match for his Columbia easy listening rivals Ray Conniff and Percy Faith but typical of many of popular instrumental easy listening artists of the day whose audience did not buy their albums immediately upon release but bought them over the years.
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