terça-feira, 8 de dezembro de 2009

Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra - Lure of the Tropics


  1. The Moon of Manakoora (from "Hurricane")
  2. Lotus Land
  3. Kashmiri Song (from "Four Indian Love Lyrics")
  4. Jamaican Rhumba (from "Sadko")
  5. Flamingo
  6. Poinciana (Song of the Tree)
  7. Andalucia
  8. Song of India (from "Sadko")


The world loves the great musical innovators, vibrant souls who revolutionized the music of their time with a fresh approach: the eminent classical composers, of course, and performers of more recent vintage like Pablo Casals, Bill Monroe, Maria Callas and Charlie Parker.

Artistes capable of synthesis, of combining genres of music, tend to be overlooked when the history of song is written despite any commercial success that they might have achieved in their prime. Andre Kostelanetz, "The Maestro", is one of music's unsung heroes.

For over five decades and with worldwide sales in excess of 53 million records, the rock revolution has all but eradicated the impact that Kostelanetz had upon the music makers and music lovers of his era. Composers admired him and audiences cheered him, recognizing his gift. For he was able to not only present works of masters like Aaron Copland and Debussy, but also to feature the brilliant melodies of contemporaries like Jerome Kern and George Gershwin in arrangements for a large orchestra that ably demonstrate why their music will last. He understood the public's hunger for culture without being lectured to, and in his own unique graceful style gave it to them without snobbery, on a silver (or rather vinyl) platter.

Born in December, 1901 in St Petersburg, the heart of Tsarist Russia, to an affluent family of taste and education, young Andre cultivated a love of music at an early age. However, as a young man he had to undergo many hardships and near-death experiences during the calamitous and historic days surrounding the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. In 1922, he was finally able to realize his dream of emigrating to America, rejoining his family, who had arrived previously. Working initially as vocal coach, his ambition to be a conductor came to fruition when he was hired in 1930 by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

The trial and error discovery that string instruments played en masse tended to mask the static and hum of the earliest radio broadcasts was a boon to Kostelanetz, as his arrangements of light classics and modern popular songs were sympathetic with the technology available.

As innovative as his radio broadcasts were in the way of microphone placement and mixing, so would his later recordings be held up as audiophile standards, benchmarks in his never ending quest for perfect reproduction of acoustic instruments.

Kostelanetz was even responsible for a military breakthrough during the Second World War when a machine he was using to determine the exact pitch and frequency of instruments was adopted by the Department of Navy for wartime submarine detection. Kostelanetz and his wife, the beautiful and renowned opera diva Lily Pons, made many appearances for the troops overseas in support of the war effort.

Kostelanetz' and Pons' USO-inspired globetrotting further developed his appreciation of music from around the world, and he made a special effort to include global compositions in his records and live recitals.

'Lure of the Tropics' consists mostly of standards associated with the Exotica movement - "Moon of Manakoora", "Poinciana", and "Song of India" for example. "Malagueña" also is performed here - slightly out a place geographically, but still fitting in with the lush, romantic vibe that Kostelanetz creates with his "pictures in sound".

Kostelanetz continued until his death in 1980 as one of CBS Records' constant record-makers adapting pop tunes as well as introducing the classics to millions of fans worldwide. Some say that he even created the genre known as easy listening that made his recordings, as well as those of the Italian conductor Mantovani, staples of the Muzak piped-in music service. Whatever the truth may be, Andre Kostelanetz brought beauty, joy, and culture to many with his elegant music, and for that alone he should be remembered.

(By Al Fichera)

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