AndrÃ© Kostelanetz arranged classical pieces as easy listening numbers, bringing the music to a broad, middle-brow audience that wouldn't normally have listened to the music. In the process, he inadvertently invented easy listening music. Kostelanetz grasped the power of radio and he adapted his arrangements to fit the conventions of mass communications.
Kostelanetz began performing music in his childhood as a member of the Petrograd choir. He would eventually become leader of the choir. In 1922, he moved to the United States. Initially, he didn't find jobs as a conductor/arranger, so he had to perform as an accompanist. In 1924, Kostelanetz made his radio debut, conducting an orchestra.
In the '30s, he assembled a 65-piece orchestra, which happened to be the largest orchestra broadcast on radio, for the national show Andre Kostelanetz Presents. By the mid-'30s, he was one of the most popular radio stars in the U.S., as evidenced by the sheer amount of awards he won and polls he topped. In 1943, a poll of U.S. and Canadian audiences commended him for his support for popular and serious music.
Not only was he popular, he was quite innovative as well. Kostelanetz understood the potential of recording as a way to expose mass audiences to music. Consequently, he also grasped the technological necessities of recording, and helped promote the value of recording engineers. But his most noteworthy technological advance was his invention of a mechanical tuning instrument that told musicians whether they were in pitch or not. The device was adapted by the military and used as a way to track submarines.
Kostelanetz never lost his popularity, even as musical styles shifted dramatically over the next four decades. Over the course of his career, he sold over 52 million records. The arranger continued to interpret classical pieces, as well as show tunes and popular songs until his death in 1980. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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