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Wonderland of Christmas / Andre Kostelanetz


Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 96970  
Composer:  Johnny MarksJames PierpontJohn Frederic CootsHugh Martin,   ... 
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 30 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

When Andre Kostalenetz's Wonderland of Christmas appeared in 1963, it must have seemed like a bracing splash of cold water on a sleepy tradition of blandly sentimental choral holiday records. Fully embodying the brassy aesthetic of Ring-A-Ding Ding!-era Sinatra right down to its tumbling Santa on the cover, with nary a choir in sight, Kostalenetz updated the seasonal wassail by adding just the right amount of spice to make the holidays fun again, with several dazzling arrangements (including some clever medleys) of Christmas pop tunes, not the least of which the improbably effective "Christmas Chopsticks." It surely worked, as this album was heard everywhere merriness was desired. Hard as it is to believe that this Read more Sixties holiday mainstay has never been released on CD before, it's never too late to revel.

– John Bauer, Listen [Winter 2011]

Long before the term "crossover" entered the musical lexicon, Andre Kostelanetz had mastered the genre. How did this Russian born, conservatory educated Russian émigré come to be so inextricably linked with a musical style so uniquely American? Surely the arrangements that earned him his fame would have incurred the wrath of his teachers at conservatory. Maybe it was his wildly eclectic circle of friends that included – among others – icons of American popular music such as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter; classical music legends such as Leopold Stokowski, Fritz Reiner, Pablo Casals and Arturo Toscanini and noted authors such as W. Somerset Maugham, Ogden Nash and Carl Sandburg. Perhaps it was his experience working in the fledgling days of radio as a conductor and arranger where part of his task was to abridge and compress symphonic works into half hour programs. Whatever it was that set Kostelanetz on his chosen path, the music world has been the better for it. He brought the great classics to millions through radio broadcasts and later through the New York Philharmonic Promenade Concerts – a series he initiated – first held at Lincoln Center, then in Central Park where audiences in the hundreds of thousands came to listen. Beyond that he commissioned works from leading American classical composers Aaron Copland and William Schuman – to name a few – that have since entered the standard orchestral repertoire.

Kostelanetz’s arranging style is often referred to as “Easy Listening” or “Beautiful Music.” The trademark lush string sound of that style is evident on tracks like “The Christmas Song” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." The dream-like reverie of "White Christmas" is also familiar to Kostelanetz devotees. But the kaleidoscopic re-imaginings of several other Christmas standards heard here are something of a departure. In the opening medley of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bells” you can almost hear a sled pulled by limping horses – then the sled blasts off with stratospheric strings. Maybe Kostelanetz had been listening to the sound of lounge music pioneer Juan Esquivel? After a few orbits on “Rudolf,” “Jingle Bells” makes its appearance cloaked in a kind of Javanese harmonic texture. Not exactly what you’d expect but at this point in the arrangement, the unexpected is common occurrence. Jazz is rarely played on a harpsichord but the jazzy rhythms in “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” sound right at home on this instrument more familiar to lovers of Bach than be-bop. And how about those stereo pianos in “Winter Wonderland”? Stereo was still somewhat new to LP’s when this recording was made and you can hear Kostelanetz having a ball with the possibilities offered by the new recording technology.

The task of taking familiar material and making it sound fresh and new can be daunting but Kostelanetz is more than up to the challenge. With undeniable orchestration prowess he puts his orchestra through its paces and makes these Christmas evergreens sound new and exciting. He’s having the time of his life and pulling his listeners right along with him.

– Tom Laskey, 2011, from the liner notes

Produced by TEO MACERO
Recorded on April 9 & 15, 1963, in New York City (“Sleigh Ride” recorded on March 3, 1960)
Original album CS 8868, released 1963
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Works on This Recording

1.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Johnny Marks
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Jingle Bells." 
2.
Jingle Bells by James Pierpont
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." 
3.
Santa Claus is comin' to town by John Frederic Coots
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." 
4.
Meet Me in St. Louis: Have yourself a merry little Christmas by Hugh Martin
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." 
5.
The Christmas Song by Mel Torme
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
6.
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! by Jule Styne
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
7.
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Meredith Willson
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
8.
The first nowell by Traditional
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and O Come All Ye Faithful." 
9.
It came upon the midnight clear by Richard Storrs Willis
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "The First Nowell" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." 
10.
Adeste fideles "O come, all ye faithful" by John Francis Wade
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1782; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "The first nowell" and "It came upon a midnight clear." 
11.
Winter Wonderland by Felix Bernard
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." 
12.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Tommie Connor
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Winter Wonderland." 
13.
Holiday Inn: White Christmas by Irving Berlin
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
14.
Silver Bells by Jay Livingston
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Shake Me I Rattle." 
15.
Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry) by Charles Naylor
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Silver Bells." 
16.
Christmas Chopsticks by Fred Heider
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
17.
Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Date of Recording: 03/03/1960 
Venue:  New York, NY 
18.
Joy to the World by Lowell Mason
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Silent Night" and "Deck the Halls." 
19.
Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1818; Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Joy to the World" and "Deck the Halls." 
20.
Deck the Halls by Traditional
Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra
Written: Wales, UK 
Date of Recording: 04/1963 
Venue:  New York, NY 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley that includes "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night." 

Featured Sound Samples

Winter Wonderland; I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Bernard; Connor)
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Coots; Martin)
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Willson)
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Styne)

Sound Samples

Medley
Medley
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas
Medley
Medley
White Christmas
Medley
Christmas Chopsticks
Sleigh Ride
Medley

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 Thanks for the memories December 29, 2012 By Michael K. (Seattle, WA) See All My Reviews "My family got this LP when I was 12 years old, and it was a favorite in our house at Christmas. So glad to have it available again. Some of the best arrangements of many old "chestnuts"." Report Abuse
 A blast November 10, 2012 By Christian  B. (Price, UT) See All My Reviews "This CD is just a ton of fun - a real party in and of itself. My kids love it, I love it. It's way over the top but never tasteless. The horns really blow - you can tell there was real joy in the creation of it, plus a lot of variety in how each tune is presented - all the instruments get their turn carrying a melody. A great mix of jazz and classical elements. Tempos are always brisk and sometimes frenetic. The louder you play it the better it sounds." Report Abuse
 Christmas Joy December 23, 2011 By w. tate (memphis, TN) See All My Reviews "My parents had this album when I was growing up and we played it so much it cracked and hissed.. What a wonderful choice to put on CD. I have given several to friends with small children to try and carry on a wonderful music tradition..I still hum the Winter Wonderland/I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus number..Merry Christmas" Report Abuse
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