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Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951)

Koussevitzky as Champion of American Composers

A proponent of new music wherever he found himself, Serge Koussevitzky was particularly committed to promoting the composers of his new homeland. In October 1939, he organized a festival celebrating the works of American composers. In return, composers such as Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris and William Schuman organized a celebratory dinner in 1944, thanking him for the 150 American works performed thus far during his tenure with the BSO.

 Koussevitzky poses with composers (mostly American) after a BSO performance of John Alden Carpenter’s Concerto for Violin, March 3, 1939 

 Koussevitzky poses with composers (mostly American) after a BSO performance of John Alden Carpenter’s Concerto for Violin, March 3, 1939 

From left to right: Walter Piston, John Alden Carpenter, Nadia Boulanger, Roy Harris, Serge Koussevitzky, Zlatko Balokovic (violin soloist), Mabel Daniels, Jean Françaix, and Edward Burlingame Hill. During his tenure, Koussevitzky conducted works by all the American composers depicted here.

Photographer unknown

American Composers Testimonial Dinner, May 16, 1944

Honoree Serge Koussevitzky sits at the center of the head table during the American Composers’ Testimonial Dinner at The Plaza, New York City, May 16, 1944 
Honoree Serge Koussevitzky seated at the center of the head table during the American Composers’ Testimonial Dinner at The Plaza, New York City, May 16, 1944. Other guests at the long rectangular table are Leonard Bernstein, Helen Coates (Bernstein’s teacher and later secretary), William Schuman, Samuel Barber, Olga Naumova (who would become Olga Koussevitzky in 1947), Aaron Copland, and Alexander Siloti.  Reproduction, gift of Daniel R. Gustin

Music instead of Meat

To celebrate Serge Koussevitzky’s 20th anniversary as conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, William Schuman and others organized a dinner in his honor. In lieu of a menu, the event’s dinner card listed over 150 works performed by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the twenty years of his tenure.

Program and dinner card for the American Composers’ Testimonial Dinner, May 16, 1944

Program and dinner card for the American Composers’ Testimonial Dinner, May 16, 1944

To read the full program, click here.