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William Kapell Collection

 Collection 0018-IPAM
An American pianist, William Kapell (1922-1953) was an active performer throughout his career. He gave many solo recitals and performances with orchestras in New York and on tours, including in North America, Europe, South America, and Australia. Kapell also recorded many of his performances with RCA Victor and composed many pieces, including piano pieces, popular songs for piano and voice, pieces for violin and piano, and transcriptions of pieces written by others. In addition, Kapell wrote commentary and poetry. The collection consists of 28.00 Linear Feet of concert programs, reviews, correspondence, photographs, advertisements, articles, published and unpublished scores, recordings, photographs, and other miscellaneous documents related to Kapell’s career as a performer and composer, his academic work, and his relationships with his close colleagues, including Heitor Villa-Lobos, Eugene Ormandy, his teacher, Olga Samaroff, and his wife, Anna Lou Kapell.

Dates

  • 1908-1989
  • Majority of material found within 1941-1953

Use and Access to Collection

Access to William Kapell's diaries is restricted.

Extent

28.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The William Kapell Collection covers the period from 1908 to 1989; the bulk of the materials date from 1941 to 1953, and the collection is 28.00 Linear Feet. The collection consists of both personal and professional papers including published and unpublished writings and scores, correspondence, programs, clippings, articles, flyers, photographs, and recordings related to Kapell’s work as a pianist, including his recordings with RCA Victor and his tours of various countries, including Australia, South America, Europe, and Israel.

Biography

Summary: William Kapell (1922-1953) was a brilliant American pianist whose life and career were cut short by the crash of an airplane at age 31 on return from an overseas tour. He won both a Naumburg Award and the Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Concert competition (1941), which helped him make major debuts both as a recitalist and as a player of concerti. He toured North America annually thereafter, performing both with major orchestras and as a recitalist, and he became an advocate of contemporary American music. He also toured Australia (1945), South America (1946, 1948, and 1951), and Europe (1947). His artistry is documented on recordings for RCA Victor between 1944 and 1953. Returning from Australia in October 1953, his plane crashed into a mountain moments before its scheduled landing in San Francisco.

Full History: William Kapell ( 1922-1953) was a brilliant American pianist whose life and career were cut short by the crash of an airplane on which he was returning from an overseas tour in October 1953. He was barely 31, but was already acknowledged as the leading American pianist of his generation; some have said he would have been the greatest pianist of the 20th century.

He studied piano with Dorothea Anderson LaFollette at the Yorkville Settlement School in New York and with Olga Samaroff at the Philadelphia Conservatory and (later) at the Juilliard School. In 1941 he won both a Naumburg Award and the Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Concert competition. This gave him opportunities for major debuts both as a recitalist and as a player of concerti. In 1942 he was given the Town Hall Endowment Series Award, providing him with still another Town Hall recital (in the 1942-43 season.)

He toured North America annually thereafter, performing both with major orchestras and as a recitalist. He became an advocate of contemporary American piano music, and seems to have been especially prized by American composers. In 1945 he played a series of concerts in Australia, beginning to build an international reputation. He toured South America three times (1946, 1948, and 1951). He seemed to have a particular affection for music of South America that is reflected in his personal collection of piano music. He played in Europe in 1947 , the same year in which RCA Victor began to release his recordings. In mid-1953 he performed in Tel Aviv, played at Casals' s Prades Festival, and gave his final series of performances during the course of a three-month Australian tour. Returning from Australia, his plane crashed into a mountain moments before its scheduled landing in San Francisco.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into eleven series.
  1. Series 1: Performance Files
  2. Series 2: Recording Files
  3. Series 3: Correspondence
  4. Series 4: Subject Files
  5. Series 5: Additional Subject Files
  6. Series 6: Photographs
  7. Series 7: Audio and Visual material
  8. Series 8: Published Scores
  9. Series 9: Interviews
  10. Series 10: Oversized Materials
  11. Series 11: Supplementary Materials

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Kapell's widow, Anna Lou Dehavenon., in January 1986. Supplementary gifts were made in 1988 and 1989, and additional scores were donated by Anna Lou Dehavenon and delivered by Bradford Gowen on April 23, 2004.

Related Material

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Processing Information

An item-level inventory of Kapell's recordings, manuscripts, and the scores that he owns is available upon request.
Title
William Kapell Collection
Status
Completed
Author
This collection was processed by Kenneth Boulton in August 1988, with supplementary descriptions by Elizabeth Auman in May 1990. It was revised by John J. Church in March 1993.
Date
1993-03-01
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Sponsor
This collection was donated by Kapell's widow, Anna Lou Dehavenon., in January 1986.

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States