Papers documenting the career of Felix Labunski, a Polish-born American composer, between the 1930s and the 1970s. Includes correspondence, clippings, programs, grant applications, notebooks, and scores.
Biographical/historical: Felix Labunski was a Polish-born American composer. Born in Ksawerynow, Poland on December 27, 1892, his father was a prominent civil engineer and his mother an amateur pianist. His mother was influential in developing his musical tastes, as well those of his brother Wiktor (later Director of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music), at an early age. After graduation from a private high school in Moscow, Labunski studied architecture at the Polytechnic Institute in St. Petersburg. His studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the Russian army during World War I. By the time Labunski rejoined his family in Warsaw in 1921, he had decided to give up the study of architecture and devote his time to music.
Labunski studied with Lucjan Marczewski and Witold Maliszewski at the Warsaw Conservatory (1922-24) and with Paul Dukas, Nadia Boulanger (composition) and Georges Migot (musicology) at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris (1924-34). In 1927 he helped found the Association of Young Polish Composers in Paris. In 1933 Labunski married Dorothea Gierasch-Boit, an American sculptor who later exhibited under the name Labunska. One year later he returned to Warsaw and was appointed the head of the Department of Classical Music at Polish Radio, Inc.
Labunski moved to the United States in 1936, and settled in New York City, where his son was born in 1937. He was naturalized as an American citizen in 1941. In 1940-41 Labunkski served as professor of counterpoint and composition at Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY. In 1945 he joined the faculty of the Cincinnati College of Music, where he taught orchestration, composition, and form until 1964. Labunski also made appearances as a pianist, often performing his own compositions, and was an active writer and critic. He received an honorary docotorate from the Chicago Music College in 1951 and an award from ASCAP in 1977.
Felix Labunski died on April 28, 1979. For more detailed information on Labunski’s life and work see Wierzbicki, James, “Traditional Value in a Century of Flux: The Music of Feliks Labunski (1892-1979)” in Polish Music Journal, vol. 4, no. 1 (Summer 2001), or the sources listed below.
Sources: Ewen, David. American Composers Today. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1949.
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2001.
Content: The Felix Labunski Papers consist of approximately 2 linear feet of material documenting Labunski’s professional activities from the 1930s to the 1970s. The papers, with the exception of two scores, date from the period after Labunski’s immigration to the United States in 1936, through the early 1970s. The collection has been divided into seven series: Biographical, Correspondence and Topical Files, Grants and Foundations, Joseph Firszt, Notebooks and Teaching Charts, Photographs, and Scores.
The Biographical series includes newspaper clippings about Labunski and his activities, as well as clippings related to various topics that were collected by Labunski. The series also includes a list of the first performances of many of Labunski’s works.
The Correspondence and Topical Files series consists of approximately 0.75 linear feet of material documenting Labunski’s activities from the 1940s to the 1970s. The series includes correspondence with conductors, musical organizations and societies, and other individuals. Although most of the correspondence is professional in nature, some personal correspondence can be found scattered throughout the series. In addition to correspondence, the series also contains programs, clippings, organizational meeting minutes, and other supplementary material.
The Grants and Foundations series consists of approximately 0.25 linear feet of correspondence, grant applications, and other material related to Labunski’s efforts to find funding for his work. Some of the grant applications contain biographical information on Labunski, including lists of compositions, publications, and performances, and his plans for future work.
The Joseph Firszt series documents Labunski's relationship with Joseph Firszt, who served as Conductor and Music Director of the Lima (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra from 1967-1996. Firszt has conducted orchestras in cities throughout Europe and in the United States, performed extensively as a violist, and has been a popular music lecturer and clinician in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Central America. The series includes clippings and biographical material on Firszt, correspondence between Firszt and Labunski, and material related to Firszt’s work, including programs and schedules of the Lima Symphony Orchestra.
The Notebooks and Teaching Charts series has been divided into two subseries. The Music subseries consists of material written on staff paper in music notation, including several small composition notebooks and teaching charts. The Non-Music subseries consists of one notebook containing writings, notes, and clippings.
The Photographs series consists of two photographs: a black and white portrait of Karol Szymanowski, and a photograph of an unidentified man autographed to Labunski, signed “Antoine.”
The Scores series consists of 14 scores, which have been divided into two subseries: Works by Labunski and Works by Others. Works by Labunkski have been arranged alphabetically by title. The one work not composed by Labunski is listed separately.