I came up with the title of this piece — and the picture — by borrowing from one of Hugo Winterhalter’s best albums because I thought it was pretty descriptive of the talented musical director, who flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. The idea of The Two Sides Of Winterhalter (now out of stock) was that he covered both classical and contemporary music. But like Mantovani, Kostelanetz, and several others of the era, Winterhalter was comfortable with just about every type of music.
A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Winterhalter had a classical music education that not only led to him being a skilled instrumentalist, but also enabled him to begin a career as a music teacher. But within a few years he decided to try his hand in the professional arena, and beginning in the mid-1930s he spent time with some of the biggest bands around, including those of Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie. As the years passed he moved away from just occupying a chair in the bands and became much more involved in arranging music, and occasionally even conducted groups of musicians backing singers like Dinah Shore in the recording studio.
By the post-war years, Winterhalter was on top of his game, serving as MGM’s musical director and then moving on to RCA Records, where he was fully involved in every aspect of the business, including not only composing and arranging but also conducting studio orchestras. He provided backing for vocalists like Eddie Fisher and Perry Como, and also began to hit the charts himself with instrumentals like “Blue Christmas” and specialty albums like 1952’s Great Music Themes of Television.
For the next two decades he spun out hit after hit — his biggest was 1956’s “Canadian Sunset” (which featured composer Eddie Heywood on piano) — and also kept busy with a lot of movie music work, in addition to composing and arranging for Broadway and TV. As he got older he eventually slowed down a little, but stayed active until his death at age 64 in 1973.