Louise Nathanson (née Meiszner) was born on August 24, 1924, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Lujza Eberhardt, was a concert pianist, and her father, John Meiszner, was a flautist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Both were born in Hungary and educated in music at the Royal Academy in Budapest. The couple immigrated to the United States on July 4, 1921.
Nathanson began playing the piano at age three, under her mother’s direction. She gave her first public piano recital in St. Louis at the age of five. Because no American music academies would take a student so young, Nathanson and her parents moved to Hungary in 1930. She attended the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy of Music for eight years. When Nathanson was thirteen, she was invited by the famous Austrian composer Erich Kleiber to perform as a soloist with his orchestra. Her performance was reported in newspapers all over Europe and the United States.
Nathanson moved back to the United States in 1938 and made her U.S. debut with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra. She attended the Julliard School of Music and went on her first nationwide concert tour at the age of fifteen. She graduated from Julliard in May 1945. In the same year, at the age of twenty, Nathanson received the prestigious Leventritt Award for pianists. She also preformed as part of the Phil Spitalny All Girl’s Orchestra and the Charmers Trio. During her career, Nathanson performed as a soloist with most of the major symphony orchestras in the U.S. and Europe, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
She met Martin Jay Nathanson, a businessman from Rock Island, Illinois, backstage at one of her concerts in November 1958. They married in Rock Island on January 19, 1959. The couple had one child, Kevin, born in 1960. Nathanson retired from her solo career to become a wife and mother. After her son took up the flute in the early 1970s, Nathanson began playing piano again to accompany him. She also frequently accompanied visiting musicians playing in the Quad Cities. Nathanson began to teach part-time at Augustana College and Rivermont Collegiate High School in the 1980s, giving private lessons for more than twenty years. She also acted as an accompanist for faculty and student recitals and for the Quad City Arts Visiting Artist Series.
Louise Nathanson died on June 30, 2008, in Rock Island at the age of 83.
The Louise Nathanson collection includes correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, sheet music, recordings, programs, posters, and artifacts. It encompasses 16 linear feet and contains documents from 1926 to 2005. It is divided into twelve series: Personal, Correspondence, Programs, Publicity, Posters, Clippings, Sheet Music, Miscellaneous, Books and Publications, Recordings, Photographs, and Artifacts.
The Personal series (1926-1999, and undated) contains six subseries: Schoolwork (1930-1941, and undated), Notebooks (1957, and undated), Diplomas and Certificates (1945-1999), Contracts (1926-1958), Travel documents (1939-1974), and Financial (1938-1997, and undated). The Schoolwork subseries contains Nathanson’s grade books from elementary school, a French language book, and assignments she completed while studying music at Julliard. The Notebooks subseries contains four notebooks used by Nathanson to record concert dates and keep lists of songs in her repertoire. The Diplomas and Certificates subseries contains various diplomas and certificates Nathanson received, such as her Julliard diploma, a certificate from the Visiting Artists Series, and a Mu Phi Epsilon induction certificate. The Contracts subseries contains many contracts signed by Nathanson for appearances, teaching engagements, and hall rentals. The Travel documents subseries contains several of Nathanson’s passports and travel schedules. The Financial subseries contains check stubs and receipts from appearances and hall rentals.
The Correspondence series (1938-2007, and undated) contains letters, postcards, and telegrams written to Nathanson. Most of the correspondence deals with her professional career.
The Programs series (1937-2007, and undated) contains programs from appearances Nathanson made as a solo pianist and accompanist.
The Publicity series (1938-1945, and undated) contains circulars, advertisements, and notices sent out by Nathanson’s agents and managers to promote her performances.
The Posters series (1932-2004, and undated) contains posters from Nathanson’s various appearances. It also includes a poster of a concert her father gave in 1932.
The Clippings series (1930-2003, and undated) contains newspaper and magazine clippings that mention Nathanson. Most are announcements and reviews of her performances. It also contains three scrapbooks filled exclusively with clippings.
The Sheet Music series (1939-1946, and undated) contains three subseries: General (undated), School Exercises (1939-1946, and undated), and Phil Spitalny Orchestra (undated). The General subseries consists of Nathanson’s collection of sheet music. It includes classical, jazz, and show tunes. The School Exercises subseries contains handwritten music and exercises Nathanson used while studying at Julliard. The Phil Spitalny Orchestra subseries contains handwritten and printed sheet music Nathanson used while part of the orchestra.
The Miscellaneous series (undated) contains various documents including sketches, essays written by Nathanson’s piano students, and untranslated Hungarian documents.
The Books and Publications series (1942-2005) contains catalogs, magazines, and other publications concerning organizations and ensembles Nathanson was active in. These include the Pepsi-Cola Band, the Juilliard School, the Liszt Academy, and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. Several unrelated books have been removed from this series:
Berlasz, Melinda, et al. Fejezetek A Zenezkzdemia Tortenetebol. Budapest: Liszt Frenec Zenemuveszeti Foiskola, 1992.
Eisler, Benita. Chopin’s Funeral. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.
Mize, J.T.H., ed. Who is Who in Music. New York: Who is Who in Music, Inc., Ltd., 1951.
Noiskola, Erzebet. Evkonyve. Budapest: Kiadta Az Iskola Igazgatosaga, 1939.
Wedge, George A. Keyboard Harmony: A Practical Application of Music Theory. New York: G. Schirmer, Inc., 1924.
The Recordings series (1942-1960, and undated) consists of vinyl recordings of several of Nathanson’s performances. Many were recorded during a concert at the Town Hall in New York in 1946. This series also includes three postcards from Hungary that could be played as records.
The Photographs series (1928-1977, and undated) consists of three subseries: Personal (1938-1958, and undated), Publicity Shots (1928-1977, and undated), and Autographs (1940-1952, and undated). The Personal subseries contains candid shots of Nathanson, her family, and some of her performances. The Publicity Shots subseries contains photographs taken of Nathanson for circular advertisements, posters, and programs. The Autographs subseries contains autographed photographs of musicians, conductors, and agents. It also contains one photograph signed by Nathanson.
The Artifacts series (undated) contains various objects including Nathanson’s membership card for the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, a ticket for one of her performances, a matchbook with her picture on it, souvenir booklets from Budapest, and a cross stitched bookmark from Budapest.