Efrem Zimbalist

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Efrem Zimbalist
man holding violin
Zimbalist with his violin, circa 1915–1920
Efrem Aleksandrovich Zimbalist (Russian: Ефрем Александрович Цимбалист)

(1889-04-21)April 21, 1889
DiedFebruary 22, 1985(1985-02-22) (aged 95)[1]
Spouse(s)Alma Gluck
Mary Louise Curtis Bok
Children2, including Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
RelativesStephanie Zimbalist (granddaughter)
Zimbalist and Alma Gluck

Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (April 21, 1889 – February 22, 1985) was a concert violinist, composer, teacher, conductor and director of the Curtis Institute of Music.

Early life[edit]

Zimbalist was born in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, the son of Jewish parents Maria (née Litvinoff) and Aron Zimbalist (Цимбалист, Russian pronunciation [tsɪmbaˈlʲist]), who was a conductor.[2] By the age of nine, Efrem Zimbalist was first violin in his father’s orchestra. At age 12 he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory and studied under Leopold Auer, he graduated from the Conservatory in 1907 after winning a gold medal and the Rubinstein Prize, and by age 21 was considered one of the world's greatest violinists.[3]


After graduation he debuted in Berlin (playing the Brahms Concerto) and London in 1907 and in the United States in 1911, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1912, he played the Glazunov Concerto in a concert marking Leopold Stokowski's first appearance with the London Symphony Orchestra, he then settled in the United States. He did much to popularize the performance of early music. In 1917, he was elected as an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men in music, by the fraternity's Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, he retired as a violinist in 1949, but returned in 1952 to give the first performance of the Violin Concerto by Gian Carlo Menotti, which is dedicated to him. He retired again in 1955, he served as a juror of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962 and 1966.

Curtis Institute[edit]

In 1928, Zimbalist began teaching at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he was director of the school from 1941 to 1968. His pupils included such distinguished musicians as Aaron Rosand,[4] Oscar Shumsky, Joseph Silverstein, Jascha Brodsky, John Dalley, Michael Tree, Felix Slatkin, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Harold Wippler, Leonid Bolotine, and Hidetaro Suzuki. See: List of music students by teacher: T to Z#Efrem Zimbalist.


His own compositions include a violin concerto, a piano concerto (1959), the American Rhapsody, a tone poem called Daphnis and Chloe, a Fantasy on themes from The Golden Cockerel by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a Fantasy on Bizet's Carmen (1936) and a piece called Sarasateana, for viola and piano, he also wrote an opera, Landara, which premiered in Philadelphia in 1956.[5]

Public life[edit]

Pablo Casals writes in his biography, Joys and Sorrows, that Zimbalist was a member of the Musician's Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy which Casals founded and chaired in 1936.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Zimbalist married the famous American soprano Alma Gluck and they toured together for a time. Alma Gluck died in 1938. In 1943, having been a widower for five years, he married the Curtis Institute of Music's founder, Mary Louise Curtis Bok,[7] daughter of publisher Cyrus Curtis, and 14 years his senior.

He died in 1985, at the age of 95, his and Alma's son, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and their granddaughter, Stephanie Zimbalist, both became popular actors.[8]


  1. ^ http://www.philadelphiamusicalliance.org/honoree.php?id=113
  2. ^ Malan, Roy (May 2004). Efrem Zimbalist: A Life. Amadeus Press. p. 1. ISBN 1-57467-091-3.
  3. ^ Efrem Zimbalist: A Life. – by Roy Malan. Pompton Plains, NJ: Amadeus Press, 2004 ISBN 1-57467-091-3
  4. ^ "Biography". AaronRosand.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-07-26.
  5. ^ "Opera Composers: Z". Opera Glass. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 2011-07-26.
  6. ^ Casals P. and Kahn A. E. [Joys and Sorrows] Simon and Schuster 1974 p224.
  7. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (1978). "Zimbalist, Efrem". Baker's Biographical dictionary of musicians (6th ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. pp. 1946–1947. ISBN 0-02-870240-9.
  8. ^ Boris Schwarz (1983). Great Masters of the Violin. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-22598-8.

Further reading[edit]

  • Efrem Zimbalist: A Life. – by Roy Malan. Pompton Plains, NJ: Amadeus Press, 2004 ISBN 1-57467-091-3
  • Great Masters of the Violin – Boris Schwarz, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983

External links[edit]