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

21 April [O.S. 9 April] 1889
Died February 22, 1985(1985-02-22) (aged 95)
Occupation Violinist
Spouse(s) Alma Gluck
Mary Louise Curtis Bok
Children 2, including Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Relatives Stephanie Zimbalist (granddaughter)
Efrem Zimbalist & Alma Gluck
Zimbalist and Alma Gluck

Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (21 April [O.S. 9 April] 1889 – February 22, 1985) was a concert violinist, composer, conductor and director of the Curtis Institute of Music.

Early life

Efrem Zimbalist Sr. was born on April 9, 1888, O. S., equivalent to April 21, 1889, in the Gregorian calendar, as reported in many newspaper obituaries, 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. 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.


After graduation he debuted in Berlin (playing the Brahms Concerto) and London in 1907 and in the United States in 1911, with the 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 classical music in his adopted country. 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. He retired again in 1955. He served as a juror of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962 and 1966.

Early in his career he owned the "Titian" Stradivarius violin.

Curtis Institute

In 1928, Zimbalist began teaching at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He was its director from 1941 to 1968. His pupils included such distinguished musicians as Lynn Blakeslee, Aaron Rosand, Oscar Shumsky, Norman Carol, Joseph Silverstein, Jascha Brodsky, John Dalley, Michael Tree, Felix Slatkin, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Harold Wippler, Leonid Bolotine, Takaoki Sugitani, Helen Kwalwasser, 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 1956.


Several composers dedicated their works to Zimbalist, including:

  • František Drdla's Guitarrero
  • Edvard Grieg's 4 Humoresques
  • Victor Küzdő's Promenade Grotesque
  • Cyril Scott's Tallahassee
  • Willem Willeke's Chant Sans Paroles

Public life

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

Personal life

Zimbalist & Gluck LCCN2014709576
Alma Gluck and Zimbalist in photo dated 1915

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, daughter of publisher Cyrus Curtis and Louisa Knapp Curtis, and 14 years his senior.

Although he continued to consider himself ethnically Jewish, he found himself attracted, along with his wife Alma, to Anglican Christianity, and they regularly attended the Episcopal Church in New Hartford. Efrem Jr. and Maria were both christened there, and the couple placed Efrem in an Episcopal boarding school in New Hampshire. Efrem Jr. later became active in evangelical circles and was one of the founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network.

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, primarily in television. Efrem Jr. portrayed Dandy Jim Buckley in Maverick opposite James Garner, and the lead characters in the television series 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI. Granddaughter Stephanie played the female lead in Remington Steele opposite Pierce Brosnan.


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

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Efrem Zimbalist para niños

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