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November 1, 2004

UCSC music lecturer pens definitive biography of legendary violin virtuoso

By Scott Rappaport

Roy Malan was the ideal person to write the definitive biography of legendary violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist, one of the great musical personalities of the 20th century.

UCSC Music Department lecturer, author, and concert violinist Roy Malan will perform on November 5 at the Music Center Recital Hall. Photo courtesy of Roy Malan

Roy Malan and violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist, age 92, in Reno, 1982. Photo courtesy of Lev Rankov

Malan is the founder and co-director of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival in Colorado and has been a concertmaster and solo violinist for the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra during the past three decades.

Prior to that, Malan studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Juilliard School in New York. He also happened to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia--the world-renowned conservatory where Zimbalist spent 40 years teaching and served as director from 1941 to 1968.

“I was a student there under Zimbalist and toward the end of his life, he asked me to write his biography,” Malan noted, “which eventually took over 10 years, squeezed in between concertizing and teaching.”

The end result is Efrem Zimbalist: A Life, just published by Amadeus Press. Based on hundreds of hours of taped interviews with his close friend and former teacher, the book paints a portrait of Zimbalist’s life, from his early musical roots as a child in the Ukraine to Malan’s touching final visit with him shortly before his death.

This anecdote-rich biography zooms in on a golden era in music through the lens of one of the world’s greatest violin virtuosos and features a cast of characters that includes Einstein, Gershwin, Horowitz, Harpo Marx, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Toscanini among others.

“I had always intended for the biography to be equally a portrayal of the sort of world-- both artistic and social--that comprised the backdrop for these incredibly colorful people,” Malan observed.

Efrem Zimbalist: A Life is now available locally at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Borders in Santa Cruz, Bay Tree Bookstore on campus, or online at During October, Malan traveled back east to Juilliard and the Curtis Institute for a series of book signings to promote the new publication.

Malan joined the UCSC faculty in 1980 as a lecturer in the Music Department, specializing in the instruction of violin and viola. He will perform a recital with his longtime pianist and former UCSC faculty member, Sylvia Jenkins, on Friday, November 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Music Center Recital Hall. The program will include works by Beethoven, Schubert, and Ravel.

Malan has recorded widely and toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, as well as Latin America, Asia, and Australia. He recently performed at L’Opera in Paris, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and the Library of Congress. Malan is also a founding member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

For more information about his UCSC recital, contact the campus Ticket Office at (831) 459-2159.

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