Category: Classical

Romance is in the Air: Efrem Zimbalist & Alma Gluck

By , June 25, 2014 9:26 am
Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Before there was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt…before there was Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…before there was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton…There was Efrem Zimbalist and Alma Gluck.

A little over100 years ago, a nice Jewish boy who happened to be a violin genius  met a lovely Jewish young woman who was making a name for herself as a singer. I guess you could say that when these two Jewish superstars of classical music fell in love they were destined to make beautiful music together.

The Zimbalist-Gluck romance provided lots of material for the gossips of their day. While the idea of such a wonderful pairing of talents was thrilling, there were those who pointed out that Gluck was six years older, as well as a divorcee with a daughter. Scandalous!


Read more about Alma Gluck’s relationship with Efrem Zimbalist.

Read more about Efrem Zimbalist.

Browse 40 recordings the talented couple made together.

Martin Bookspan: My friends Leonard Bernstein & Aaron Copeland

By , July 1, 2013 10:02 am

Martin Bookspan: classical music maven

Martin Bookspan had life-long friendships with two great classical music geniuses, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

As the voice of the PBS television series Live from Lincoln Center from 1976 to 2006, Martin Bookspan riveted audiences with his eloquently distinctive voice and extensive knowledge of classical music. The N.Y. Times (May 24, 2006) described Bookspan as  “One half erudite informer, the other half grandfatherly guide, [who kept audiences] tuned in during intermissions with easy-to-digest program notes and anecdotes.”

A generous supporter of the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries, Bookspan spoke before a sold-out audience at FAU Libraries’ 2013 Kultur Festival in March.

Still debonair and  dynamic, Bookspan demonstrated that he has not lost an iota of his stage presence or his ability to mesmerize an audience as he shared wonderful stories and personal photographs of his friends Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

Now you can experience the uniquely personal stories of this classical music maven for yourselves. The Judaica Sound Archives has created  video clip highlights from this unique event for you to enjoy. Of special interest is the broadcast recording of Martin Bookspan interviewing Leonard Bernstein live on the radio.

Please click below for video clip highlights from Bookspan’s appearance at FAU’s Wimberly Library  in March 2013.

 My Friends: Leonard Bernstein & Aaron Copland

Presented by Martin Bookspan at FAU’s Wimberly Library on March 5, 2013

Aaron Copland at the piano with Leonard Bernstein


(1) Bookspan talks about the young Leonard Bernstein

(2) Bookspan interviews Leonard Bernstein

(3) Bookspan remembers Aaron Copland

(4) Copland’s Lincoln Portrait

(5) Concluding remarks



Mischa Elman

By , April 19, 2013 8:43 am

Six new Mischa Elman compilations from the Recorded Sound Archives at FAU Libraries

The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries has created six digitized compilations from 77 original 78 rpm recordings of world famous Jewish violinist, Mischa Elman.

All these recordings were originally produced between 1906 and 1921.

Click here for Mischa Elman’s biographical notes.

Click here to hear Mischa Elman’s digitized recordings at the Judaica Sound Archives.

Click here to see a  video of Mischa Elman playing Humoresque.

This film short, produced in 1926 by Vitaphone Sound Pictures, demonstrated a new technology  as innovative and exciting in its day as the first i-phone.  A year later the first feature-length talking motion picture, “The Jazz Singer,” put an end to silent movies.


Mischa Elman

By , December 10, 2010 5:31 pm

The world of music has been enriched beyond measure by the efforts of Jewish performers, conductors and composers.  Today we highlight the talents of one of the great violinists of the 20th century, Mischa Elman.

Famed for his passionate style and beautiful tone, this world-famous virtuoso was the grandson of a violin-playing klezmer performer.  By the age of six he was already understood to be a prodigy and when he was 11 he was admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory for further training.

He made his Berlin debut in 1904 at age 13 and his London debut a year later. While still in his teens he traveled to the USA to appear at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Fifty years later, in 1958, he celebrated this occasion with a wonderful return performance.

Elman’s recorded legacy spanned over 60 years. His first 78 rpm discs were made for Pathe, in Paris, in 1906.  He continued recording until shortly before his death in 1967.

The Judaica Sound Archives has created six digitized “albums” from Elman’s 78 rpm discs produced by Victor/Victrola between 1906 and 1921.

Click either record label to hear any of the 77 songs in this collection.

Jascha Heifetz: Violin brilliance

By , June 9, 2010 3:18 pm

There have been many great classical violinists in the past, but few have achieved the fame of Jascha Heifetz. His use of rapid vibrato and emotionally charged fast tempos, together with exquisite control over his instrument helped to make his music distinctive, exciting, and brilliant.

A child prodigy, he began making phonograph recordings in Russia when he was only 9 years old. These early recordings are quite rare. On October 27, 1917, at the age of 16 he made his NYC debut in Carnegie Hall.  Shortly thereafter he began recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company and later RCA Victor. The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries has created four audio albums consisting of 32 of these Victor recordings produced between 1917 and 1922. This vintage collection of music originally recorded on 78 rpm discs was digitized and compiled by The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries. These albums are not available for sale or reproduction but can be heard in their entirety on the JSA website.

Heifetz was often a controversial figure. He was attacked in Israel in 1953 because he insisted on including the works of Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner in his repertoire despite the strong sentiment at the time that they were Nazis. On the other hand, he was a strong critic of the Soviet Union and was considered to be a defector by other Russian musicians.

Click on any label to hear that song.

Making beautiful music together: Alma Gluck & Efrem Zimbalist

By , April 16, 2010 2:53 pm
Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Who is your favorite star couple? From Debbie Reynolds & Eddie Fisher to Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, love among celebrities is exciting.  We always want to know more. That’s the way it is today… it is also the way it was a hundred years ago.

In 1911 two Jewish superstars of classical music met and fell in love. They were young, they were talented, and they made beautiful music together.

The Zimbalist-Gluck romance provided lots of material for the gossips of their day. While the idea of such a wonderful pairing of talents was thrilling, there were those who pointed out that Gluck was six years older, as well as a divorcee with a daughter. Scandalous!

Before and during the early years of her marriage to the violin virtuoso, Efrem Zimbalist, famed operatic soprano Alma Gluck enjoyed a highly successful recording career. Her release of Carry Me Back to Old Virginny for the Victor Talking Machine Co. was the first celebrity classical recording to sell over one million copies.

After their marriage Victor/Victrola capitalized on a sure bet: recording the newlyweds together. You can hear two of the most popular of these recordings by clicking on the record labels below.

In his biography of Efrem Zimbalist (Efrem Zimbalist: A Life, 2004), Roy Malan  describes the process of making a recording in the days prior to the electric microphone. “The technique was very basic: a large metal horn was suspended from the ceiling; connected from its small end was a flexible pipe that pssed through a thick curtain to the etching machine in an adjourning room. Singers were instructed to face away from the horn on particularly high notes. Violinists had to position themselves with the sound holes facing directly into the horn’s mouth….The possibility of knocking against the metal rim had constantly to be guarded against (p.117).”

When they recorded together “the singer and violinist each had separate pick-up horns; Efrem later joked that his was much smaller than Alma’s: ‘They didn’t want me to play too loudly and spoil everything!’ (p. 135)”

Among their most financially successful recordings was the Zionist hymn, Hatikva, produced in 1919, and Old Folks at Home by Stephen Foster, produced in 1915.

While rehearsing for this latter recording, Zimbalist discovered that the obbligato was inadequate. He came upon the idea of playing Dvorak’s Humoresque at a slightly slower tempo instead. It was recorded this way and the recording became one of their most popular.

Hear the music.

The JSA has collected 20 song recordings featuring the combined talents of Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist.

To hear all 20 song recordings,

click here.


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