NOT TAKING IT WITH YOU: A TALE OF TWO ESTATES
Two truckloads--50 cardboard boxes full--of programs, photos, press clippings, scrapbooks, musical scores and memorabilia--including a gold medal given by the Queen of Belgium--arrived recently at the Beverly Hills home of Ruth (Tooty) and Hix Jalof.
The entire contents--its net worth estimated in excess of half a million dollars--are the musical estate of the Zoellner Quartet (1904-1925), all four members of which were Tooty Jalof’s relatives; her father, Amandus Zoellner, was second violinist of the ensemble.
For nearly three decades, this unique musical archive has been kept by her cousin, Joseph Zoellner III, in a series of storage spaces in Northern California, the most recent one an abandoned barn near Lakeport, 75 miles north of San Francisco.
“My wife and I are not musicians,” says Hix Jalof, surveying some of the materials, which he is attempting to organize in piles atop his dining-room table. “We have no idea how valuable or interesting these things might be to people in that field. We don’t even know if anyone remembers the quartet anymore.”
“We think it would be a waste to place the scores and the scrapbooks in a library, where they will only sit and rot,” Tooty Jalof says. “Music should be used. And the memorabilia should be available to those interested.”
The value of organizing and collecting musical archives--the records, documents and memorabilia of the musical life of an individual, group or community--is in providing those who come later with the facts of a particular time, says Stephen Fry, UCLA music librarian and caretaker of the university’s collection of musical archives. The musical history of Southern California “has not yet been reconstructed,” he says. “Every archive, like the one now residing at the Jalofs’, is one piece in a giant puzzle which is our musical heritage.
“We’ll probably never get to see the completed puzzle, because so much has been lost. But, in collecting the separate pieces, we see a picture beginning to emerge.”
Not all musical estates are accepted for the UCLA collection, Fry says. “We are interested in what actually went on here--musical and educational activity, professional events, touring companies. And composers. I don’t accept everything we are offered. I have to ascertain that the substance of a collection is more than peripheral.”
Research being one of the pillars of the academic world, Fry says, “We want to get it right. That is why we try to bring together different perspectives on our local history. The future wants to know what happened here.”
As is documented in nearly three dozen scrapbooks, the Zoellner Quartet--violinists Antoinette and Amandus Zoellner, violist Joseph Zoellner and cellist Joseph Zoellner Jr.--worked constantly during the 21 years of its career as an ensemble. (Joseph Zoellner Sr. was the father of the other three players.)
Formed in Brooklyn, where Joseph Sr. was born in 1862, the ensemble traveled to Belgium, under the patronage of Ethel (Mrs. William) Crocker (wife of the founder of Crocker Bank) of San Francisco, in 1906. There, with the tutelage of the eminent Belgian violinist, Cesar Thomson and others, they honed their skills, made concert tours and were feted by royalty.
Two of their hosts were the King and Queen of Belgium, who presented them with a specially struck gold medal in 1911. That medal, with the name of the goldsmith, C. H. Samuels, clearly inscribed upon it, is part of the Zoellner archive now being organized by the Jalofs.
From then to 1922, when Joseph Jr. married a Chicago woman and moved to California, the quartet toured constantly in Europe and in this country--where they were often publicized as “the Zoellner Quartet of Brussels.” Apparently, an American-born, American-formed ensemble was not considered salable to music lovers of that day.
They performed from coast to coast, Tooty Jalof recalls, “from Oshkosh to Montana. All over Canada. They gave concerts in trains. In Illinois, they appeared before a crowd of 2,500 people at an insane asylum.”
They also brought chamber music to Southern California, where they appeared in a number of series around the area, both before and after moving here. The three other members of the quartet had followed Joseph Jr. and his bride West shortly after the newlywed couple came here.
On tour, they visited royalty, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller and other celebrities of the day. In California, they played chamber music with a famous amateur musician, Albert Einstein. And they entertained in their homes other well-known musicians, like Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Mischa Elman and Eugene Ysaye.
Overlapping the final years of the quartet’s existence, the four musicians of the Zoellner family opened a conservatory on Windsor Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1922. A few years later, they moved to larger quarters at 3839 Wilshire Blvd., and, even later, opened branches in Hollywood and Burbank. In 1950, Joseph Jr. formed a second Zoellner Quartet with non-family members. Under that name, it played for seven years until his death, when it disbanded.
Surrounded by stacks of music, programs and scrapbooks, Hix Jalof scratches his head and talks about the exhausting job of organizing the archive.
Since September, he has consulted a number of appraisers and university music departments. After much discussion, the Jalofs have decided to donate all the scores--including the quartet’s complete repertory, plus miscellaneous sheet music--to Scripps College in Claremont (both Joseph Jr. and Amandus had taught at the Claremont Colleges).
What to do with the remainder of the materials--all the memorabilia and scrapbooks--has remained, until now, in question.
In talks with Fry of the UCLA library, the Jalofs have been impressed with the large number of archives already housed at the university, among them collections of scores and original manuscripts by George Antheil, Clarence Mader, Alfred Newman, John Vincent, Albert Hay Malotte, Eric Zeisl and Colin McPhee.
“We are now satisfied,” Tooty Jalof says, “about questions of access and availability to the general public of the materials.” For the Zoellner Quartet, long gone and for most practical purposes forgotten, it is a matter of record. Tooty and Hix Jalof want the Zoellner Quartet to be remembered.
Not very far away, in the San Fernando Valley, veteran pianist and pedagogue Leo Podolsky is showing a visitor to his small house the accumulated memorabilia of a lifetime in music.
The Russian-born pianist, who spent 58 of his 94 years teaching in Chicago, moved here in 1983 after the death of his wife. A commanding presence, he still attends concerts and participates in pedagogical activities--as a piano clinician, he continues to tour.
In his modest, two-bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood, he has assembled souvenirs of his travels, among them a number of artifacts, like puppets, bedspreads and fans, from the Far East, as well as musical documents--a death mask of Franz Liszt he purchased during his student days in Vienna (1912-14), for example--of interest to him and to future generations.
These collections he has already bequeathed to the University of Southern California through a special arrangement made in April, 1984, with William E. Thomson, dean of the school of music at the university.
The arrangement is called a “life estate agreement.” Through it, the donor deeds his home to the university but retains, in his lifetime, the rights and responsibilities of ownership. Podolsky’s agreement includes a total bequest of his furniture, antiques and objets d’art.
The hearty musical veteran explains why he welcomed the agreement:
“For 58 years, I taught in the Sherwood School (of Music) in Chicago. In that time, I saw many of my colleagues on the faculty grow old and die. And when they were gone, sometimes it seemed as if they had never existed. Nothing was left.
“In my life, I have been surrounded, not only by beautiful people--friends and family and associates--but by beautiful things. After my death, I don’t want those things scattered, or sold. By leaving my estate to the university, I know I will be remembered.”
Lori Hogan, director of development at the USC school of music, explains that the disposition of Podolsky’s estate will fund a teaching studio (to be named after Podolsky) in a projected three-story, $9-million practice-room facility at the university.
“His collection of Oriental art will furnish the studio and be utilized in other parts of the building. We feel this is particularly appropriate, since so many of our students come from Pacific Rim nations. They will certainly feel at home in these surroundings.”
Podolsky’s longtime teaching associate, June Davison, has also made a life estate agreement with USC. She too donates, upon her death, her home to the School of Music. In addition, she will leave to the keyboard department of that school her personal library of piano music, teaching materials and textbooks. Both estates have already established endowments for scholarships to be named after the donors.
“Everything you see is going to USC,” Podolsky says proudly, indicating with a sweep of his arm: wall decorations, a collection of Javanese puppets, a triptych cloth from the same country, an old but sonorous upright Heintzmann piano, photos of Bruno Walter and other colleagues, and player-piano rolls made by Podolsky himself as well as by Rudolph Ganz, Mischa Levitzki, Leo Ornstein, Rachmaninoff and Carl Friedberg, among others.
As head of the music library at UCLA, Fry presides over acquisition and storage of the more than 150 archival collections housed there. Actually, most of the collections are stored, not on the Westwood campus, but in a separate facility in Inglewood.
Among the separate collections are an Archive of Popular American Music and an Ethnomusicology Archive. A number of film and television composers, still living, have already made arrangements to place some of their manuscripts at UCLA, among them Henry Mancini, Nat Farber, Paul Chihara and Miklos Rozsa.
Partial collections of scores and manuscripts have been promised by another group of living composers including Alden Ashforth, Michel Michelet, Henri Lazarof, Roy Travis, David Raksin, Pia Gilbert and John Green. Among complete archives are those of Mary Carr Moore, Fannie Charles Dillon and Thilo Becker. In addition, the library contains many manuscripts by the late Eugene Zador and Ernst Toch.
“We’re always looking to extend our collections,” Fry says. “But we know we are not equipped for all archives. You can’t blame someone like David Raksin for arranging to leave his archives to the Library of Congress. They have the facilities to house them appropriately.”
Similarly, he says he has no regrets about losing the Stravinsky archives in a court struggle with the University of Texas, three years ago, to a private collector in Switzerland.
“There is no way we could have provided the kind of setting--a three-story building--for those materials.” Nor does he regret that the archives of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold also went elsewhere--to the Library of Congress.
Still, one of the virtues of having these ever-expanding resources close at hand, Fry believes, is “the picture they can give us of a particular time in our own history. Each of these archives is one piece in the jigsaw puzzle which is the musical life of our century. The more pieces you have, the better picture you get.”
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.