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Not Taking It With You: A Tale Of Two Estates

December 22, 1985|DANIEL CARIAGA

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.

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