Charlotte Zelka, a pianist who toured Europe for two decades before returning to Southern California and founding the Almont Ensemble, died Oct. 6 in Monrovia. She was 71.
Zelka was born Charlotte Lois Zelkowitz in Monrovia, where her parents operated a shoe store. She began playing the piano at age 3, and by her teens was studying at the Juilliard School in New York and later with famed pianist Artur Schnabel and his son, Karl.
In her 20s, she moved to Vienna, using it as her base for two decades while she performed throughout Europe. She married the writer-philosopher Gunter Anders, performed with Die Reihe, a chamber music group, and taught at the Vienna Boys Choir School.
In the early 1970s, she returned to Monrovia and opened a studio in Alhambra. She helped launch the Almont Ensemble, now the resident group of the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, where she also was a longtime instructor.
She played Bach, Schumann and Brahms but also 20th century composers such as Ernst Krenek, who composed a three-movement sonata for Zelka in 1950 when she was 20. A Times reviewer called her 1989 performance in La Jolla of Krenek's Fifth Piano Sonata "a rewarding musical journey."
Zelka is survived by her sister, Betty Sandford, two nieces, a nephew, and four grandnieces.
A memorial program will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, 100 N. Hill St.. Contributions are being accepted at the conservatory for a new endowment in her name.