Ian McKenzie

The Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra is a regular and very popular visitor to Daylesford. In fact, it is the only full Symphony Orchestra to regularly visit our Shire.

But who was Zelman? And what is the connection to our community?

Who was Alberto Zelman?

Alberto Zelman (Jnr) dominated the musical life of Melbourne for more than 20 years until his early death at age 52 in 1927.

He was a prodigious musical talent. Some called him a genius. He was arguably Australia’s foremost violinist in his day, as well as a highly talented orchestra and coral conductor, pianist and violin teacher.

Alberto, the son of an eminent Italian musician (Alberto Zelman Snr), was born in Carlton and made his first public performance as a violinist at the age of 6.

During his relatively short but illustrious career he founded the Orchestral League, the Melbourne String Quartet and the British Music Quartet and was President of the Music Society of Victoria.

His greatest achievement, however, was founding and conducting the original Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. There is a tablet in Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral celebrating Alberto’s achievement.

After Alberto’s death in 1927, the original Melbourne Symphony continued to perform until 1932 when it became a professional orchestra. The amateur players formed their own orchestra in 1933 and named it in memory of Alberto Zelman (Jnr).

Eighty-eight years later, the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra is still going strong, usually holding four concerts each year in Melbourne and at least one concert at a Victorian regional centre.

The Zelman will again be performing in the Daylesford Town Hall on Sunday, 4th July starting at 2.00 PM.

Last year the Orchestra could not pay homage to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth due to COVID-19 restrictions so this year they will open the concert with Beethoven’s famous Egmont Overture and finish with his exciting Symphony No. 8.

The guest soloists, Kalina Krusteva (Cello) and Roy Theaker (Violin), will join the Orchestra to perform the thrilling Brahms Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra.

Tickets at $25 are available online at “trybooking.com/BQVVV” or email “info@u3ahepburnshire.com

Zelman Connection to Hepburn

Two of Alberto’s three brothers married sisters from the prominent Borsa family of Hepburn Springs.

Victor Zelman married Clara Borsa. Victor was a prominent landscape artist and musician and had his studio in Seventh Street, Hepburn Springs (now a B&B).

Ernest Zelman married Blanch Borsa. Ernest was a professional flautist. However, after returning from WW1, he turned to farming and later ran the Bellinzona guest house in Hepburn Springs with his wife, Blanch.


Ian McKenzie is the President of U3A Hepburn Shire.