About Us

Alberto Zelman

Alberto Zelman Jnr

Alberto Zelman (1874-1927), in whose memory the Orchestra was formed and named, was born in Melbourne in 1874. He was the son of Signor Alberto Zelman, born in Trieste, operatic conductor, organist, pianist, composer and teacher and his English-born wife, Emily, a gifted singer. Alberto (junior) proved to be an extraordinarily gifted all-round musician: possibly Australia's best violinist, leader of a string quartet, a good pianist, a highly talented orchestral and choral conductor and a fine teacher of violin. He was beloved by his players, singers and pupils and popular with his audiences. He died prematurely in 1927, aged 52.

Alberto Zelman founded the original Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1906. It was mainly amateur with a core of professional players, and Alberto conducted it over the years, giving many memorable performances. His last appearance was to conduct the Messiah on Christmas night 1926; such world famous singers as John McCormack and Dame Clara Butt had been soloists in his Messiah.

The MSO continued to perform after Alberto's death until 1932 when it was taken over by Professor (later Sir) Bernard Heinze who converted it to an all-professional orchestra. The amateur players formed their own orchestra in 1933, naming it the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra after their beloved Alberto. Alberto's friend and former pupil, Bertha Jorgensen, was the ZMSO's original concertmaster. The orchestra has performed at least three concerts every year since its founding (with the exception of 2020.)

Herbert Davis was the founding conductor (1933-59) and the orchestra has had a number of conductors since. Rick Prakhoff was appointed Artistic Director in 2018. Our current concertmaster, Susan Pierotti, was appointed in 2016.

The current Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra comprises some 60 - 80 players in a full symphonic ensemble. We perform classical, romantic and twentieth century symphonies and concertos with fine guest soloists at each concert. We usually hold four concerts a year in Melbourne and one concert at a Victorian regional centre. We are always looking for more players to join us. Please Contact Us for more information.