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Renaissance man’s extraordinary life - Book Review

Aspects of my Life

Selected Images

By Sam Zebba

2013. iUniverse. 222pp.

Soft cover. $18.95. Available from Amazon. 


The overworked phrase, Renaissance man, really does apply to Sam Zebba who has passed his 89th birthday.

Film-maker, explorer, educator and above all musician, Sam can look back on an extraordinary life filled with adventure which would account for several lifetimes for a lesser individual. Now he has produced a sort of memoir, "Aspects of my life", with the subtitle "Selected Images".

The fact that this is the synopsis of a life rather than a standard autobiography makes it extremely readable. It's really a series of anecdotes, all from different periods of the author's life, which introduce us to different dramatis personae. We read of his friendship with Palmach heroine, Bracha Fuld, his embarrassing encounter with Andre Previn and his chance meeting with the sister of King Farouk of Egypt with a marvelous exchange of dialogue which he recalls verbatim.

"Oh Princess," says Zebba, whose encounter with her took place at a party when he was studying theater at UCLA in the 1950s. "I spent two years in your ancient country, in the British army during the war."

"And I have been in your country many times," replied the princess. "I bought all my fur coats in Tel Aviv."

Such piquant glimpses into another world pepper the book and make it a delight to read.

Some of the chapters recounting his adventures have already appeared in ESRAmagazine and other publications but are certainly worth reading again.

In 1950, while studying in the Theater Arts department of UCLA he decided for his MA thesis to make a film in South America bringing to life the story told in the symphonic tone poem "Uirapuru" of Heitor Villa-Lobos. The Indian/Brazilian legend was enacted using primitive stone-age Indians living in the rain forest as actors.

This particular adventure is recorded in fascinating detail and gives some insight into one very unusual episode in his life.

Later he settled down, married Tessa, took up conducting and created the Emeritus Orchestra with retired top musicians from the Israel Philharmonic and Jerusalem Symphony orchestras playing under his baton. He only recently passed his baton to another conductor.

Meeting Sam Zebba one cannot fail to be impressed by the absolute niceness of the man. And in reading his book one is equally impressed by his modesty.

With all his achievements one comes away with the impression of someone who does not have an exalted opinion of himself. A true gentleman in every sense.



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