Robert White and Mark Volkov performing on stage in San Antonio, Texas (ca. 1980).

An emigre from the former Soviet Union, Mark Volkov arrived in the United States in the late1970s. A concertizing cellist, who played in the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, Volkov started collaborating with Avalon in the early 1980s. Together they founded the chamber music ensemble and performed as a duo throughout Texas in many different venues. This excerpt reflects an early period in Avalon's professional career as a performer. The complete interview is available at the Woodson Research Center reading room.


Mark Volkov: Well, I met Robert when I moved to San Antonio, and I went to the Jewish Family Service and introduced myself and told them that I was looking for a pianist to perform with outside of my symphony orchestra career.  And they immediately connected me with Robert.  So, we got together and practiced several kind of simple, short pieces and performed a concert at the Jewish Family Service, and the concert was very successful.  A couple of people came backstage, and they had just tears in their eyes.  So, we were very impressed with the audience, and after that, we decided to continue  our collaboration.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Cello Sonata Op. 69 performed in concert by cellist Mark Volkov and pianist Robert (White) Avalon in San Antonio, Texas (ca. 1981).

Robert was entirely responsible for forming the duo, and he was instrumental in getting other people involved with our, you know, little venture. He assembled a board of directors, which I at that time, I didn't really understand, couldn't understand what was going on.  So, it was all Robert's work, and  Robert knew a lot of ... [he] set up and booked concerts all over Texas.  So, we went on several tours and played in small towns and it was quite successful for us.  We didn't  make much money, but we had a lot of fun.

It didn't really matter because we had fun every time we played, and Robert had this incredible gift of joy and exuberance when he performed.  A majority of our concerts consist, consisted of playing duos Robert and me together, but Robert also played some solo pieces.  And I remember one of them, he played Mephisto Waltz by Liszt, and we had some friends of ours dancing behind the screen just to create atmosphere.  So, it just was fun performance.

Robert Avalon at the piano. Photographed in San Antonio, Texas. (ca. 1980)

Robert Avalon returned to San Antonio in the late 1970s from St. Louis and began performing in many different venues. In addition to accompanying instrumentalists, Avalon also performed many solo pieces from the Baroque, Classical, and Romatic periods.

Here from a concert in San Antonio, Robert White performs Frederick Chopin's Ballade No. 3 In A-Flat Major Op. 47.

Home concert program, San Antonio, Texas (ca. 1987)

Robert Avalon gave many concerts throughout his career. Among the types he enjoyed performing the most were so-called "home concerts." These frequent and impromptu events were organized at a person's home, sometimes sponeously after another concert.

Informal and informative in nature, these home concerts allowed Avalon to debut his own works as well as showcase up-and-coming local performers. This program from 1987 shows the range of repertoire explored in the concert. Each piece on a home concert program was usually introduced and discussed before performing the work.

Here is a recording of the Italian Concerto BMV 971 by J.S. Bach performed by pianist/composer Robert Avalon (n.d.).