Einstein's Violin Improvisations In Gypsy Style
Einstein's violin playing took a gypsy turn when he improvised, often while thinking about mathematics. He was a very good musician. He could navigate the piano well enough. But his real love was for the violin. Even so, Einstein's violin playing was not of the first rank. Yet such was his love for the violin that he played and practiced anyway. Such is the spell that musical instruments cast on people's minds.
Einstein's Violin Career
In addition to studying the classic violin pieces of Bach and Mozart that he adored, Einstein was also given to improvisations. Some have told of the haunting, gypsy-like quality of these rhapsodies. Einstein himself stated that many of his greatest mathematical ideas came when he was improvising on the violin.
Einstein Plays Mozart
The Art Of Improvisation
Improvising, in terms of musical skills, requires unbelievable intelligence and reflexes on the part of a musician. The brain is firing on both hemispheres, plotting several moves before they come. Add to this the management of the current move, and drawing the whole into a strategy that has a beginning, middle, and end.
One is both intoxicated and absolutely in control at the same time. Think of improvising music as a double-hemisphered musical brain circus. Both halves of the brain are furiously, and happily, collaborating on a result that is instantly hearable.
That's even more of an achievement, mentally, because the classic style requires an absolutely perfect knowledge of harmony and counterpoint. You also need the creative spark to get it all going in a way that is pleasing.
All The Greats Improvised Publicly
Remember that improvising, until advent of the dry modern classical recital, was a zesty affair. It had a place almost at the head of musical events. In the golden age of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, all the way through Liszt and the turn of the century, you had to improvise. In those days, one could not really call oneself a virtuoso unless the crowd could call out the name of a popular tune, and the performer could come up with a dazzling, audience-satisfying piece on the spot.
Bach improvised in this manner, and so did everyone from Chopin to Liszt and further. Beethoven was a legend for rhapsodies that the crowd egged him on to create. Perhaps the first "performance art," in the modern sense, was musical improvisation. As exhilarated as Einstein felt while improvising, he had real limitations as a classical musician, all acknowledged.
Einstein's Charming Flaws
Einstein had mathematical flaws, too. Once, Einstein was rehearsing with the famed Budapest String Quartet. He kept missing his entrances because he was not keeping proper time. Finally the leader, famed violinist Alexander Schneider, stopped the quartet and gently reproved the famous scientist. "What's the matter, Albert?" joked Schneider to the world's most famous mathematician. "Can't you count?"