Einstein was a good violinist
New York - January 17, 1934 Albert Einstein appears as a violinist
Albert Einstein, the physics genius, plays music by Bach in front of 300 listeners - and not that bad at all. With a benefit concert for Jews fleeing Europe, he wants to set an example and support them.
Image source: picture alliance / AP Images
First beginnings on the violin
At the age of six, when the family was still living in Munich, Einstein had started to learn the violin. At first it was difficult to progress. Once, in anger, he is said to have thrown a chair at the head of house. Soon, however, Einstein learned to love music and his violin, and later - as a scientist - it became a source of constant joie de vivre for him.
How he might have played, one wonders today. But whoever heard him at one of his private house concerts was impressed by his ability and musicality. It was not actually intended that Einstein would play in front of a large audience. That only came about through Hitler and the Nazis.
On the run from the Nazis
Einstein was a Jew and a pacifist. He publicly announced both, and consequently he did not return to Germany in 1933 from a lecture tour in the USA. He took an apartment in Princeton, where he also taught. One day the English pianist Harriet Cohen turned up there, also a Jew. In Europe she had noticed the many people who were on the run from Nazi Germany, and now she was busy helping these people. And because at that time in Berlin Einstein had said to her half jokingly over tea: "Madame, we should definitely perform together", she thought it was time to put it into practice.
Benefit concert for the benefit of persecuted Jews
And so on January 17, 1934, the pianist Harriet Cohen and the atomic physicist Albert Einstein stood together on stage at a charity gala in New York. The concert took place in the house of the patron and copper king Adolph Lewisohn, in front of 300 handpicked guests, such as the Secretary of State for Finance Henry Morgenthau or the first wife Eleonore Roosevelt. Einstein played - together with the violinist Toscha Seidel - the double concerto by Bach, then there was a string quartet by Mozart, and Miss Cohen also brought something by Bach to the audience. With the donations that were collected that evening, Einstein helped persecuted Jewish colleagues in Berlin to leave the German Reich.
What happened today
You can also listen to our series "What Happened Today" on remarkable events in music history at 8:30 am and 4:40 pm on BR-KLASSIK on the radio - or subscribe to our podcast. You can find more episodes to listen to here.
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