With pianos, pianists, composers, critics, friends, his daughter, and reporters massed solidly about him, Leopold Godowsky, famous pianist and composer, rehearsed last night in the storage basement of the Steinway Hall building for the farewell concert in honor of Albert Einstein to be held Sunday night.
Three women, seated at three pianos, played his magnificent contrapuntal paraphrase for Von Weber’s “Invitation to the Dance.” Godowsky’s foot tapped rhythmically to the music and his quizzical brows rose and fell at each nuance during the rendition. Finally, at what might be called the seventh inning of the rehearsal, all hands indulged in a stretch. During the interval he consented to an interview.
Every artist usually has a pet enthusiasm. Very often it is the word “I.” But Godowsky is an oddity. He bubbles with delight over another great man. That person is his friend Albert Einstein.
For years, the scientist and musician had been anxious to meet. In 1922 they were both traveling in the Orient, one lecturing, the other concertizing. Always, they just missed each other by a couple of days. Finally, last fall, they enjoyed the delayed opportunity of a personal meeting.
THRILLED BUT WORRIED
“Professor Einstein invited me to his home at Princeton,” related the composer. “I was thrilled, but worried. I knew nothing about the theory of relativity. So, not to take any chances, I brought with me my friend, Clyde Fisher, curator of the Museum of Natural History and a brilliant astronomer. Flanked by such knowledge, I hoped I would not fall down at this test of first impressions. But the conversation proved very earthy and safe. We discussed one subject only, and that a neutral one for us both, economics.
“What a charming man he is–such childlike simplicity, such naivete. He is like a being from another world,” said Godowsky.
A question as to his pet aversion successfully switched the subject. The change in his expression was instant. The musician has one violent dislike, Hitler. He calls him arch enemy of the world.
“I was there in Germany during the maelstrom of Hitler’s rise to power,” said the musician. “I witnessed the diabolical torch processions during the night, the men singing and crying, ‘Death to the Jews.’ What a feeling of terror that inspired. It is indescribable.” Godowsky’s face appeared tortured and unhappy.
He turned to the subject of Palestine, with a sigh of relief as the reporter questioned him about his visit there in 1926.
AN EYE OPENER
“Palestine is an eye opener,” he declared. “Such cleanliness, such order! And do you want to hear something good?” he asked with a sly twinkle in his eye. “When the Arabs want a good policeman, they always ask for a Jewish policeman.” The idea seemed to tickle him enormously.
But what impressed him most was the high culture of the low classes. “Professionals, artists, musicians, writers are all tilling the soil. It is a strange, magnificent country.”
Here his daughter interrupted him to announce the resumption of the rehearsal. He rose to leave, hastily wiping his warm, flushed face.
Energetic and full of life, his appearance hardly coincides with his age. He was born in Russia sixty-four years ago, learned to play the piano at the age of four, and composed his first piece at the age of five. When he was thirteen, he won a free scholarship at the Berlin School of Music. After a stay there of several months, he traveled alone to America, and began a series of public recitals here. Audiences and critics hailed him as an infant prodigy. Since then, he has won fame and recognition in every country in the world.
For the past four years he has been in retirement. He has emerged now to assume the duties of chairmanship for the farewell concert in honor of Albert Einstein. ## though the work involved is considerable and heavy, he feels that the cause (the proceeds will go toward the settlement of German Jewish children in Palestine) is worthy of his every effort for success.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.