- THE GYPSY FIRE -
Vienna - Pressburg
To study rhythm, [Leschetizky] thought, one should go where rhythm was.
What could be more instructive than going out to the gypsies in the Prater
and listening to their wild, free rhythms! He would often be found there
sitting by himself in a corner, absorbed in their peculiar manner of playing.
... some friends ... strolled over to a café house on the other side
of the Prater, where the peasants were amusing themselves. Hearing curious
sounds issuing from the place, they went inside. A girl with bells on her
wrists was playing the piano and making a great noise, to the utmost delight
of her audience. Over at one side sat Leschetizky, watching every move of
the player ... 'I shall sit here until she stops, for she has perfect rhythm!
She has played twenty times, and every piece was with a different rhythm.
You've never heard heard anything like it...
The Prater was the nearest place to go to hear the gypsies play in Vienna,
but he reminded us [students] that the wildest gypsies did not come near
big places, and if people wanted to hear them play, they had to search for
them. He thought one hardly knew how to play an Hungarian rhapsody until
one had heard and appreciated the playing of the wildest band of gypsies...
Leschetizky led us ... down many streets to the outskirts of Pressburg
[Bratislava], where we found a special type of gypsies. It might have been
that they were the same ones whom he [along with Liszt and Anton Rubinstein]
knew years before and who remembered him. At any rate, they must have recognised
in Leschetizky a man after their own hearts, for, as he walked down the
path toward them, they fairly swarmed about him, dancing around him, and
began to play close to his ear. 'Don't play too well,' he said to one of
them, 'we shall be jealous. We have much to learn from you, even if we know
a little bit ourselves.' They asked him what he wanted to hear. 'I want
to hear you,' he replied. 'Don't worry about what you play.'
They became very animated. They waved to us, and the whole band bowed
from time to time. The leader walked round and round our table as he played,
then back, nearer to his band, and they all leaned toward us as they made
great crashes of crescendos or passionate diminuendos ... 'The gypsies have
a dynamic quality and rhythm that very few people have... [Look at them.]
They have forgotten everything but the pleasure of playing. They are magnificent!'
Leschetizky gave them more money, and they played on. He was happy...
- Ethel Newcomb,
Leschetizky As I Knew Him (New York 1921)
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