Einstein’s Universe

JONNY CARTER joins the University Physics Society for an evening with Jack Liebeck and Brian Foster.

brian foster large hadron collider lhc liebeck physics

3rd November, 8pm at the West Road Concert Hall, CUPS. Free.


Eistein’s Universe- a lecture and concert- was conceived, as so many great ideas are, in the pub by particle physicist Brian Foster and Classical Brit-winning violinist Jack Liebeck. Foster spoke about Einstein’s love of music, his discoveries and quantum mechanics today in 20 minute bursts, between which Liebeck performed solo violin compositions by Bach and Kreisler.

Liebeck, left; Foster, right.

At times the link between what was being said and played was a little tenuous, but did nothing to lessen the enjoyment of the performance for me. The breaking up of the music by the words was just as gratefully received as the lecture by the music- each piece could be considered in its entirety without the audience feeling that it was being rushed into another.

The highlight for me (a violinist friend of mine vehemently disagrees) was Kreisler’s Scherzo-Caprice, in which Liebeck played the triplets with vigour, and the higher register phrases with a delicate calmness. It was a pity that he didn’t have the time to perform it with the recitative, which is far darker and tonally complex, with a particularly haunting passage in harmonics (there is a particularly good performance of the entire work by Gloria Schmidt on youtube).

Kreisler was a contemporary of Einstein, and the two played together several times; Einstein the hobbyist, Kreisler the virtuoso. This was mirrored, to an extent, at the end of the performance with an arrangement for two violins of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in C major k.296 by both Liebeck and Foster, who despite his jokes to the contrary was a very competent violinist.

I will admit that the physics lost me eventually – charmingly strange quarks and Bose Higsons proved to be beyond my understanding, but Professor Foster spoke entertainingly, and I felt that I had at least learnt something by half-past nine, as well as enjoying a performance by one of Britain’s most promising musicians.