This I Believe

Szigeti, Joseph

  • Joseph Szigeti describes his efforts to avoid being stereotyped and remaining authentic to himself and also the obligation one has to work with and help other people.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Joseph Szigetti is one of the world's finest violinists. He was born in Hungary and was first taught by his father. When he was twelve, he played for Joachim, the celebrated violinist of the nineteenth century, who predicted a great future for him. This prediction has been amply fulfilled by a career which has taken him around the world several times. Now, Joseph Szigetti puts down his violin to tell what he believes.
I would not like to give the impression that my career and character, such as they are, have been built consciously upon a
closely defined philosophy or set of maxims. Alas, this is not so. But when I was still a boy, I was much impressed by the exclamation of the Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen: "I'm slipping, I'm beginning to find my stuff almost good." I think that this warning signal has been operative in me ever since. It has, perhaps, prompted me to set myself ever more difficult assignments. It may have curbed me whenever I felt an undo urge to celebrate--that is, to pat myself on the back.
I must have realized early in life that we are all, to a certain extent, prisoners of what is said and written about us,
particularly as it is this that results in our being typed and pigeonholed, in the Hollywood sense of the word. Naturally, we resent this. I felt that one way for an instrumentalist to avoid this menace of being typed and pigeonholed was to be aware of what one's composing contemporaries were doing, and to put one's shoulder, however feeble, to the wheel in the propagation of their works.
There is another guiding principle that I now discern in myself. I have always believed in the concepts of cooperative action, concepts which the German language expresses in a group of
words beginning with a prefix, mit, meaning, "with;" mitfuhlen: to feel with someone; mitarbeiten: to collaborate; mitleiden: to sympathize in someone's plight or sorrow; and so on. To write a letter without imagining the recipient, to listen to someone talk without imagining the detours of his or her thoughts, or imagining his or her reticences, is to do all these things imperfectly. For this reason I often admonish myself to be intelligible, above all,
because I feel that to cultivate an accent or mannerism--whether in speech or music, an accent that is an obstacle to the listener--is like condoning in one's self a handwriting that is a hardship on the recipient of one's letter.
Perhaps it all amounts to this: that I believe in some self-imposed form of taxation to repay, in part, bounties received. This might take the form of the Biblical precept, whereby the reaper was enjoined to leave a tenth of
the harvest in the field for widows and orphans. Gifts of money are not the answer. Only gifts of oneself, of one's time, imagination, compassion, advice, will do. This tithe we, who have achieved something and have many things to be grateful for, we owe this tithe to our fellow humans, to those who constitute our sounding board.
There the creed of Joseph Szigetti, a great violinist and a warm, honest human being.