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When worlds collide: physics meets music

By James Dacey

Albert Einstein was the kind of physicist that you don’t really find anymore – making so many remarkable contributions to so many different areas of physics. But in addition to his scientific achievements, a lot is made about Einstein’s colourful personal life, not least his lifelong passion for music.

Sharing this passion is particle physicist Brian Foster of the University of Oxford who has teamed up with the British musician Jack Liebeck to create a special show about Einstein. Currently touring the UK, “Einstein’s Universe” involves a special lecture, interspersed with classical music, which explores Einstein’s legacy to physics and the role music played in his life.

In this exclusive video report for, I caught up with the pair on the day of a recent performance at St George’s concert hall in Bristol, UK.

During our interview, Foster talked about how music inspired Einstein and how it offered a form of escapism from his research. “He often said that he had more pleasure in life from playing the violin than from anything else he did,” Foster explained.

The Oxford professor also described how Einstein used his fame to form friendships with some of the great musicians of his day. “He was great friends with Fritz Kreisler the violinist and [Gregor] Piatigorsky the cellist, and they played chamber music often together.”

Like Einstein, Foster is another physicist with a passion for music and he also plays the violin. Part of the Einstein performance involves Foster joining Liebeck on stage for a duet. At the end of my interview I was treated to a preview of this as the pair performed an arrangement of a violin sonata by Mozart, which you can enjoy in full in this second video.

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