Pablo de Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen (In the Gypsy Manner)

My grandfather came to the United States from Hungary in 1904. He hailed from somewhere near a city called Saraspatak, which means Muddy Branch. My father said grandpa had been a corporal in the Hungarian army, and though I’ve never been to Hungary, I have the feeling his was an agrarian background. He ended up working in a factory in South Bend, Indiana–my home town, which has a large number of immagrants from eastern Europe–but he always kept an immaculate garden.

Hungary has always been associated in my mind with gypsies, though just recently I found out that the gypsies are actually called Roms and originally emigrated from India. Perhaps the association goes back to the local radio station in South Bend, which every Sunday afternoon devoted an hour to Hungarian music. Our Sunday ritual was church, followed by a big lunch, and then an hour of what the announcer always referred to as “haunting gypsy melodies.” These consisted of fiery csardas (dance) numbers with cymbaloms (hammered dulcimers) and tenors singing out heartrendingly poignant melodies. Today, this type of music still tugs at the corners of my heart.

The signature piece of the Hungarian Hour was Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, though, when I once called the station they said the piece was called “You’re the only girl in the world for me.” Typical. You know the piece–it’s so schmaltzy that they use it in every cartoon when a character acts hurt, and people still play a tiny violin with thumb and index finger while they hum this tune to someone who complains.


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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