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Gidon Kremer: why I quit the celebrity ratrace

The great violinist has sent me the original, private letter that he sent to the Verbier Festival, announcing his withdrawal. I publish it with his permission and with that of Martin Engstroem, the Verbier director to whom it was addressed.

Kremer took offence when Verbier announced that he was cancelling because he was unwell. In fact, his grievance appears to lie deeper, in the way the few super-famous classical musicians are exploited. It is the first coherent declaration of dissent to the celebrity culture in classical music.

I present the letter verbatim, in the original English:

 

(June 28th ,2011).

*******************************

 

Dear Martin,

 

Today, unfortunately I have some upsetting news for you. After many weeks of questioning myself, and a barrage of conflicting thoughts, I have finally decided to withdraw my participation in this year’s Verbier festival.

While I do not want to hurt you, I can only imagine how disappointed you will be. Please believe me, when I say that I really do not have any other choice.

We all get older, this is a fact we can’t deny this and this somehow demands more responsibility towards our actions. It concerns as well the important question of where and why we say “yes” or “no”.

It is wonderful, that Verbier provides so many opportunities for young musicians to share the music. I especially value the enthusiastic work of the Festival orchestra. I am also aware of how important it is for you, to celebrate all your friends birthdays and anniversaries. And among these highly valued performers are also some of my own very dear friends.

Nevertheless the question to myself remains: what am I personally doing on this summit of “names” and both old and new celebrities?

Having all my life served music and composers, a repertoire which is established as “classic” and one which, for decades I had to fight for to be heard, I now feel that I need to make a choice. I simply do not want any more to be part of “parties for the sake of parties”. To be one of a group of so many splendid artists is not something that I want to justify or confirm.

Some decades ago an American newspaper wrote a contradicting but ironic punch-line about me: “he is so much out, that he is in”. Time has come for me to feel, that I want to be “in” in everything I am doing. It is not easy for me to explain why, but I do feel that in Verbier, I am an “outsider”.

You would wonder: “Gidon! How can you say such a thing, being surrounded by so many friends, who respect you, who love to play with you, who look up to you? Aren’t you aware, that I myself have admired you for years?”.

Dear Martin! Please do not draw any wrong conclusions.

I am not putting up barricades because of any ambitions or desire to look at everything as a snob, as many critics do! – With their prejudice, so to say- “from above”. – No way.

I simply do not want to breath the air, which is filled by sensationalism and distorted values.  Lets’ admit – all of us have something to do with the poisonous development of our music world, in which “stars” count more than creativity, ratings more than genuine talent, numbers more than…. sounds.

This summer I have decided, after 30 years of full commitment to conclude my activity for the Lockenhaus festival. For three decades, I served the cause and can only be grateful for having had so many friends who also follow that spirit. Music itself was and remained the core of this festival, which can be proud to have given an opportunity to thousands of musical scores to have been performed. It was and remains an oasis of intimacy, in size and in orientation.

Now, finding myself rather exhausted through my numerous tours, new projects and recording sessions, I feel even more, that I should do only the things which I believe myself are still somewhat necessary. And here it is: I simply do not have enough energy to support gatherings and collaborations on highly exposed stages with “rising” or approved stars of today’s music business for the sake of ovations and name-dropping.

Yes, I know, I should be professional. Most of my life I tried to stick to my word (and I am aware that promised you that I’d come) but a time has now come in which the overall devaluation of the word “interpreter” has resulted in a misguided fixation with glamour and sex appeal.

This is not anymore “my” time. I leave it to those who believe in it, be it the audiences or the new bread of performers, who have overwhelming capacities to please crowds, but who are often themselves quite EMPTY and artistically lost, chasing a hunger for recognition over ability.

Let it be like this.

Not being a hypocrite, I simply need to gain some distance and rest from all those ”fireworks”. This is the only reason that I have made this decision to step out, since I do not want this to add to the overall confusion, which has established itself within the music market in recent years.

I wish you a productive summer full of joyful meetings and “great performances” which every evening, you will announce at the usual gatherings, in circles of artists, hosts and friends.

I hope that you not only sell plenty of tickets, but as well promote the image of the festival itself, which can be honored to have such a great music lover and salesman as it’s “artistic director”.

I wish as well some day, that you find some distance from all those musicians, who use the given opportunity to share and SERVE music by simply showing up and “enjoying themselves”.

Many festivals these days unfortunately allow mixing self-enchantment with entertainment – (be it crossover or “events”) and they succeed to remain a magnet for all those, who want to be seen or hailed.

Yes I am a bit ironic and with a bitter feeling in saying these words;

REAL artists like those that we still remember, haven’t vanished completely. But the “greenery” of Verbier rather contributes to forgetting them and hails mystifications and substitutes of those, who truly served ART. Opposing such a tendency, I simply want to find peace with myself. Lately being warn out by so many dissatisfying partnerships, I simply need a rest. I do hope this will be the best remedy for the hype that surrounds many of us.

I want to conclude with these well known words from a song used by my favorite composer Robert Schumann: “Ich grolle nicht”.

Not being driven by a desire to blame anyone, but rather by self–protection (if there is still something to protect!), I need to apologize once more to you and to all those artists and friends, whom I was supposed to play with, for my inability to attend Verbier festival this summer.

Please forgive me for breaking my word and believe me, this is done to allow me to remain loyal to myself, and above all to music, which I still love.

Yours,

 

Gidon.

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Comments

  1. A true star.

    • This is a beautifully written letter. I admire Mr. Kremer’s honesty and courage……and maybe even more his vulnerability! All three qualities—often common in great men—are exceedingly rare yet they are essential for an artist and his art to transcend time.

    • What about “We Will Survive: Igudesman & Joo + Kremer & Kremerata “? Is it not the same?

  2. Of course he’s correct, is Mr. Kremer; and if proof is needed, one need only look at the Rolex mark on the festival’s poster. I’ve nothing against Rolex, or Ford or Mercedes, or any of the countless individuals and corporations who allow classical music to seem “successful.” I’ve always viewed “the big houses” as real estate concerns, with hugely over-educated bureaucracies at the helm, with their ever-outstretched-palms extending more and more firmly around the waists of the dowagers who seem only too willing to oblige in every manner of “giving.”

    The whole world of classical music as we know it, is one of privilege, parental meddling and tunnel-vision that leads to “buddy and gal-pal networks” of connectives who more or less rule tiny fiefdoms that are a lot like governments… who have not a penny of their own but constantly plan, plot, and execute ways, and then new ways, to grab money “for the arts,” so that everyone associated can maintain a decent standard of middle class existence, with a few “top feeders” or superstars basically paving the way for the whole “musical enterprise.”

    No wonder he’s sick of the post concert parties.

    R

  3. Re: ” . . . the poisonous development of our music world . . . ”

    A Facebook friend posted a link to this letter today. As I read Maestro Kremer’s thoughts I couldn’t help but recall an experience I had a couple days ago. I stumbled upon 20-year-old Daniil Trifonov’s splendid performance of Chopin’s Op. 25 Etudes at the recent Arthur Rubinstein Competition–in which Trifonov took first prize only to take first prize again in the Tchaikovsky Competition a few weeks later. I visited Daniil Trifonov’s website and was startled to see he already has managers all over the globe. The music industry, it seems, is waiting vulturelike to devour young talents to its own benefit. Lucky is the soul who is able to escape being taken captive. Musicians of stature can do a great deal to remediate what is going on. Few, however, have Mr. Kremer’s courage.

    • eloquently put. 100% agreed

    • It’s so difficult to have a career in music as it is. If you’re one of the few who has managers beating down the doors trying to get you gigs, would you say no?

      • How does one suppose an artist like Trifonov “remediate what’s going on”? I ask sincerely.
        Is it wrong to have management? And for those of us who are mid-level professional musicians, who genuinely love the art and want to serve it – how do you propose we serve it sincerely and without the evangelistic powers of glamour and sex to bring in funding?

    • What nonsense ! Mr. Trifonov is as much the vulture as are his agents , they both feed off each other -why did Mr. Trifonov enter the competitions – certainly not to bring music to the masses – he entered competitions to become famous – earn bags of money – it is all calculated ,using music as a stalking horse for a career. The very act of
      entering a competition tells you what the person is about . Mr. Kremer was no different in his younger day-he
      entered competitions left and right and took whatever prizes he could manage- and it wasn’t for the art of
      music – it was for fame ,money and whatever concert dates one could get . I believe ,rather than courage Mr.
      Kremer has grown tired of the same old same old , how many times can one play the Sibelius or the other top played violin concerti before you lose your mind while pretending each outing gives one deeper
      and deeper insights to the same old same old . Mr. Kremer has been supplanted by perhaps lesser talents
      who play fairly well but look better than than he while performing the same old same old . It irks !
      It seems to me Mr. Kremer is put out because his time has come and gone and let’s face it he brings nothing to
      the violin (as composer -virtuoso) except that he is a fine executant on the instrument. When he is done -he is done , no works are left behind just records & memories for those that heard him . I am positive Mr. Kremer is correct concerning the ignorance of the new breed of performer but he is also responsible to some degree
      for that state of the concert world to-day .He was part of it for some decades before he noticed it wasn’t
      serving the music .He should try turning it around ………..

    • Karl Davies says:

      Time was when people like Szeryng, Milstein Serkin Arrau played in ‘out of the way’ places as younger artists.Only when they were ready were they introduced to the larger venues.Above all it should never be forgotten that it is first work and then art

  4. Too dramatic, maybe?
    Growing old, getting annoyed with all this teens from the Youth Festival Orchestra boozing around… Want to have something more intimate music-making… That’s fine.

    Maybe no big need to make such a conclusions?

    • you totally missed the point

      • Well… I tried, at least.

        • Fabio Luisi says:

          It’s not about the teens from the Youth Festival Orchestra. It’s about other “teens”.
          Bravo Mr. Kremer.

          • I think it is good somebody steps up to oppose this teen trend in classical music. I can also read out a slight hint, that crossover artist Garrett’s appearance might not really be to Kremer’s liking. After I saw Garrett’s Verbier recital, I can understand why.

            That recital was sold out. Nice show, but despite great efforts by pianist Julien Quentin, musically flat and rather unworthy of a sell out. An hour laterLlyr Williams had to play to a maybe quarter full in the same location. His recital was much more worthy of a sell out.

            Unfortunatly though concerts are given to sell tickets. In today’s TV-talentshow poisoned world sex sells even better than before. We have to live with that and continue to hope some rich people subsidize the really worth to listen to concerts.

  5. Many musicians today—not even near Kremer’s starry league—feel as outsiders in today’s youth-oriented, celebrity culture. There appears to be a real conflict between administrators eyeing the box-office, feeding into the public’s demand of glamour and sex appeal, and artists wishing to serve for the sake of great art.

    It will always be tough for idealists but where would the world be without these courageous souls that dare speak out?

    • Fabio Luisi says:

      Yes, young and pretty and fast fingers (or a nice voice, or a great mimic) = successful.

    • Katy Luo says:

      The musicians are the ones who are selling themselves out by creating those images of themselves — thinking (or without actual thinking) that it’s what the public wants to see, and what will keep their careers going. I think musicians often exploit themselves because perhaps most of them don’t really care about music, they just like attention. Music is no longer an ART to them, it’s just something they do, and have done since they were younger and people told them they were good at it. I am constantly stunned at the superficiality in musicians, even the self-proclaimed ‘serious musicians’. They live lives providing upscale musical events to the public–doing music and wine-pairings, wearing pretty outfits…pretending to be cultured people.

  6. bravo!

  7. Shasta Ellenbogen says:

    Beautiful letter Mr. Kremer, thank you so much for writing this.
    I too feel the strain of playing amongst a bunch of trained monkeys who have no interest in art, even now at the very beginning of my career. Thank you for making a decision which allows you to respect yourself, instead of simply behaving yourself.

    • “bunch of trained monkeys”?
      Hmmm… Describing your peers like this doesn’t look too good
      (neither does your profile picture on FaceBook, I have to say :-(. )

      • Shasta Ellenbogen says:

        “doesn’t look too good”???

        Isn’t this attitude of behaving one’s self and not saying honest things because they “look bad” exactly what this letter is denouncing? Isn’t Mr. Kremer ENCOURAGING truth and honesty, even if it goes against our ridiculous “established protocol”?

        I believe you may have missed the point.

        And also — my facebook profile picture (of me making a funny face) is amazing! Just because I have a sense of humour it doesn’t mean that I am any less of an artist. (Quite the opposite, I’m sure most would agree.)This kind of elitism and snobbery is exactly the cause of classical music’s perceived irrelevance in today’s world.

        So thanks for proving Mr. Kremer’s point. Have a nice day!

  8. Gidon Kremer’s letter of withdrawal from Verbeer is sincere and makes many good points regarding today’s music industry. Surely it must have been a difficult and emotional decision to withdraw.

    It is good that this letter is now published as it clarifies things. He will be missed this summer at Verbeer but his decision and feelings must be respected.

  9. A violinist says:

    I thought “celebrity culture” had been around at least since since Paganini? I’ve always valued integrity but this seems a bit like spitting into the wind. Oh well…go do your thing and they will do theirs. There’s enough world for both, I’m sure.

    • THANK YOU GIDEON KREMER.
      And thank you Mr. Lebercht for publishing it.

    • Too right. And what was Mozart in youth, if not a child celebrity, touted around by his father all over Europe for the amusement and delight of the courts various?

  10. I wouldn’t necessarily call it the first “coherent declaration of dissent,” as it doesn’t quite make a clear-cut case of the problems in the field. Try Taruskin’s “Defending Classical Music against Its Devotees” for something really lucid.

    But there is something nice about seeing an artist writing in a frank style about the problems in the field.

    …this comment stream is hardly a ample forum for further discussion of our problems…

    But I will say that as a field, classical music has earned and continues to enthusiastically earn it’s place in society. It is fully ossified: from the teaching institutions to the performing and recording institutions. Even trends in (American) new music in our beloved ‘edgy’ NYC are ossified socio-economic relations.

    Filial patronage is what subsidizes the kids scowling, playing on a darkened stage, or transcribing some eye-catching pop musician who is appropriately inoffensive.

    It’s a patchy cloak for another version of the same. The interesting thing is that the masses (derided as ‘dumb’ uneducated, since they can’t “appreciate” our music) see the insincerity. They can smell it in the celebrity culture, the cowardice of safe performances, in the music born of an audition/competition culture, and so they turn away. They would rather run into the arms of the culture industry that serves those needs unabashedly, rather then our field which bears the same yoke, but underneath a thin veneer of supposed artistry.

    I mean, is it really so hard to understand why people don’t relate to classical music?

    How is your sacher? A-ha-ha.

    • FCM – I appreciate your comment, but after reading Mr. Kremer’s thoughtful and courageous letter and some insightful comments here (including yours), I’m left wondering what can one DO about it? Rather than bemoan everything that is wrong with the industry, what does a young aspiring professional musician do in this economic climate and celebrity culture to serve art with integrity and sincerity? If I pretend not to care about celebrity or size of audiences, and I just play music to a small audience or only for myself… doesnt’ it risk becoming just a different version of selfish?

      I’m just looking for advice on how an idealist might start moving things in the right direction rather than dwelling on all that is currently wrong.

  11. While I understand his reasoning, rage against the machine, classical music festivals, orchestras and artists are struggling in today’s market driven, media centric environment. Too often I’ve spoken with musicians who feel the music should be enough to get a crowd –”If they play, they will come.”

    Yes, it’s frustrating to think this beautiful music isn’t enough to draw thousands of supporters, fill concert halls and festival stands for every event. But thinking the music is enough simply isn’t true.

    Music is also a performance and there is more to the performance than just the music. A great musician must be more than just technically accurate. One of the reasons Hilary Hahn gets such rave reviews is because not only is she able to perform all the notes with technical accuracy, but there is a passion in her performance. The same goes for Sarah Chang, Joshua Bell, Julia Fischer, Nicola Benedetti … the list continues. Great violinists who are more than just music.

    I’ve written several article on my blog about the unfortunate use of sex-appeal in selling classical music. Do I agree with the concept? Hard question. On one point, no – the appearance of an artist doesn’t have anything to do with how well they play. However, if it gets people into seats who then become fans –is that a bad thing? If all it becomes is a sex show, or a carnival act then yes, we have lost something. But at some point classical music venues and ensembles have to reach out to an audience. If “stars” have that effect then more power to them.

    • The reason why I swapped from listening to popchart to classical music is the depth the true feelings well played classical music can transmit so wonderfully. I just hope the need for stars to sell classical music on TV and radio, does not mean it will become flat and meaningless, like much we hear in popmusic.

  12. I emphatically agree with Thomas Jefferson! This type of person not only doesn’t digest the message of Mr. Kramer but, leaps on the opportunity to advertise him/her self!!!

  13. Nameless violinist says:

    It is so very true. What happened to music being music? we are so caught up with the glam and glitz. We become gig whores and nothing best. Society doesn’t want real musicians, just people pleasing to the eyes who can fill seats. The true musician is fading away. We pump out automatrons not musicians. I have been in this game of over 20 years, the violin has been apart of me since I was 4. It has become an intrical part of my life, and lately I want to give it up.

  14. Great letter! I feel like such festivals can seem like elite clubs where you are often preaching to the converted.
    So much talent under one roof, why not create 50 more festivals with all those stars who attend if they
    go back to their home communities to start a festival there?

    Music is a gift for everyone, and often I am surprised that the professional mindset makes people forget this essential part.

  15. Another violinist says:

    Very timely letter indeed!

    Having been a part of Verbier, as well as many other festivals, I totally support Gidon’s concerns. Norman Lebrecht has pointed out the “death of classical music” a while ago, and the comments from old mohicans like Kremer, only re assure us that the industry has overtaken the purpose…pity, that there are only few greatest old generation musicians like Gidon left on stage – what will happen when they are gone????

    Being a professional musician for 20 years, and having dedicated years to becoming a professional, I realised
    that trying to to be a part of that hypocritical celebrity culture would kill my art. So, I have decided to pursue a parallel career in arts so that the stable income from elsewhere would allow me to be free and perform for the sake of music and not money. It seems to be the only solution and so far it has worked…

    That’s life – we either follow the rules imposed by the society and become its victims, or we create our own ones and follow them remaining true to ourselves and preserving our integrity…

    And I guess, had Gidon acted as he did during the season and not a ‘last moment’, his letter and intentions would of passed unnoticed…

  16. I think that Gideon Kremer wanted to make this letter public because he felt that his comments on the direction that the he sees the musical world going should be shared. The pressure of being a “figurehead” at a festival can weigh on a sensitive person who is really in the business of music for the music and not for the business.

    Kremer has had a marvelous career, and I do know from people who have worked with him during the early days of Lochenhaus found the experience of music for the sake of music an awe-inspiring experience. But in this world of self-promotion and career-building (yes, it has always been around, but now we have much better tools) the extra-musical stuff can often sully the purity of the musical experience.

  17. Maestro Kremer had hit the glass belly of the classical music. The classical music world has already ended oveer twenty years since the inception of cross-over genre such as the Three Tenors. I can understand his frustration over the years the direction and the pragmatism led by arts adminstrators over the artists.

  18. Steve Castro says:

    He’s just trowing lot of money away.
    P.S I do not use Rolex any more I switch to Casio :)

  19. Of course this is how Verbier has been for decades — and worse when the record labels and agents still stalked the earth. Glad that another artist has recognized this and said “Basta!” Not sure who this letter is intended for, though. The younger artists have been putting together their own “anti-’star’” festivals for a good while now and the “pure” money-grubbers won’t care. Again, if it gives Gidon K. more peace, terrific.

    • Sebasian Huydts says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Andrew. The publication of GK’s letter is serving what? Resuscitate the Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen instead and be done with it.

  20. Musician says:

    We all agree Gidon is a wonderful violinist who has been given the opportunities to share his talents around the world because a record company also believed in him and invested in his recordings. Gidon would not be as well known had he not made so many wonderful recordings, or been able to choose his concerts had a record company and management agency not invested in him from the start. Therefore he is part of the same machine of the music industry, so he should view this more realistically.

    Would he prefer the festival not be publicised and its musicians perform to half empty concert halls?

    Gidon’s talent will always speak for itself, but he too needs a push of publicity when he releases a new record – otherwise how would the world hear about it? He is being a diva and obviously has never had to sell tickets to his own concerts – they don’t sell out by themselves, they need a good business manager to get the adverrtisements in the right place at the right time.

    It sounds as if he does need a vacation, so let’s hope we hear more from him when he has calmed down a little. Don’t be a diva Gidon, hopefully they will still have you back next year.

  21. Musician says:

    …I bet Andre Rieu would have done it!

    • I disagree that Andre Rieu would have done it – last time I looked Verbier didn’t have a stadium large enough to house his ego

    • that truely is the most absurd comment and totally beside the point. if gidon k. can be understood from the point of view of a music enthusiast (as i am) then a figure like A.R. is to be understood as the extreme example of how music can be abused. what shows at the same time is the television crowd of millions who consider those performances music while they are just show bubbles. and A.R. exploiting the essence and value and spirit of great pieces of music in a vaudeville way.
      so much for the effforts and investments of production companies and tv systems somebody further up liked to credit for supporting artists. ridiculous misunderstanding.

      i congratulate gidon kremer for his courage and stamina, living through his popular career which should have made him rich and justly so, for deciding to value music higher in the end than more celebrity for celebrity reasons.
      celebrity and glamour have nothing to do with the value of music otherwise A.R. would have to be considered greater than beethoven.

      saludos a todos
      charlie.f.kohn@sixpence-pictures.com
      photography // design // madrid

  22. What an honest beautiful and self-respecting letter. The unfortunate eye on the box office draw certainly has the potential to disappoint someone who wants nothing more than to serve music and music only.

  23. Roelof Alexander Bijkerk says:

    I have to say I’m quite concerned about the new trend in Classical Music Mr. Kremer is pointing out. It seems like a massive exploitation of only those who have the personality to be able to deal with a rigorous concert schedule, the up and go kind of personality to go with the whole schpiel and behave like conquistadors turning the repertoire into a means to conquer the territory of being an international concert artist, a sort of adrenaline sport, a struggle to be famous. The deeper values and issues of what music can do is thrown to the side, dumped in the margin, in the ghetto and we have a whole epidemic of people selling the bravura jet set lifestyle as “happiness.” And the better they are at behaving thrilled by this consumer oriented exploitation, the more they are rewarded by the system. Everything they do is superlative, the best, amazing, great and to be worshiped. But a simple person – and this could be anybody because its an innate part of being human, what the mind does when it’s allowed to and given the tools to – who has dealt with difficulty and trauma in their life and who had honored what music is allowing it to heal them; this isn’t exploitable to this marketing of “happiness.” This doesn’t go with the zeal to be great. It’s too simple for that, and yet that’s exactly why all the music that’s already there is there (practically free and something you can put on the shelf or turn on and off at will like some torturous experiment to see what you can get out of it)!

  24. Well, at the risk of appearing to have lost one’s idealism… Music for the sake of music is something of a comparatively modern invention. If one thinks of the church musicians hired to sing the services required by the indissolubly linked church & state, or the composers whose duty it was to serve up works to these institutions – generally with quite strict rules about what could or could not be composed in terms of language or style – or if one thinks of the court musicians, for example, Esterhazy/Haydn, none of this was music for the sake of music either. Music for the sake of music comes much later, somewhat linked to the romantic tradition. Even then, composers and performers had to live, and it certainly affected their approach to what they produced. Obtaining the support – sponsorship, I suppose we would call it now – of a wealthy patron could make all the difference. Today it may be Rolex (not, incidentally, a company without an altruistic basis – look up the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation), in the past it was, for example, Nadezhda von Meck.

    The idea of “music for music’s sake” would simply push classical music into the background of most people’s lives, making it a kind of esoteric activity for purists. The upshot would be less and less money in classical music, composers who could not live from their works, and performers who gradually would have to turn to other forms of income to supplement their meagre income from performing. In the end, only the most dedicated or the most obsessive would be able to keep going.

    What we need is the opposite: a revitalizing of the classical music world, making it widely popular (and I mean that without implying “pop” or “cross-over”, or “dumbed down”) and this is best done by education above all, and by making it an attractive and appealing activity in which people can see the excitement and in which they want to take part whether as performers or just as supporters. It is difficult to do this without money, and, as in most highly successful areas of human life, there will be an area at the very top of the profession where standards are astonishingly high and where the glitter is dazzling. That’s simply how human societies do things, and if we cavil at this, we are run the risk of consigning classical music simply to being an obscure hobby.

    By the way: the average well-sponsored event or festival may indeed contain a number of the stuffed shirt brigade. It is, perhaps, not a generous spirit who simply assumes that they are there for the glitz and care nothing for the music. We should not presume to know the inner soul of another.

    • Roelof Alexander Bijkerk says:

      Since I should have posted this as a reply to “Mr. Peter’s Edition” (click on name) above, assumed relative of “Tom,” I’m including it here, although I posted it below earlier. This way, there might be less confusion. Music for the sake of music never was an invention. You can’t invent that. In fact no one ever DID “invent” it. It’s something that IS what music is about. No one ever invented air either, or the over tone series, or the human ear, the fingers we have, the brain etc. You cannot measure how many times music has softened someone’s heart and changed the course of what’s called civilization would have taken, so that the human soul could survive. That isn’t some romanticized notion of the purist artist. That’s a basic human need. You can say what you want about the trappings around Haydn’s music, Church music or what have you, but this doesn’t define the music as little as rules written down somewhere magically define and control everyone’s behavior they are said to pertain to. Whether the music was about music is what happens in the mind of the composer, regardless even of limitations put on his medium by “authorities” because music still finds a way around such seeming limitations, in fact it seems to thrive on it. And all the glamor and excitement and marketing “intelligence” there is has never created this inner bond with the human soul and its needs that music is., nor has it inspired people to invest in music. In fact, with the state of things, it’s more than obvious that it HASN’T! Also, when the negro slaves who had no other outlet but their songs and somehow got their hands on an instrument to lift their souls; they didn’t stop to think they had to first be “inventing” anything, nor having to label it or sell it. And when they created a jazz theory which reintegrates the overtone series with the hype about colors that western theory had turned into, they had no need to even know what they were doing because it was music for music’s sake. The very idea that this is something that someone could invent, and that as an idea would get in the way of classical music if acted out upon: this is so WRONG that I wonder why I bother my nerves even responding!

  25. seriously says:

    Really .

    I am surprised to see that on this occasion Kremer himself forgot that he was exactly one of those kids 30 , 40 years ago . He also conveniently forgot that it was indeed himself that had supported several young artists into the very musical stardom he is now being so sincerely and heroically against ( Buniatishvili being the last one ) . Maybe the kids he supported are starting to take away to many concerts and too much money ? It is indeed nice to be surrounded by young talent , but you dont want them to do better than yourself …..

  26. Rhythms says:

    This is an interesting letter. I myself am a performing musician and have just graduated from a London college.

    The issue that I’m most concerned about and that affects me the most is this ‘post-concert party pretension’ issue, as we might label it.

    I recently played in a fabulous concert at an exciting new venue. The audience was hugely appreciative, and the atmosphere electric. The players were all top-notch and I very much enjoyed playing. For me, then, the problem wasn’t with the playing. It was with the vacuous, pretentious, self-consciously cool conversation before and after the show.

    What has happened, I feel, is not a shift in PLAYING, per se. Good players are good players as they have always been (and boring technical ‘monkeys’ are as boring as ever!!). No. For me, the shift is much more fundamental – it is a shift in the way we view art and ourselves. ‘Cool’ has so completely consumed our consciousness that we cannot let down our pretensions. Even incredibly intelligent, well-educated people are taken over by the need to be ‘cool’. It affects out ability to communicate – it puts a huge barrier in the way of our ability to express! This certainly makes me feel like an outsider. What happened to ‘loving’ art? What happened to our ‘joy’ on hearing a piece of music? The word ‘joy’ is entirely out-moded it seems – and yet it is so fundamental to art.

    It is so saddening, after a wonderful concert, that people aren’t able to express their love of what they’ve played. Immediately, it’s time to network or banter. The problem isn’t limited to music – it’s everywhere.

    • Michel Perrier says:

      Then just discard the post-concert party or concentrate on the food and forget about the cool hubbub

  27. Roelof Alexander Bijkerk says:

    Music for the sake of music never was an invention. You can’t invent that. In fact no one ever DID “invent” it. It’s something that IS what music is about. No one ever invented air either, or the over tone series, or the human ear, the fingers we have, the brain etc. You cannot measure how many times music has softened someone’s heart and changed the course of what’s called civilization would have taken, so that the human soul could survive. That isn’t some romanticized notion of the purist artist. That’s a basic human need. You can say what you want about the trappings around why Haydn’s music, Church music or what have you, but this doesn’t define the music as little as rules written down somewhere magically define and control everyone’s behavior they are said to pertain to. Whether the music was about music is what happens in the mind of the composer, regardless even of limitations put on his medium by “authorities” because music still finds a way around such seeming limitations, in fact it seems to thrive on it. And all the glamor and excitement and marketing “intelligence” there is has never created this inner bond with the human soul and its needs that music is., nor has it inspired people to invest in music. In fact, with the state of things, it’s more than obvious that it HASN’T!

  28. I’m glad Gidon spoke up. I think this issue of elitism and celebrity status is at the core of why classical music became so culturally removed from what is actually happening in global culture.

  29. diamondjane says:

    I used to believe playing at Verbier meant something. I used to believe playing at Carnegie hall meant something. It does, but it doesn’t mean what I thought. It means the world is full of people and not all of them live in Switzerland or can afford a ticket to Carnegie hall. The majority of the world is hearing the violin at community centers, on youtube, in hospitals, in the subway, in schools, in living rooms etc., and those are the violinists making the largest contribution to classical music (and should not take the responsibility lightly).

    In regards to Mr. Kremer–It’s nice to hear in the fight between feeding the belly vs. feeding the soul, the soul won out this time.

  30. Hey Gidon, if you don’t want to play for whatever reason, that’s your choice. But the reasoning outlined in your letter is all cynicism and hypocrisy. I get your message: we young musicians are just a bunch of trained monkeys that are in it for the glamor and the booze. That’s really unfair. Have you ever met any of us? If you had, you might know that like you, we care about music more than anything, we’ve devoted our lives to it just like you did, and so many of us idolize you and your generation’s work. Why this antipathy? You were a young star once, and you had record labels, booking agents, sponsors. So your letter only explains that you’re feeling threatened by the younger generation, and that’s not so unusual. Old men have been sitting around for centuries saying “kids these days!!! They’re ruining everything! Back in MY day, things were different!” Sorry Gidon, times change. Relax! People still love your music! Musicians still want to work with you, to learn from you and appreciate the true soul of your music. You are living proof that a musician can sell tickets without sex appeal ;) (no offense!!) And as for the pretense, that’s something that you can choose to engage in, or not. Insinuating that classical music should regress to an era in which great artists spent their lives as unknowns and paupers does nothing to advance the cause.

    • Renee:

      While Mr. Kremer’s letter can be interpreted as both damning and incendiary, I don’t think that his intention was to degrade the younger generation of musicians – if that were the case, would he have created the Kremerata Baltica and toured the world with said organization? Additionally, I have to say that I sincerely doubt that Mr. Kremer is as you say “threatened by the younger generation”, nor does he imply that great artists should spend their lives as unknowns and paupers.

      If we read carefully, what we can see is that Mr. Kremer may speaking out against – in addition to “being older” and asking himself serious questions, as I have during the past three years found many of my mentors to be doing – is the starmaker machinery permeating the industry that has resulted in the promotion and presentation of artists who dare I say neither present themselves or perform in a manner that allows them to truly maintain their own self respect and the respect of those who truly matter while also showing, through their musicmaking, that musicmaking is a humbling task yet also one that requires the BEST of us?

      • I feel that Mr. Kremer’s perception of the “sensationalism and distorted values” in the classical world, or the “starmaker machinery” as you put it, is being exaggerated here, perhaps because of its high visibility. To me, a working classical musician, people like Sarah Chang or Joshua Bell (not saying anything bad about them, btw) are really outliers. They don’t exemplify the state of classical music, or even necessarily the state of solo artists. For every one of those “superstars” there are dozens of even greater greats like Gil Shaham, Michael Tilson-Thomas, or Emanuel Ax, men and women who not only embody the highest ideals of the art, but also embrace their roles as mentors to the coming generation of classical artists. And they’re not selling themselves on any sensationalism or sex appeal. Moreover, for every MTT or Ax, there are thousands of classical musicians in orchestras and ensembles around the world who strive for the same ideals and whose names will be known to potentially nobody. Take Nancy Goeres of the Pittsburgh Symphony, or John Zirbel in Montreal. The audience doesn’t know their names. But they walk out of the concert hall feeling changed by their performance. And that’s fine. That’s what we do. We are not in it for the standing ovations, we are in it for the love of the art. The superstars are 1 in a million, they do not define the norm. I don’t blame Mr. Kremer for wanting to distance himself from that, but frankly I don’t think anyone was ever in doubt as to his artistic integrity.

        But back to Verbier. I know a lot of people there, and they are not there for pretense or for glamor or sensationalism. They are there to become better musicians. They aspire to Mr. Kremer’s ideals. They do not aim to become superstars. Most of them, like Mr. Kremer, don’t particularly like the playing of said superstars and think this “celebrity ratrace” is all pretty shallow. But it’s a small part of what we do.

        If there is a problem with the celebrity machine, it is the fact that people will shell out 500 dollars a seat to hear Tzigane, but not Mahler 9. This is a problem that has its roots in the recording industry, not in the performing world, but at the end of the day, both have to cover their costs. And they do this by appealing to a mass audience that may or may not have a solid grasp on what our art is about. This is a problem, and the fact that Verbier and festivals around the world pander to it doesn’t help, but I think the scope of the problem is being exaggerated. We are not musical prostitutes, we are working in an imperfect world. And festivals like Verbier are still creating consistently memorable performances, sans glitzy stars, and contracting venerable musicians like Mr. Kremer. Because they do appreciate the difference.

        It is my opinion that Mr. Kremer’s energy would be better spent actively working from within to change the state of affairs, (if that is his intention, and I gather that it is, otherwise why would he have sought to have this letter published) rather than remove himself and throw stones. It is a pity because so many young musicians could learn so much from him, and so many earnest music lovers (they’re still out there!!) will not have the honor of hearing his music. I suspect that all of these people whose musical lives he could have touched appreciate him precisely because they know that he is the real deal, not a part of any celebrity publicity machine.

        • Roelof Alexander Bijkerk says:

          Renee: Thank you for saying that there’s more artistry beyond those who don’t really exemplify the state of Classical Music with their celebrity. Unfortunately, I know too much and wouldn’t want to talk about it at this time, but thank you for bringing this up. At what point do you stop feeling sorry for them that they are so exploited and suggest they stay away from the Kool-Aide?

    • Roelof Alexander Bijkerk says:

      What Gidon is saying, when actually read, defends those who might otherwise live an abandoned life. There is no correlation here between pointing out that the most sensitive artists would be dumped along the way, given the rules of the game, and insinuating that classical music should regress to a time when artists were paupers and unknown. In fact the statement Gidon made is exactly the opposite.

      • Thank you, Roelof.

      • To Samuel and Roelof, I apologize for the ambiguity of my previous comment. The last sentence was in response to previous statements in the comments thread, not to Gidon Kremer’s letter, and I was not clear in that distinction. (It was in response to notions such as that musicians have become “gig whores”, that real artists should rather play in subways and hospitals than paying venues, etc. This seems to be a running theme amongst commentators who admire Mr. Kremer’s martyrdom without considering how unfair his blanket characterization of the classical world actually is… and how disconnected from the reality of working musicians.)

        I stand in my belief that Mr. Kremer could do more to alleviate his discontent by working from the inside out, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and washing his hands of it. In spite of the veneer of musical hype, Verbier is still a top festival in the world for developing the “genuine talent” that the venerable man holds so dear, and that the future of classical music needs in order to thrive.

        I am personally a fan of Gidon Kremer, and that’s why I feel so strongly that we need people like him working with us, not throwing their hands up in the air. I realize that my first comment seemed a bit hard on him, and I regret that. Like I said, his letter became very mixed up with the comments thread in my head, and as I look at it now, I see that most of my reaction ended up aimed at other people’s reactions. I do feel that grumbling and pointing fingers is a typical reaction when older generations begin to feel marginalized, and it’s not very productive, but the language I chose was impolite. I want to emphasize that in spite of the way things have changed over the years, the classical music world still loves and supports the music of people like Gidon Kremer. He’s on the inside, but in a good way. He can use that position to be an example to the musicians (and the administration!) at Verbier, and to make positive progress from within.

  31. since a child i’ve maintained that no one who doesn’t both compose AND perform is deserving of being called an “artist”. over the last 75-plus years, the chickens have been coming home to roost. mr. kremer’s letter–clumsily written though it is–obliquely hints at the root causes of the disease which eats away at the “classical music” world. no one bothers to learn the language anymore; instead, trite, hackneyed mannerisms–copied from established, “famous” performers that went before–are simply imposed upon a generic, skeletal framework of the piece being “interpreted”. today’s performers are a joke: out of touch, with no clue of the language which Bach and Beethoven mastered so completely, they stumble around listening to conservatory-trained teachers [such as the ones I ignored when I was wasting my tuition at a big-name conservatory], who only know those self-same mannerisms. so poor gidon is tired of trotting out the same old mannerisms. he should only know what those of us who actually know the language hear when he and his ilk play…

    • Hey Doug, you are the first person I find that says what I’ve been saying for so long. And that is, that one of the biggest problems today was caused by the fact that performers stopped being composers, and viceversa. I did get my degree in piano from a big-name conservatory, but I didn’t consider it to be a waste of my tuition because it made me see that I can make a difference, knowing that I can compose and improvise. And in essence, I think what Mr. Kremer is saying is that, the fact that unimaginative performers with great technical accuracy are more well known than not-so-accurate but musically sincere players, is what should be changed.

  32. Lady Weidenfeld says:

    As a first-time visitor to Verbier, having attended festivals all my life, from Granada to Lucerne to Salzburg, I fail to understand, in spite of his long letter, what Mr. Kremer has suddenly got against Verbier!

    As he says himself, Verbier is a wonderful springboard and platform for new and rising stars; it is a festival where music lovers find a wealth and variety of the highest standard of music-making. When you go for the highest standards, you do, inevitably find some “stars”, himself included.

    What I find so refreshing on this first visit, and what makes Verbier unique as a festival, is precisely the lack of chi-chi snobbism. The public, simply dressed, are not there to look at each other and socialise between themselves, leaving the artists out, but are there for the love of music and the musicans performing. Whereas at other festivals, the artists are confronted with closed restaurants after their concerts, in Verbier they are warmly and simply included in wonderful informal dinners in private homes, together with their friends and families and those who devotedly support the festival year after year. Those who do not wish to participate are perfectly free not to do so, but those who do, love it!

    The artists are wonderfully looked after with their families in good accommodation and there is a wonderful informal and happy family atmosphere.

    My bottom line question for Mr. Kremer is: what has changed about the Verbier Festival since he originally accepted to perform there, inspiring him to let down colleagues, public and organisers very late in the day?

    • Annabelle, I find a vast gulf between the festival’s founding ideals and its present practice, don’t you? It was supposed to be a haven from the star-gazing racket. best, N

      • Lady Weidenfeld says:

        Dear Norman, you are probably much better informed than I am, and as I said, this was my first visit to Verbier. Unless I am very much mistaken, Martha Argerich and Evgeny Kissin amongst others and probably including Kremer himself, already “stars” , were right there at the first festival 18 years ago. The orchestra is not the Berlin Phil or the Vienna Phil but young students. There is an Academy, there are master classes, the wonderful 23 year old Buniatishvili ( you must hear here if you haven’t already) is blossoming there, Yuja Wang, same age, was discovered by Engstrom. The artists who slog away touring the whole year with their repertoire and missing each other because they AR rarely in the same place at the same time, have a welcome chance to play together, chamber music, interesting pieces, spending time with friends and family in an idyllic spot. The audiences are young, enthusiastic, budding musicians both amateur and professional of all nationalities. How many would come up to me spontaneously stiking up conversation about this or that piece or artist. Everyone has a good time, the atmosphere is warm and low key. What the hell is the matter with everyone? No one is forced to go either to listen or play. Kremer decided he no longer wants to, doesn’t like being a star, so what will he do, disguise himself, take on an assumed name and pretend he just came out of school and accept appropriate fees?
        All best to you dear Norman,
        Annabelle

        • Roelof Alexander Bijkerk says:

          Actually this whole letter of Gidon’s being online was instigated by at first everyone being told that he was sick. So, if you are wondering “What the hell is the matter with everyone?” at least you know that he’s not sick as at first you were told. Unless you think he should be institutionalized because he points out what he did say rather than that he was sick , he wouldn’t be considered sick. Even in that case, I don’t think he’s sick. He’s quite clear, actually. Honest. Gidon also never said he didn’t like being a star, and you can’t assume this just because he makes a very different statement with it (being a star) than others. Just because he does things differently as a star doesn’t mean that he’s abandoning anything and would have to take on an assumed name, pretending he just got out of school (which might actually make a statement that someone his age can still blossom into himself, and doesn’t have to make recordings of great concertos before he’s 30 to make it as a “celebrity” to have something to say that’s worth knowing about). Incidently, It’s thanks to Yuja Wang that I read Gidon’s letter, as she shared a link to it on her twitter site. I don’t think she was “discovered” by Engstroem. I’m quite sure she was already well enough known by then. This is not a statement on her. I hope you enjoy Verbier, as music is always worth it. You do need to consider that most of the music came from a different time when people were both performers and composers. It is truly sad for me to think that we wouldn’t ever hear what might come from some of these true artists would the emphasis on such musicality be to compose and perform, rather than just perform and become a celebrity with an insane schedule along with its media enchantments. On the other hand, I am only happy that they have the music that is there for them to explore what human nature is. I do think you need to consider how most of that music came into being. This was before the hectic pace of international celebrity status robbed just about any classical performer of being both performer and composer. I think we’ve lost too much of what Bernstein might have said, because of such celebrity hype. Kremer concludes with: I want to conclude with these well known words from a song used by my favorite composer Robert Schumann: “Ich grolle nicht”.

          Not being driven by a desire to blame anyone, but rather by self–protection (if there is still something to protect!), I need to apologize once more to you and to all those artists and friends, whom I was supposed to play with, for my inability to attend Verbier festival this summer.

          I really don’t think he’s criticizing Verbier perce; he was just pointing out (in a private letter ) what he’s tired of, and then it was reported that he was sick, which he most certainly isn’t. As to whether there’s something to protect: there certainly is something to protect in what he does. You’ve mentioned quite a few names, as name dropping goes. Is there also music or just these performers? And how did this music come into being? And as to whether anyone is forced to go listen or play, as already has been pointed out: in present time, the rules of the game with the celebrity status would almost force people to be at Verbier or some other place like it just to get a name (like the one’s you have dropped already), whether they are ready for it or not, whether this interferes with their creative abilities, and even whether they are emotionally capable. This doesn’t mean that Verbier wouldn’t possibly be very refreshing to them. Nor does it mean everyone must play the game or even that that is how they will become a “celebrity.” Letting music be what it is meant to be, in that it can heal someone’s soul, doing this in a creative way can be very different than being scooped up as a celebrity at such a young age. The whole process of healing (as necessary for one person as it is for everyone) might be suppressed if not completely discriminated against when it makes someone not exploitable. And that’s all fine. The impresarios, Verbier, other festivals, music competitions; none of this controls or even determines when or where this takes place, this process where music is music. Music truly isn’t just something for “oh, you must hear so and so.” “Isn’t that piece just marvelous.” “Didn’t so and so play just transcendent tonight,” Music is a very deep expression, and a whole harmony in itself. And in a day and age when most of the composers, whose work has miraculously survived, have been labeled as having some “mental illness” rather than the transcendent nature of art is truly understood; something needs to be said about the sensitivity that is lost when it’s not exploitable to “celebrity status.”

          • It’s ironic that Gidon Kremer closes his letter to Verbier with the quote “ich grolle nicht”, considering the content of this letter is one big “groll” against the festival and the current situation of classical music performance in general.

            It is true that the publication of this letter was instigated by the festival’s misrepresentation in the media of Kremer’s reasons for withdrawing. That was a big faux pas on their part. I don’t know what they were thinking. But on the other hand, if they had announced that he was withdrawing citing “artistic differences” or something along those lines, then music journalists and bloggers would have demanded more details and the letter would have been published then as well. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that Gidon Kremer wrote this letter not strictly as a personal correspondence, but as a battle cry, knowing that it would have to come out in the media under any circumstances. A battle cry against phoniness in classical music. Admirable that the man speaks his mind in true earnesty, but his cynicism is exactly the kind of attitude that doesn’t help his cause at all.

            In fact, it’s exactly the kind of publicity stunt that he so adamantly decries.

          • And did Mr. Kremer also help instigate the celebrity machinery so that he could say he was tired of it in order to make himself look superior? I don’t think so. I think he was tired of it T-I-R-E-D: tired And I think he was trying to express or perhaps even persuade in private how he felt to Engstroem. And what he says is that he’s tired. T-I-R-E-D. If it had been announced that Mr. Kremer would not be at Verbier because he’s tired and desires a rest, that would have been the end of it, I think. I think that he simply expressed himself as he felt without making inhibiting calculations as to how it would come out. The rest is what happens when you try to hide things. Quite an exposition! And an artist expresses himself rather than inhibiting himself with “will this cause me to look cynical?” or “is this how to start a media war?” I think one can see that if he was trying to accomplish such an amazing publicity stunt that he wouldn’t have written in a way which would make him immediately so cynical looking to those easily offended by what he said. And I’m not going around in circles about this anymore, either. As regards to whether he had plastic surgery to make sure he didn’t fit into the sex symbol mold, he looks fine to me. So unglamorous that he’s sexy. So out that he’s in… I don’t detect any stretching behind the ears as was the case with Von Karajan and his surgeries, who for all I know didn’t expressly intend to make himself look like Rumplestiltskin as he wove his “magic” making lots of gold. I might mention that I’m sure that Gidon is aware that there are such amazing artists as Janine Jansen, Rafal Blechacz and David Fray. Certainly equal to the old force. But they are beyond this new trend, and that’s not what he was going on about in this letter that was meant to remain private, I think. I think he was trying to point out that there might be those of equal merit who might be crushed by the celebrity game, and how this has become part of Verbier. Also, it is not helping the common musician to say that adapting to a venue which heralds a brand name celebrity lifestyle is necessary for them, the common man. Glorifying the glamor of a growing number of select few on an economic ladder which by glorifying them detracts from what happens on the lower rungs: this is not helping the common musician, no matter how much the game (the hype, the rules) have become a supposed practicality for those a little higher up who want to maintain the privileges their celebrity gives them, being scared of the loss. I think that those who would have something deeper to say, but whose sensitivities don’t fit into or thrive from this game, that these people would actually communicate what music, what art, what classical music is; and then there would be a bigger audience, less elitism etc.. That would be good for the common musician.

        • Sorry about the insinuation that anyone wanted to institutionalize Kremer, this won’t happen in these parts anyhow. But this does happen to others who he is trying to make a case for, pointing out what he sees in the system. This does happen to others when they don’t have an outlet. Creative sensitivity or sensitivity to creativity is something different than, as he refers to it, “playing the game.” I don’t think he was saying boycott Verbier at all either. I’m sure it’s a magical place in many ways.

        • Lady Weidenfeld, I’m afraid I’ve been rather lecturing you (and it’s a blessing just to have you take part in the conversation), but I do have something very positive to say about your input into Arthur’s life. you don’t have to believe any of this, but if it means anything to you I’ll tell it verbatum. Because it might be important. People think I’m crazy anyhow, so here it goes: When I was around spiritualism for a year (a year’s enough!), it did happen that one man one day at church, as I was at the piano (I don’t know, was I warming up or playing a hymn or music for healing?), so, the man said, “Arthur Rubinstein’s all around that guy,” and I then actually that Sunday played the Fantasie Impromptu of Chopin. I didn’t pay much attention to whether Arthur was around, because it doesn’t matter as such that I would need to know. I wasn’t going to ask him to start telling me all sorts of “psychic” secrets to impress people, making them think that I knew things which they were gullible enough to think meant something, or they needed to know. At one point (and again I don’t remember whether I was going over it beforehand, which I must have because otherwise someone wouldn’t be talking); so, at one point another medium mentioned how the middle part sounded just like a String Quartet: you could hear the amazing humming harmony, like an ethereal choir, the intimacy. This of course came also from Arthur, and how you introduced him to chamber music at the end of his life. This was 20 years ago. I just thought I should mention it because my mind brought me these memories today. And there’s more. Not only did I go to Arthur’s last recital in Amsterdam, 1976 (did I see you swaying to his encore of a Chopin Waltz?), my father had spent hours to get the tickets and was on sabbatical taking the whole family to The Netherlands; but I have to say that since then the spirits had told me something I also knew on the inside. I knew Arthur way before, before you were born, and even before I was. That was 1917 in my prior incarnation. (Perhaps, we are playing musical chairs with heaven it seems: you were in spirit, then I was in spirit before I reincarnated, and now Arthur is in spirit) Again, you don’t have to believe this (please don’t feel you have to), but it’s just to show how art is timeless, even if it’s not true, which I don’t believe it’s not (not that you have to believe this is true). Or maybe it’ll make a nice story; but anyhow, I’ll continue. People still think I’m crazy, anyhow, so I have nothing to lose. In 1917, Arthur played at what he said was “my” last dance recital, being one of the performers before me; and noticed in my performance that I had a face sadder than the death of Petrushka (then an “endless” ovation…). you’ll know who this is. It could have been anyone… Of Course a person who needed art as much as I have tried to point out is necessary for many, to heal their soul; of course they are going be going through what seems so real in it’s sadness. But art never wasn’t there. And it’s timeless. And it changes everything to show that at any moment of what seems to be a devastating drama, the whole meaning is there, it can even step in breaking the rules of what people believe science is, when I (or anyone) lets go of anything but…You see, I found that when you give from art, and you give from something that is truly immeasurable in how it restores humanity; that is: one can’t measure how many hearts it’s softened to change the course of life, giving the human soul a home. With art, you give from a source where there’s no loss in giving and there’s no limit to how much you can give. This is maybe where the word for-give comes from. And where compassion comes from and where empathy and where the perspective from non-attachment comes from that welcomes all these things. Anyhow, since I’ve gone on long enough. I’m fine. I’m through lecturing which is a miracle in itself. And I have some meditation music I was working on.

          Our best, of course….

          • Lady Weidenfeld says:

            Mr. Bijkerk I would not dream of laughing at you or thinking you crazy, indeed Rubinstein himself was convinced that our souls never die and remain eternally with those we love.
            Thank you for your kind words but I must just correct you on one point. Rubinstein loved and played chamber music all his life since childhood when he was studying in Berlin under the guidance of the great violinist Joseph Joachim, wonderful violinist and friend of Brahms. Joachim would let him listen to rehearsals and concerts of his Joachim Quartet. He later not only recorded a lot of chamber music but played for pleasure with his great contemporaries, Paul Kochanski, Lionel Tertis, Ysaye, Jacques Thibaud, Pablo Casals, Henryk Szeryng, Pierre Fournier, Fine Arts Quartet, Heifetz, Piatogorsky, Feuermann, among many others. I certainly did not introduce him to chamber music but when he was playing less and had more time to listen to music, he did discover some less well known chamber works and got enormous pleasure from that.
            We have come very far from Kremer and his protest and having glanced at the posts with little time to spare I hope I will be forgiven if I say that I still fail to see what all the sanctimonious fuss is about! There will always be and always have been a certain number of journalists and public who like to label new stars as the “next” this or that “Great” of the past.Never mind if they are happy doing that; we know perfectly well that each great artist is unique and that is the essential ingredient of a true artist, he imitates no-one even if he might inadvertantly remind you of another artist. To come back to Verbier, an international festival which depends for its survival on selling tickets and sponsorship surely the more great stars the better! The public knows what it loves and what is good and what they will buy tickets for! That Verbier manages to mix this with introducing new, young talent is all to it’s credit. Kremer, for what ever reason not made clear by his letter, became disenchanted, but do I detect some sour grapes in the gripeing against Verbier mainly from people who have never been or have not been invited there yet? To generally imply that those adored by audiences somehow do not deserve their popularity, are ill-prepared or owe their fame to media-hype and management manipulation is insulting to artist and public alike. As the great Rubinstein used to say “when something is really good, everyone knows it”!

        • Lady Weidenfeld, I had to go back and look at this C-sharp minor waltz (and if I was barbaric I would want to hit myself over the head, which I don’t do; although I’ve heard this phrase…). What Arthur did was SO BEAUTIFUL, and some things just are part of forever. A part that might simply be a sort of transitional material (wind through the trees in the soft of night touching the branches to move on, having transformed ): it comes back three times in the piece as well as having a sequence that’s repeated three times in each repetition (and altered with dynamics or direction); and it ends the piece. But Arthur with each repetition of the sequence gave it a different emotion: not something he smote the audience with, but something he articulately cued into the score, coming from the matrix of experience life has to offer. I can see Arthur on stage, bending over the piano, arms caressing the space, fingers moving which are out of my view; but what’s real is this vast invisible resonance that carefully tends to the quiet of the human mind pointing out there’s this color, this emotion and there’s this other one here: and the strength of how fragile and intangible to the grasp this seems when in reality it’s sensitivity and subtlety and their magic. And then there’s a pianissimo I hadn’t noticed which I want to “hit myself over the head” about, but now it’s not just a dead mark on a lifeless page. What Arthur did was amazing (this material which might be called “filler”), and truly a sort of minimalism beyond the politics of it as a device. A Matrix. And since I mentioned politics. Of course, there could be (and are) those (someone who has something to say) and who could break through all of this, regardless whether there’s a hype about celebrity, or I don’t know what. Politics never has determined really anything. That wouldn’t acknowledge what art really is when one says that what seems to be going on really determines anything.

        • Lady Weidenfeld, I’m sorry but I finally got the chance to listen to Khatia Buniatishvili, and I have to say that I’m smitten. And I can’t stop crying… here’s finally a pianist that actually feels the music, and she breaths, and the phrases have contour, emotion and resonate with what one feels in one’s heart. If she’s playing at Verbier I’m happy, and they certainly are doing something right. And thank you for dropping her name, if you hadn’t I wouldn’t have known.

  33. Why he ‘quit’ the celebrity ratrace? Sounds like he is retiring from the celebrity ratrace, kicking and screaming, after mikling it for all it is worth.

  34. I find myself contorting things trying to argue a point… I’m sure Verbier is a wonderful wonderful music festival as Lady Weidenfeld says. My father, who watches it online tells me he enjoyed hearing Martha Argerich and Kissin playing together. He also told me it’s quite a bit cheaper than say Salzburg. It is wonderful when there’s a venue for new voices who have something to say about something as timeless AND AGELESS as music. This is of course untrue that one can characterize a whole generation based on a trend that’s current, but I don’t think Kremer is really intending to be doing that. But there’s always been this ambition for territory. When Horowitz made a big sensation in Paris Rubinstein said that he clenched his hands, which a pianist can’t do for long, and became determined to do something about this. Something about what? This isn’t about territory, this is about music. It’s not about celebrity. The one thing that Clara Haskil said to me (through a medium) which marks itself here is that sometimes I focused more on her energies than I did the music, and she was concerned about this. I myself get quite prickled when someone comes up to me enamored of my playing and I get the feeling I’m supposed to indulge in the idea that it’s about the “magic” that this “ability” has, when it isn’t. I wouldn’t be here typing if it wasn’t for music. I wouldn’t have had an outlet, I wouldn’t have been able to sort things out. And music is a place where anyone can go and find a home for their soul, for their emotions. This is an innate part of being human, a gift for everyone. Everyone is “Mozart.” It’s something that the mind does by itself, a natural instinct we are all given which is a salvation. It certainly is not a luxury or a sensation or some celebrity thrill…

  35. Musician says:

    Personally I can’t wait to see what jewellery David Garrett will be wearing at the festival…will it be the skull ring and pirate head scarf? I hope so.

    I love entertainers and diverse entertainment. I would not buy a ticket to watch a performer who simply hides behind the music.

    I love the music and the personalities who add to the music that is being performed. I like the variety of this and celebrate the differences in the artists, especially the ones that cause a bit of a stir…that’s entertainment!

    • Petty-Rushky says:

      I think this is a great recipe to mix personalities with the music, adding something to it. I think already that I’ll be going to the store to buy a Darth Veder costume, maybe Spider Man, Batman for superheroes, and then Voldemoort to be politically correct (disgruntled orphans are definitely in!)! This [!] is a big issue, the one about not hiding behind music. Making a stir can be very good. You must make something of it! I think I will write a piece for performer and audience (sort of like John Cage’s 4′33″ Silence) and want to have it copyrighted, but I have to check about the legalities of artistic freedom. If the performer would come out with a pail of cold ice water and throw it on the front row to wake them up, is this covered under Artistic Freedom laws? Or will this end up in a chase scene where the performer can not be legally defended? How will this effect copyright laws and other laws, if it is copyrighted and sold first (before the performance)? So, I took notes on this and I hope you like it. I had an impromptu vegetarian meal at the eating hall for vagrants (they usually have meat, which I don’t) so I know this was meant to be, and I wrote this all down (with notes).

    • (really sorry about the typos in the first try! Here it is again) I like David Garrett, and I think he enjoys what he’s doing. I supposed it’s some sort of evil that he doesn’t look like he’s being damned while he’s playing…

  36. I reading over this plea, which I have been obsessively puzzling over for days, I want to encourage Gidon that this isn’t true that this is no longer his time. Although it certainly may seem to be the case that the world is completely taken over by people who as he says: “be it the audiences or the new bread of performers, who have overwhelming capacities to please crowds, but who are often themselves quite EMPTY and artistically lost, chasing a hunger for recognition over ability.” (I think this is supposed to be new breed of performers, not bread). But this has always seemed the case and it has never been real. People will always care about music, regardless of what they think they are doing and what they get into. That’s simple reality. It’s just part of performance practice that there’s a dark side, which at times seems overwhelming, as if it could take over the planet with its numbers. And here it’s exposed for what it is because it isn’t real, it only needs your fears to make you believe it is; like so much in life. It’s not real, it can’t damage what music truly is. Consider the words: number and numb. I don’t know how many people all following the same rules, mesmerized by some fantasy (no matter how industrial strength it is); this doesn’t add up to numbers. One thing repeated to infinity (special gifts to all involved) does not make two unique things. So, you can choose what to count. And thank you for your honesty…

  37. Terrence Lenox says:

    Coming in late here, but I’m puzzled. This is the same Gidon Kremer who set up an exciting chamber ensemble for young players and named it after himself? “Kremerata Baltica” is cute, but it is very self-serving. I much admire Kremer as a musician, and have never been to Verbier, but I think that people in glass houses and all that…

    In a world where classical music is dying, it seems odd to go on the attack. Celebrity-centered art is a problem, but not a new one–and better have some celebrities than no music at all. At least, most of the celebrities at Verbier are pretty good musicians, too!

  38. Andrey Boreyko says:

    Let me express my support, and understanding of Gidon Kremer’s position.
    But for me his letter is not (only) about Verbier. It is about all of professional musicians today.
    Quo vadis? It’s up to us. Now one will save classical music, if we won’t do it.
    Thank you Mr. Lebrecht for your blog.

  39. “In lieu of talent there will be sexuality.”. J. Krishnamurti said that; it fits here.

  40. I was “dismayed” (some words edited for harshness) to read the letters of Maestros Kremer and Luisi. In my lifetime, I have managed a US chamber orchestra, managed a concert hall with its 15-18 hour days, have personally lost more than a small sum presenting classical music concerts and have consistently donated to non-profit music organizations. I have baked cookies, dragged myself to countless tedious board meetings and receptions and have hosted a large number in my house. I have taped concert posters to store windows, cornered people for donations, handed out brochures in public places, acted as unpaid usher and performed taxi services for artists so that they would not have to spend that sum from their fee. Most of the artists I have known were deeply appreciative of all the thousands of folks who work to see that the show goes on. Most are aware of what effort is involved to get 50, 500 or 5000 to come together for a concert. Some are not.

    Maestro Kremer does not like classical music marketing. Maestro Luisi does not like “wunderkinds.” Thankfully, Maestro Luisi was not around to squash young Mozart’s career. According to the maestro’s theory, Mozart should have spent his youth develop his skills and could have been a great master in his 50s and 60s. He is also too late to denounce the flashy eleven-year-old Liszt, Menuhin in knee pants and the mass of others who did not considered passing years in the trenches before stardom. As a star himself, Luisi can perform with whomever he wishes and avoid the young upstarts. He should continue to do so.

    Maestro Kremer is a special case. My suggestion to him is to immediately refuse to accept fees for his performances around the world. That way his soul will remain pure and he can focus on making great music. It will be easy to refuse fees from those managers for which he holds such casual contempt – all those faceless slaves who have made your name famous and sustain your high life in prestige hotels, etc. A single fee from your concert could allow five or ten young soloists or string quartets to show what they could do in front of an audience. Some other musical types posted remarks here echoing a similar blind disregard for the “business” side of classical music. My recommendation: if you don’t want to think about it, then you should just “remain silent” (also edited).

    • There is no correlation between not being a “wunderkind” and saying that one’s career is being squashed . In fact, if that is what Mozart had been (squashed), he would have been like the failed attempts Leopold made at acquiring a new “wunderkind” since Wolfgang had become “unfaithful” and done his own thing, by then (and Leopold had a nice retirement on the money Wolfgang had earned as a supposed “wunderkind” which was then his possession or something considered unfaithful). Doing his own thing is something Wolfgang would have done at ANY age. I think perhaps it’s the fact that he WASN’T squashed as a “wunderkind” rather than that made his career and would have squashed him was it missing. I understand that you were “dismayed” and that you wish that certain people would “remain silent,” but I truly do not see that Kremer and Luisi are squashing the young Mozart’s career. In contrast, I think they are adding the 50-60s to it (and even more). People have different opinions. To say others should (um… and what was it!?) because you are dismayed, and this supercedes listening… I’m sure all your hard work has been appreciated; but this does not mean that you are right to pretend to know that saving Mozart from being dragged around Europe in highly dangerous stage coach rides, seeing his mother die from the strain Leopold’s exploitation caused, almost having died himself in England as a child; and the consequent exhaustion from all of this was something that would have ruined his career, if it hadn’t happened.

    • Let me point out, according to me, what kind of an attempt at terrorizing people into thinking that it’s, “either you play the game or you’re out” is going on here. When someone makes a recommendation based on “edited” harshness, I don’t see this turning into a recommendation; it becomes a threat: Either you play the game or you’re out. Except for this ungrammatical sentence: “According to the maestro’s theory, Mozart should have spent his youth develop his skills and could have been a great master in his 50s and 60s.”I would think that this was Frank Bennack Jr. CEO of Hearst corporation (and has been or is on the board of Lincoln Center and the Mostly Mozart Festival) and who – if its him – (as CEO) makes perhaps 100 times what Kremer makes in a year and is suggesting that Kremer forgo all pay. Not that my grammar is always perfect or that it’s really about grammar, but one wouldn’t expect such writing from a man head of a newspaper, magazine and other media empire, but that’s how the game seems to go. Regardless of who it is, it’s because of this same type of harshness, this type of policing “the game” we have in corporate media, that we don’t know what’s really going on in Iraq or Afghanistan, that we don’t know what’s going on in Palestine, that we don’t know the truths about many drugs, that we are distracted immensely with other things and that we don’t even really know the value of music for its healing quality rather than as a sensual escape. I think that Kremer has as much a dedication to getting people to go to a concert as anyone else, and there is not disregard for anyone’s efforts just because he thinks differently about how to inspire people to go to a concert.I also don’t see that Gidon Kremer is showing disdain for the impresarios. The quality performer he has consistently been has been what he has offered them the whole time. Anyone who isn’t aware that impresarios and managers can be unscrupulous hasn’t been paying attention. And pointing this out, as Kremer does, doesn’t mean that all of them are all of the time. Saying that he is treating them as slaves is quite corrupt. And who makes such remarks? Where does “slavery” come in? In an era when CEOs are making more and more money creating slavery in developing countries while the middle class disappears, I can understand the “dismay” when people would point out what “playing the game” entails. Consequently, someone pointing out what the game does is then target for this word slave which those “dismayed” don’t want to acknowledge for it’s true meaning. Thus the habit of projecting it onto others as if this will hide or get rid of the guilt, guilt that is as easily gotten rid of as seeing what caused such behavior and instead turning a different direction showing that there’s a different way possible without judgment and without holding onto something on the inside to project onto others as if this validates the need to keep it hidden and unreleased. I don’t think that the slaves are the impresarios and the managers because of people like Kremer. I think they are the people in Brazil who are suddenly fired from an orchestra. I think they are the musicians in New York who can’t find a job anymore as so many orchestras are folding. I think they are people all over the planet who are victim to an economic matrix which discriminates against anyone not “playing the game.” And they are the slave drivers themselves who are slaves for money (and image), believing this will bring them happiness and contorting any argument to the contrary. When a country is destabilized (or an economy), just because you can go in and start making deals with people who “want to play the game” and that because of desperation, zealousness and fear this number has increased, this doesn’t mean you are helping the country, the economy or yourself in the pursuit of happiness. You see, when an economy or a country has been destabilized and people feel they are losing their dream (or whatever emotional abuse is going on that destabilizes them), many fall prey to false hope. They look at media figures that emulate a certain lifestyle and think that that is happiness. This is what corporate media is selling. And when people flock to certain big names because of consumerism (I don’t have to mention names, everyone knows who’s a sell out) this actually takes away from the market in general, because it destabilizes it, it turns off the people that would actually be interested in the music and not the names (thus the shrinking market, despite certain big names attracting large crowds). According to me, when Kremer mentions this trend (although he doesn’t go into the economics), he isn’t showing disdain for the impresarios, he’s pointing out what would help them create a bigger market for everyone; this is helpful rather than hurtful, I think.
      Back to wunderkinder: I don’t see where Mr. Fabio is in any way saying that he doesn’t like “wunderkinds” (sic). What he actually is doing is sticking up for wunderkinder and the exploitation that they have suffered. That Mozart was carted around Europe and displayed as a ”wunderkind,” has nothing to do with escaping a life in the “trenches.” That kind of exploitation WAS life in the trenches. Wolfgang then promptly stepped away from spending the rest of his life working for these aristocrats who supposedly kept him free from the trenches in a lifestyle exploited by Leopold that would challenge child labor laws in these times. Menuhin, after the second world war, had difficulty making music because of the sadness that hit him. This again is something that expresses how being a “wunderkind,” with its exploitation of one’s childhood, is not something that necessarily gives one the relationship to music that is what’s needed. This isn’t saying that there are no wunderkinder who haven’t gotten anything from being a wunderkind and that they are all ruined by it or even that they would have been better off not being a “wunderkind”. Mozart, after being paraded around for such types, learned there’s something more desirable than working for Count Colerado; and Menuhin searched for something deeper in music. But to say that being a “wunderkind” is escaping the trenches is a contorted romanticized argument against those who dare to point out such exploitation and dare to say something about what “playing the game,” is and what exploitation trends are and have been. Fabio is also making again a statement for people that don’t get the chance to find their voice and are put on the dangerous stage too early. And such exploitation is in no way helping anyone not have to think about the “business” side of things; in reality, it’s exposing what doesn’t work, when you’re allowed to think, which should be welcome to begin with. It would help to actually read the whole poem “Ich Grolle Nicht” and the whole poem cycle (which is by Heinrich Heine, truly a great poet) and then listen to Schumann’s song cycle, before you jump to conclusions as to why it would be quoted. “Great Expectations” by isn’t necessarily about “Great Expections.” “Ich Grolle Nicht” isn’t necessarily about “Ich Grolle Nicht.”

  41. Again, I’m not sure what Kremer wants from this letter. His issues are nothing new. The classical music world has always favored young artists, and the vast majority of them come and go rather quickly. The public likes superstars.

    If classical music is using sex appeal to sell artists, it is not doing anything that has not been done before. These kids all have good pedigrees. They all deserve to be there.

    • What Mr. Kremer wants I believe is to be loved and appreciated in the fashion the old time fiddle
      players were loved etc . Unfortunately for him it will not be . he is pushing 60 something and still has to
      compete for dates with the upcoming who probably do not have his knowledge nor understanding
      of the instrument – just observe all the upstarts from Japan and China sawing away for all they are worth and
      where the word nuance would give them all a collective heart attack , they have taken away his dates by
      winning competitions that he formerly won ….not to mention the countless air head fiddle players from other
      countries who all boringly sound the same …the days of Paderewski and Kreisler are long gone and so has
      that type of audience -even the beloved Kreisler lost his core audience after many decades of playing …
      The audience of to-day does not attend recitals with the attitude of the audience in Mr. Kremers’ early days
      To- day it is pure entertainment and standing ovations just for sitting upright at the piano.His time is past if
      he allows it to be so – he should take a note from Anderszewski – instead of playing music make music !

  42. Let me make a point please. To begin with, when someone tries to defend Gidon Kremer’s statement with his own ideas this does not magically blend the two. Gidon never brought up the idea of music for music’s sake; and he never mentioned those people who in their life needed music to such a degree that it supersedes whether they get paid for it or not, and alleviates the fear of it. I might mention someone like the Peace Pilgrim who decided to walk the planet as an example that there is a different way possible. She vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” This again does not mean that Gidon Kremer should follow suite. That was something the Peace Pilgrim did because of her own inner voice, and she proved it’s not at all unrealistic or impractical. Gidon made a different statement. And when I stated that there are those who have dealt with difficulty and trauma in their life, and who have honored what music is, allowing it to heal them; and that this is something completely different than exploiting music for a jet-set lifestyle; what I said is that these are different. This also doesn’t say that someone earning a trillion dollars as a musician isn’t doing any less than a street musician. The point is that playing for the money and for the attention and for the name is something completely separate from whether or not you have allowed the music to bring forth it’s world. And the one does not exclude the other. And all the monetary rewards in the world do not elicit the other as little as that not taking any would elicit it. A person who takes a musical score (or anything that’s music), and allows it to change their life doesn’t remain unheard, regardless of the “business” or even “material science” for that matter. And it will never be exploitable to either, no matter how offended you are. The two remain separate. One is real the other isn’t.

  43. James Smith-Roberts says:

    I was interested to read Gidon Kremer’s post (although finding his command of the English language rather basic and lacking in style) as well as Valery Afanassiev’s reply. I am quite surprised to notice that Afanassiev’s post has not provoked more interest in the web community.
    Of course, Gidon Kremer’s post is interesting, but after having read Valery Afanassiev’s text, I believe that Kremer has not gone far enough in his criticism. After all, it does deal with a catastrophe of global proportions in which the public plays a rather negative role. I agree with Afanassiev in that audiences will accept anything they are offered without questioning the impresarios’ and organizers’ choices. Each seems to be drawn in by the appearances of music making. This is the very reason that musical decadence has reached such gigantic proportions nowadays.
    Afanassiev brings forward a point that concerns us all. I question myself as to why everyone does not feel directly concerned by his comments. It is true that his reply seems like the final curtain. What is there to say after that? Nevertheless, one must say something for it all to change.
    I do not think Gidon Kremer is courageous enough to make things evolve positively: he is so famous, playing all over the world, even though not everyone approves. Some are even ready to acclaim him as music’s universal President, while he remains not radical enough to eradicate the problem at its root.

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