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Has star-struck Verbier taken heed of Kremer’s outcry?

A year ago, Gidon Kremer posted on this site the reasons for his walkout on the Verbier Festival. It had, he said, become obsessed with star names and music business. It was no longer the ideal he had subscribed to.

Kremer’s objections drew huge support from around the music world, most cogently from Fabio Luisi, principal conductor at the Met. It amounted to a heartfelt cry to the classical circuit to change it ways before it is too late.

So has Verbier changed?

Last night, Christian Tetzlaff called in sick and the Brahms concerto had to be reallocated. It was fabulous opportunity to give a young player a chance to shine in an international event.

What did Verbier do?

They replaced Tetzlaff with Maxim Vengerov. Really progressive.

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  1. Deborah says:

    Last monday I got to watch an orchestra with an average age, I would speculate, less than that of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, perform magnificently under Charles Dutoit in a concert performance of Pelleas & Melisande.

    Perhaps that kind of experience is more helpful (certainly it helps many more young musicians than one soloist) instead of the off-chance that a young player tackling Brahms for the first time at a high-profile event wiould get anything career-wise out of it?

    PLUS you seem to implicitly assume that a “young player” will necessarily be good, or at least better than Vengerov. This may be the case, depending on who they could have chosen, but why not give Vengerov the “chance to shine”? After all he’s only half-way through a comeback…

    • Samantha says:

      I agree that Vengerov is an acceptable substitute as many are eager to hear how he is sounding after such an absence. It is not like they replaced Tetzlaff with Josh Bell! I would have been excited, frankly, about the change.

      I can also attest to feeling frustrated about the Verbier Festival. I attended as a “scouting presenter” a couple of summers ago and it was maddening to see these big names thrown together to play chamber music, soloists who are not used to chamber music and who are not given ample rehearsal time by the festival. Most of them were at best uninspired and at worst disastrous. I appreciate the Festival’s support of the Quatour Ebene and would rather see them performing chamber music (and preferably a few more chamber ensembles) and leave the soloist names to share recitals!

  2. Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    Because you really thought it would change something?

  3. Emil Archambault says:

    Of course, but if you paid big bucks to hear an established star soloist, you can’t give them a young unexperienced substitute. You paid for a star, you should get one.

    Of course, if they had announced a young soloist in the first place, then it would be a different matter. But given that the audience paid for an established star, the festival should give them one, as they did.

    • You’re totally right, from the audience’s point of view.

      But isn’t this exactly what Kremer criticized – that at Verbier, the audience pays for the star, not for the music?

      • I wonder, which would be a bigger draw: an unknown youngster playing the violin concerto of Tchaikovsky or an established big star playing those of Julius Conus or Ole Bull?

      • Martin Locher says:

        If you acquire a rising star, you will know years later, if the star lights up the universe or if it has extinced. In any environment, maybe it be sports or music, if you catch too many of the latter, you have a problem.

        So the question we should ask is, if Verbier shows us the right proportion of musical heroes in the making or just mainly young people with good marketing managers. I’d think it’s the former.

        Last year after a Garrett recital, I thought Kremer has a point, but after reflection such negative experiences are outweighed by the many positive memories one can remember for a long time. I.e. 2 years ago a super stunning Vilde Frang or a Rite of Spring which caused a long and loud ovation which got people outside, who were waiting for me to go for dinner together, wonder what the heck they’ve just missed. Or last year a Terfel recital, of whom you won’t get to enjoy many in your life.

        In Verbier the stars, the public wants to see, enable the festival to acquire lesser known performers, like Llyr Williams, and youngsters (may the become stars or not). It’s, in my view, a great concept, if Kremer feels unhappy, he can stay away. This year’s festival shows, he is not missed at all.

      • Yes, I think that music is about music….At least I haven’t seen an advertisement for fill in the blank musical educational institution yet that says “WE MAKE GREAT CELEBRITIES HERE”… oh yeah, and we teach music, mostly written by dead guys whose mental health or livelyhood we conveniently don’t have to care about anymore.

        As for this stupid belligerent habit of who knows who (little boy blue) and who else (bang bang) prancing around the planet in their duds making more money than is healthy for the planet (oops I mean economic system), as if music was especially designed for them to stamp their “mark” on it (sort of like the corporate world sees the rain forest and the rest of the environment). I’m still waiting for the Pepsi Cola logos to appear on the face of the moon….

        Who’s sponsoring all of this and what’s the trend one has to conform to to make it?

        Yeah, I’m sure that Beethoven has a suitcase up in heaven with everyone’s mark on it:

        “Oh yeah, I keep that around so they can think they’ve done something. I call it my BUZZ OFF, distraction or pfffft suite case. I never use it, just keep it over there so they can see their mark on it. I have to buy a new one at least once a half century, but recently it gets worn out about twice a decade…In fact, I think that one has about had it and it’s only 3 years old!”

        Gidon Kremer actually introduced music of Arvo Part and Gubaidulina. I don’t really see another artist of his “renown” having done anything as much for actually introducing music rather than celebrity….

        Dreams aren’t for sale…

  4. Martin Locher says:

    Vengerov is performing right now and as a hip-hopper would say “was totally in the zone” during the 1st mvt. Glad Verbier got him to play tonight. There are many young performers in Verbier btw.

  5. michael says:

    yes, vengerov was absolutely splendid – the 1st mvt cadenza was godlike. relevantly, he devotes much time to teaching now and publicly acknowledges the excellence of this years’ ensemble of orchestral players (who are the real back-bone of the festival).
    i think verbier is just a splendid place to experience the established and rising talents – how much more wonderful does it get than to see mischa maisky alongside the recent grad giovanni guzzo and the young (previously unknown to me) david aaron carpenter playing in the weber clarinette quintet?
    for me, the verbier festival is just about as good as it gets musically speaking.

  6. But heh, celebrity is important….otherwise no one would know what has happened to creativity…

    Breathless, waiting for the new and improved version of Beethoven’s celebrity concerto, which thanks to image making and its (image making’s) allowing for 4 billion dollars in fines for falsely marketing psychiatric drugs to support such imagining (because otherwise it just ain’t cutting it), and the consequent bleak purse left over for commissions and creativity; will be advertised profusely, along with why Ludwig needed to be on the drugs that cost 4 billion in fines to get across the counter, and why this is urgently more important than anyone being paid to be anarchistic:

    10 billion: artists who make logos and other signs and who might otherwise be less guided in their creative endeavors.

    20 billion: sound bytes, photographic bytes (subliminal message…oops D@#$* I mean extras and fractals) and food coloring…

    50 billion: party costs

    800 billion: costs to make spaceship to send digital version of concerto recording into outer space, this includes the preparations for: intellectual copyrighting and lobbying for such intergalactic copyright laws to become law, and also that this there this here: to start marketing walkmans, ipods and other such devices for aliens and looking into what kind of design might be needed so they (the aliens) can listen to the digital recording (which has to be copyrighted first, unlike the experiment with the Queen of the Night Aria and the G string thing, so it’s safe to send into unknown territory)…

    2 trillion: Time Machine to get Ludwig his drugs

    404 times 2: commissioning costs which go towards philanthropy

    2 bits: welfare costs

    2 cents: funding for delinquents…

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