GABOR: Chamber Music is like Football

Posted on August 1, 2011

The Verbier Festival in Switzerland has now come to an end for another year.  Manchester Camerata’s new Music Director Gábor Takács-Nagy is an old hand at Verbier, and conducts the festival’s Chamber Orchestra.

He spoke to Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall about his time in Verbier, his love of teaching and learning, and how good chamber music playing is like football!

Gabor Takacs Nagy
Listen to Manchester Camerata Podcasts The Classic FM Podcast – Verbier Special – presented by Anne-Marie Minhall, featuring Gábor Takács-Nagy, violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Yuja Wang.
Read a transcript of the interview:
Q. How important is Verbier to developing the next generation of artists?

A. I think it is a brilliant festival. I think it’s the biggest musical festival in the world outside of a big city. Of course there are fantastic festivals but all of them in quite big cities. Verbier is a quite small town – a big village in the beautiful Alps.  The idea is a big symphony orchestra, the average age is about 20/22 with people coming from all around the world, from Moscow, Beijing, New York, London, Paris everywhere. Brilliant youngsters coming here to play in the big orchestra. The very best of the big orchestra players, can also audition to be members of the Chamber Music Orchestra. But the chamber orchestra’s average age which I am conducting is about 28/29. They’re not students any more but they are top players. Many of them playing in the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra. So it’s really the cream of the cream. I am very humble and lucky I can work with them and they are also very good friends in the chamber orchestra. Also there is an academy where brilliant young players and singers come and work with excellent professors. They can also go and listen in to the rehearsals of the big stars and conductors. I have to tell you from the morning until 9 o’clock, midnight, the problem of where to go, what to listen because there are so many masterclasses, concerts, rehearsals, and the level is unbelievably high.

Q. For youngsters it must be an amazing experience, but do you also take something away from Verbier?

A. Oh, of course, I always go away feeling a fuller rounder person, I also learn a lot. I have to say, during teaching for example I think I am learning the most. Because you are realising, you have to say things because you know what is working, what is not working.  And also with orchestras I am listening to, and working with great conductors, great musicians. I know a little bit more now after every Verbier. But actually whole life is like this.  I see being a musician is like this, never ending studies. So I also feel myself a student. These great musician geniuses, whose pieces we’d like to perform, they are so much bigger than us and we just try to find out what they wanted with their pieces. It’s a non stop search in our whole life. But maybe after each Verbier I feel a little bit closer in this search for the great masters, but it is never ending.

Q. Is there one key to making wonderful chamber music do you think?

A. You never can say you know.  Playing chamber music, you have to lower your ego, you have to listen to others, not yourself. I am a big football fan. I think in the greatest football teams – that’s why Spain won the World Cup, or why Barcelona winning many things. There are brilliant players but they lowering their egos. Everybody playing for everybody makes everyone play better. They love the game. They know when to be prima donna, and the next second a team player. It’s also a human challenge being an excellent chamber musician.

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