GABOR: The Verbier Experience

Posted on July 25, 2011

The Verbier Festival continues until the last day of July, high up in the Swiss Alps.  Our own esteemed Music Director – Gábor Takácz-Nagy – wielding the baton before the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra.  Here, Ismene Brown writes for about the extraordinary event that is Verbier.

Verbier Festival SwitzerlandPhoto (c) Ismene Brown

‘Verbier has an informality full of unexpected things, of imparting of wisdom between generations of musicians, of happy serendipities as well as calamitous bits of “festivalitis”‘

“I’m standing with my feet on peaks and my head in clouds, looking down steep Alps at the tiny chocolate-brown chalets of little Verbier way below on the green slopes. It’s ravishing up here on the top of Fontanet, and I tarry, gloating over the botanical riches around me of milky-blue gentians, royal blue harebells, glistening edelweiss, dark little orchids and garnet-bright sedum, watching the trickling water of a brook, and replaying last night’s music in my head. And if you move quick you can do this yourself before next Sunday.

There’s an Easyjet to Geneva several times a day, a train ride along the length of Lac Léman, a longish mountain drive (or if you get the timing right a 10-minute cable car ride) up the almost vertical flanks of Les Ruinettes to a small Swiss town, where the piano arpeggio practice threading through the streets is likelier to be coming from Martha Argerich or Stephen Kovacevich than from a local child, and the splendid baritonal vocalises are probably either Matthias Goerne, Thomas Quasthoff or Bryn Terfel preparing tomorrow’s recital.

Two festival orchestras assembled in intensive sessions at Verbier’s Academy harvest the cream of international young instrumentalists, and they’re good. At the concerts I heard this week they played Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben with eager romanticism under Neeme Järvi one night, and Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with vibratoless clarity under Gábor Takácz-Nagy the next. In a pub I heard young German and American string-players comparing bowings for Dutilleux (next Saturday’s rep under Gergiev) – later I found myself discussing the Stolyarsky violin school of Odessa with a lad from Ukraine. “

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