"It's Like a Hollywood Party": People Watching at Verbier

Classic Arts Features   "It's Like a Hollywood Party": People Watching at Verbier
Frank Cadenhead reports from the Verbier Festival which, this year, is proving to be a veritable who's who of major players and celebrities in the world of classical music.


In a crowded, cosy chalet after his Verbier Festival Concert, violin virtuoso Daniel Hope was looking with amazement at all the stars of the world of classical music surrounding him. "It's like I imagine a Hollywood party to be!"

He had just finished his concert in the main hall, the Salle des Combins, the July 27th "Recountres inedites III," where he had "carte blanche" to choose who he wants to work with and what they play. The Schubert "Trout" Quintet had Christian Zacharias at the piano, Leigh Mesh on double-bass, Yuri Bashmet, viola, and Micha Maisky, cello. The program ended with a merry romp through the Mendelssohn "Octet" with fellow violinists Vilde Frang, Mikhail Simonyan and Kirill Troussov, with violists David Aaron Carpeter and Blythe Teh Engstroem and young cello virtuosos Gautier Capucon and Jakob Koranyi.

At the after-concert party, Maisky was behind me in the buffet line talking about his year-old son. He was later in quiet conversation with fellow cello legend Natalia Gutman, who arrived a little later after playing three Bach "Suites for Unaccompanied Cello" at a different evening concert in the Eglise (Church).

It is this two week concentration of talent in one small town (a high-end ski resort in the Winter) which puts the Verbier Festival so often on the calendars of music lovers. There are "names" walking on the street and in cafes but there are many real opportunities to get to know the artists. Hope is giving a concert at 11 a.m. the following day at the Church and later giving an interview for Swiss radio, also open to the public, at 2:30 (in English).

The close encounters are not just onstage. At the concert, sitting in the next seat to me, was Alfred Brendel. I nodded my head in a salute but dared not say a word to this towering pianist, in Verbier for master classes at the festival's Academy. The next morning there was a knot of music lovers gathered around the town's cinema where his master classes are open to the public. Master classes in other locations help develop young talent in other areas of performance. The voice classes, for example, this year feature Barbara Bonney, Angelika Kirchschlager, Claudio Desderi and Tim Carroll. On Wednesday, July 28, there were 20 different events, including the open rehearsals and master classes, between 9:30 a.m. and midnight.

The concentrated energy of great performers working together doing what they love to do and the round-the-clock events make this festival unique in the world of music and something to be experienced by every music lover. You might even take some time off and take a splendid walk in the mountains or at least have a slow cup of tea and look at them.

The main concerts are all available for streaming for free on Medici.tv and there is even a tab to link to these with your iPhone. They will remain free on that site through September 30.

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