The star violinist criticises festival's showcasing of stars
Gidon Kremer’s public show of irritation with the Verbier Festival seems churlish. Having had his cancellation of a concert explained as being to do with his health, he has written a letter chastising the festival’s use of a star culture.
Now, it is true that you will find a lot of stars at Verbier. But it’s also the nature of the animal. Verbier’s charm, its excitement has always been that leading musicians come together in chamber music combinations that their concert demands during the season proper would make impossible. Big-name musicians are so in demand for playing concertos and the like that they barely see each other, still less find time to make music together. Some have told me in the past that meeting up at Verbier and indulging in chamber music is like a holiday, and that sense of a summer camp for like-minded musos underscores the whole experience. Audience members in effect get privileged access to the club and with it that sense of fun and joy.
So there is the sense of a gathering of stars, but balancing that is the informality of the thing. Rehearsals and masterclasses alike are open. Because of the small size of the place, punter and performer mix, staying in the same hotels and eating in the same restaurants. It’s about as far from the stiffness of, say, Salzburg as you can get. There aren't endless photocalls or press conferences. No CD signing sessions that I can remember.
But it’s also unrealistic to expect a festival not to make use of star names. Verbier relies on its ability to sell tickets and on corporate sponsorship (which itself depends somewhat on the glamour associated with the festival). Gidon Kremer himself benefits from the star wattage of his own name. That in classical music fame almost always comes as a result of talent is all to the good, and is markedly different to some other corners of the entertainment world. If Verbier showcases the deservedly famous, what’s wrong with that?