Gidon Kremer's letter to Verbier

July 23, 2011 at 03:05 PM ·

Replies (39)

July 23, 2011 at 03:48 PM ·

He sounds tired.  Good for him for scaling back before he gets fully burnt-out.

July 23, 2011 at 07:53 PM ·

I am not quite sure what he is trying to say.  It is certainly easier to interpret his violin playing than his writing. It seems that he has jaded feelings about the contemporary classical music scene.  I am not sure why he feels the way he does but it would be interesting to find out.  It is interesting to note that he has become one of the most respected violinists today and I doubt it has much to do with his sex appeal.

July 24, 2011 at 05:10 AM ·

If you are not familiar with the Verbier Festival, it has been going on for about a week and some concerts can be seen live, and others as video recorded at:!/live/ .

I've been watching these and previous concerts at the medici website for the past couple of months - some really fabulous concerts.

If you get a blank screen just click on the icon "LIVE."

Some really fabulous stuff.


July 24, 2011 at 07:41 AM ·

reading  the letter ,I can easily say, That is courage! fantastic to give the explanations and take a stand. It is much easier to go on. But specially when we get older we have to take these decisions.He has given so much of himself, now it is perhaps a bit more "ME" time. And well deserved

July 24, 2011 at 08:45 AM ·

I can only say that I agree with Mr Kremer and respect his decision, which shows us all the right way to deal with the classical music scene, that has by now become so corrupted, by supporting superstars who may look good, but who show little signs of real MUSICAL talent.

July 24, 2011 at 09:47 PM ·

Who are all the beautiful talentless classical musicians that Gidon and Peter are talking about? I don't understand Gidon's bashing celebrity when he has benefited  from his celebrity his whole career.  It is shameful that musicians seem to have a need to bash others to legitimize themselves. For Mr. Kremer to accept an invitation to attend a festival and then to back out complaining about the level of artistry only makes it seem that he has a super inflated ego  and a sense of self importance that can't be assuaged. 

July 24, 2011 at 11:42 PM ·

I went to a recital Gidon Kremer gave a few years ago, and was blown away.  He looked like an English professor, complete with a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows.  He used music.  His playing was technically expert, intelligent to the core, and above all, completely musical.  Nothing was done for show, and seeing him made me aware of how much "show" there is with many other performers.  If Kremer is saying that the emperor has no clothes, it might be worth listening to him.

July 25, 2011 at 01:18 AM ·

I couldn't find anything in Kremer's letter about good-looking musicians who lack talent.  As far as I could tell, he was complaining about the celebrity culture that encourages famous soloists (himself included) to show up, deposit their concerto, and leave, with no attempt at deepening their (or the audience's) understanding of the music.   I can see how, after enough years of doing that, it could start to seem like every performance of the Mendelssohn concerto is sucking away a little piece of your soul when it should be nourishing you.  (I get that feeling myself sometimes, after yet another barely-rehearsed, insight-free performance of Beethoven's 5th...)

July 25, 2011 at 01:33 AM ·

No doubt Kremer is a wonderful violinist.  Every generation has produced superlative artists.  There is no need indict and besmirch the current generation.  The old guard should share and pass the legacy from their generation to the new generation.  They should be open and supportive, not narrow and chauvinistic.  The golden age in the performing arts is always in the present. Why the need to stereotype and trash a whole new generation of artists?  I guess it might be inhuman nature to do so since it seems to be done throughout the ages.  After it is all said and done it is the critics that cast blanket and unfounded aspersions who end up looking naked and foolish.

July 25, 2011 at 02:15 AM ·

"A time has come now when the overall devaluation of the word "interpreter" has resulted in a misguided fixation with glamour and sex appeal." " I simply do not want to breath the air, which is filled by sensationalism and distorted values.  Lets’ admit – all of us have something to do with the poisonous development of our music world, in which “stars” count more than creativity, ratings more than genuine talent, numbers more than…. sounds." "I simply do not have enough energy to support gatherings and collaborations on highly exposed stages with “rising” or approved stars of today’s music business for the sake of ovations and name-dropping."" I leave it to those who believe in it, be it the audiences or the new bread of performers, who have overwhelming capacities to please crowds, but who are often themselves quite EMPTY and artistically lost, chasing a hunger for recognition over ability."

Perhaps I have misinterpreted something but this sure sounds to me like he is criticizing good looking musicians that lack talent.  It seems to me artists are doing what they are supposed  to do when show up and interpret the music they perform.  That is what they do best to deepen the audiences understanding of the music. 


July 25, 2011 at 05:21 AM ·

Reading the letter I got the impression that Mr. Kremer is indeed not well. I wish him a good recovery.

July 25, 2011 at 12:23 PM ·

Whilst not wishing to bash the good looks of some musicians, I would say there is a tendency in the last decade or so to over-promote very glamourous young ladies who do not always live up the highest standards of violin playing (sometimes other instrumental playing too).

It seems that musicians now have to be in the celebrity "culture" to make it big time, and the next level of very fine musicians do not get a look in. Whilst this has been to a degree true in past decades, it seems to be the status quo at this time, here at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century.

I don't want to mention names, but there are some extremely glamourous female fiddlers, for example, who leave one somewhat dissapointed in both technical and musical expectations, in my personal view.

So promotion depends more on the big sell rather than on the big talent.

July 25, 2011 at 02:39 PM ·

Let's not get misogynist. It's possible to be good-looking, youthful and female, and also to play well. Jealousy is a sad thing.

I confess that I'm pretty wary of the whole "goodbye, cruel world" genre of this letter, which trashes the very industry that has provided for this artist. If you are burnt out, very well, take a break. 

July 25, 2011 at 03:06 PM ·

 Small talk is a middle class thing. They call it the chattering class. Chattering can get on your nerves .Let`s tear the middle class to bits here for some fun.

So....I'm guessing you must either be from the lower classes or the upper classes (neither of which apparently do any chattering). Please tell us which it is!

July 25, 2011 at 03:47 PM ·

 Whilst not wishing to bash the good looks of some musicians, I would say there is a tendency in the last decade or so to over-promote very glamourous young ladies who do not always live up the highest standards of violin playing (sometimes other instrumental playing too).

This phenomenon isn't a new one; the complaint has been made since women began playing professionally. Voila, a review from 1887 about Teresina Tua's New York debut, the jist of which is that "she's hot, and she uses her hotness to manipulate her audience, but her actual playing is lacking." The subject how the press and audiences have received female artists over the decades, and encouraged or discouraged them based on their outward appearance, would be an interesting one to study. And then compare women's reception to men's. It might provide some interesting perspective to this whole discussion.

Also keep in mind that modern photography techniques and makeup and wardrobe can often make relatively plain women into bombshells. Same with men (minus the makeup).

I wish people would give names of the sexy violinists who they believe are being unfairly over-promoted. I understand, reluctantly, while people don't want to give names. But it also fosters this weird type of secrecy that makes that group of people seem much larger than I think it really is...

Anyway. I don't want to turn this discussion into a "sex appeal in classical music" debate so I'll just mosey on...

July 25, 2011 at 05:39 PM ·

I may have over emphasised the female aspect a bit, I meant to include men as well.

I saw (I'm told) two good looking blokes on TV - brothers - playing the Brahms double yesterday in a London prom concert. Very good technically but rather bland and boring musically.

If you want me to mention names I will. Two glamourously stunning young women - real knockouts. (1) Janine Jansens and (2) a British Scottish lady with an Italian sounding name that I can't recall. But I'd much rather look at them than hear them, I'm afraid.

July 25, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

From the other night at Verbier.  Could this be perhaps one of the artists Kremer might've been referring to indirectly?

July 25, 2011 at 08:57 PM ·

lol David Garrett... I heard he was actually once a prodigy in Bron's studio, but that that didn't exactly work out too well.

July 25, 2011 at 10:03 PM ·

The playing of David Garrett," the world's fastest violin player",  was an eye opener.  Don't understand why he was invited to the festival.   I hope the critics did their job.   Garrett would be more suited to performing in "Germany's Got Talent" or a "Battle of the Bands" concert. Still think Kremer should have sucked it up.  He could have taken some Pepto and continued.

July 26, 2011 at 01:08 AM ·

 Shallow indeed. Janine Jansen is a musician of substance. This discussion reeks of sour grapes.

July 26, 2011 at 01:51 AM ·

OFF the subject for a moment, fellow men (and ladies, please forgive me as I am addressing this specifically to many of the gentlemen who have posted here).   

Watch your mouths!   It's amazing - and truly disheartening, to see this cavalier disrespect for women, even moreso considering that the founder and editor of the site on which you are raising skeptical eyebrows (at BEST) at some of the women in this profession is female.  This is not a cry for "political correctness" - rather, it's a reminder that we should WATCH WHAT WE SAY.

July 26, 2011 at 02:07 AM ·

 I am not a big fan of David Garrett but most of the musicians at a festivals such as Verbier are outstanding.  I agree with Laurie that Jansen is superb and Nichola Benedetti is also top notch.  Peter has incredibly high standards. 

July 26, 2011 at 02:14 AM ·

Interesting to see the opinions of Jansen and Benedetti.   They are BOTH great violinists.   

If anyone has doubts about Jansen, just watch AND listen to THIS....

July 26, 2011 at 04:02 AM ·

I agree with Kremer 100%. And mind, some things can't be fully expressed in words, so the meaning of his letter has to be "understood" rather than "known", if that makes sense.

July 26, 2011 at 08:01 AM ·

Here is Lera Auerbach's response to Gidon Kremer's letter:

July 26, 2011 at 01:41 PM ·

lera auerbach is that whom he was alluding to?  :oP


July 26, 2011 at 05:05 PM ·

Nate, thanks for the video.

Watch the violinist behind him in the red tie (principal 2nd?) at 1:25 for an entirely appropriate reaction to this guy's playing, IMHO.  (Garrett is cute, but that headband isn't doing him any favors.)

I still don't see any criticism in Kremer's letter directed at young, good-looking musicians per se.  Scientists who study such things generally agree that the formula for being considered good-looking is "symmetrical features + good physical health."  That covers an awful lot of young people.  What I do see is a lament that a lot of musicians, including "celebrities," are not using their careers as a way to deepen their understanding & interpretation of music.  You don't have to be young and good-looking to rest on your laurels (hello, Mr. Perlman*), and you don't have to be old and unattractive to keep pushing yourself (hello, Ms. Josefowicz*).

Just my $.02 ($.017 after taxes)


 *of course there are several other names that could fit both of these descriptions

July 26, 2011 at 05:08 PM ·

 LIVE FROM VERBIER at 1pm ET today Tues. July 26th.

Archived too:!/verbier-festival-celebrates-2011

Verbier Festival Celebrates

Une soirée à ne manquer sous aucun prétexte. Une pluie d’étoiles pour un concert exceptionnel, avec entre autres :

Joshua Bell, violon
Ivry Gitlis, violon
Leonidas Kavakos, violon
Kathia Buniatishvili, piano
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violon 
Vadim Repin, violon 
Yuri Bashmet, alto 
Gautier Capuçon, violoncelle
Mischa Maisky, violoncelle 
Yuja Wang, piano
Evgeny Kissin , piano
Denis Matsuev, piano


Programme comprenant:

July 26, 2011 at 08:51 PM ·

Thank you for providing that list of very worthy musicians.

IF Mr. Kremer was speaking of David Garret, we have to applaud him once again - for his tact.    Regardless of his motivations for withdrawal, Mr. Kremer has shown us something that we can learn, that being the ability to pull NO punches while naming NO names.    By doing so, his comments can only be interpreted as a view of a situation as opposed to the slamming of a person.

In fact, maybe we should all do the same when posting in online forums?

July 26, 2011 at 09:01 PM ·

And why leave out Gautier's violinist brother: Renaud Capuçon, who shared a concert with Joshua Bell on Monday, July 25?


July 27, 2011 at 12:13 AM ·

Thanks for the video, Nate.  The high Gs in measures 91 and 92 (0:29 in the clip) are illuminating.

I've been a huge Kremer fan for 25 years.  No reason to change opinion now...

July 27, 2011 at 04:09 AM ·

 I read this letter from Maestro Kremer with interest.  In all facets of artistic performance (violin, musical theatre, even figure skating - to list but a few examples), there is a broad spectrum of talent.  For instance, there are brilliant whiz kids who are unknown;  "stars" who lack much substance or creativity but are guided by legions of behind-the-scenes-agents (Britney Spears, anyone?);  and very talented stars who are also publicity-saavy (Johnny Weir, Lara St. John, etc).  The fact that Maestro Kremer would withdraw from the Verbier Festival citing frauds as opposed to artists is a little funny to me.  For those who may not be aware  -  the Verbier Festival comprises some of the most talented conservatory students in the world (who, no doubt, look up to Maestro Kremer), classical music celebrities such as Mutter, Argerich, Maisky, and others (whose careers certainly weren't built on superficial attributes), and celebrated conductors.  To dismiss certain players who may be in music videos and on billboards because of their appearance - fine.  To address a celebrated festival that has a WEALTH of talent - I don't know what to make of it.

I tend to agree with Laurie on this particular subject.  I'm skeptical of the origination of this letter and how it relates specifically to Verbier.  

July 27, 2011 at 04:14 AM ·

Additionally, here is a very interesting (and objective) editorial on Kremer's letter to the Verbier Festival in the "Telegraph" - I couldn't agree more.

July 27, 2011 at 06:40 AM ·

Thanks for that link, Andrew.  Nice to get a contrasting point of view.

July 27, 2011 at 06:51 AM ·

 Well, that telegraph reporter shoots himself in the leg when he said "where else can you hear this guy in the morning and that guy in the evening". Kremer is correct when he implies that the performer has become a bigger name than the composer.

Historically it has most of the time been like that. You went to a Bach concert for Bach, Beethoven for Beethoven, Paganini always played Paganini and Liszt was Liszt. And if Heifetz or Kreisler would have come to town, I sure wouldn't weigh in the reportoare as a decision maker to if I would go to the concerts.

Is it right or wrong? Who am I to say. I have been musically rewarded at both Famous and unfamous artist concerts and dissappointed at both as well.

Kremer is entiteled to his opinoin, and I'm sure that he doesn't really care if other agrees with him. Just like all the choises he makes it seems :)

July 28, 2011 at 12:26 PM ·

 Thank GOD there are actually some names in classical music -- names of living people -- that the general public can actually recognize, names that would draw a crowd together for classical music. The Verbier appears to me to be celebration of live performance, and for live performance, people are attracted to performers with a reputation for giving a wonderful performance. It makes sense to me: you invite performers who have achieved some kind of following. That said, I certainly see names of people with artistic integrity.

I don't know why anyone in the business (and give me a break, Gidon Kremer is in the business)  would want to denigrate this kind of effort to bring together well-known performers. It lifts all boats.

Surely the talents of our classical musicians, young or old, good-looking or not, are more worthy of attention than is this letter. 

July 28, 2011 at 01:35 PM ·

I've been watching (and listening) on my computer as many as possible  ma of the  the wonderful concerts at the Verbier Festival this year. It is a great experience - and to my ears (with my headset connected to my computer) it is almost like being there. If I miss a performance, it will be available (edited) again 24 hours later. Tuesday's 2-hour "Celebration" concert with 14 "stars"including violinists  Ivry Gitlis, Joshua Bell, and Anne Sophie Mutter, Vadim Rapin, and Leonidas Kavakos, and was magical. The final concert this coming Sunday offers similar promise.

This experience leads me to completely miss the point of Kremer's letter (if it had one). It strikes me that among other things the Verbier Festival is the ultimate music "workshop." I can understand someone not being in a mood to enjoy the festival - but I can't understand publicizing it.

Get with "" and enjoy these concerts - decide for yourself


July 29, 2011 at 04:09 PM ·

 LIVE and archived from Verbier at 1pm ET on Friday July 29th  here:!/exclusive-encounters-6-verbier-festival-2011



Joshua Bell,
Vadim Repin,
Valeriy Sokolov,
Sayaka Shoji
, violon
Kim Kashkashian,
Julian Rachlin, alto
Gary Hoffman,
Aleksandr Buslow,
Mischa Maisky, violoncelle
Denis Matsuev, piano

Johannes Brahms
 (1833 – 1897)
Quintette à cordes N° 2 en Sol majeur op.111
-    Allegro non troppo, ma con brio
-    Adagio
-    Un poco allegretto
-    Vivace ma non troppo presto
(Bell, Shoji, Rachlin, Kashkashian, Hoffman)

Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Trio Elégiaque pour piano, violon et violoncelle N° 1 en sol mineur op.posth
(Matsuev, Repin, Maisky)

Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945)
Quintette pour piano et cordes
-    Andante
-    Vivace (Scherzando)
-    Adagio
-    Poco a poco piu vivace
(Matsuev, Repin, Sokolov, Rachlin, Maisky)

July 29, 2011 at 05:52 PM ·

At 1:45pm ET on Friday the stream suddenly stopped as they were playing, and at 1:50pm, it still hasn't come back on.  Are you having the same problem?


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