Questioning the conductors: Gilbert Varga

Gilbert Varga is in town this week to conduct the SSO in a series of concerts with Stravinsky and Beethoven as the focus. Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto will have the help of Horaccio Gutierrez; after the intermission it’s Stravinsky’s ballet Petrouchka.

Varga is the son of violin legend Tibor Varga. The younger Varga also played the violin but switched to conducting. Varga is or isn’t (depending on whether he is telling you his biography or you are reading the bio prepared by his agents) a newbie to North American concert halls. Regardless, his North American career has picked up considerably during the last decade, and he is regularly making stops at the continent’s leading orchestras.

Varga’s claim to fame, perhaps, comes from his commanding baton technique. It is aggressive, imposing, and precise. You can get a sense of his craft by watching this video of him .

My conversation with Varga on this point reminded me of an old measure the writer and composer Virgil Thomson used to ask when evaluating a new piece of music: is it merely good clock work or can it actually tell time too?  Applied to Varga, is there a vision and inspiration behind his surgically precise slicing?

I am not able to attend the concerts this weekend (traveling), so I will leave this last point for audiences to judge.

from on .

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