Luke Hsu – violinist (U.S.A.)
I participated in the 2017 Verbier Academy as a violinist, and I wholeheartedly believe this experience was life-changing both musically and personally. With its towering snow-peaked mountains encircling the town of Verbier, the surroundings are legendary. The chairlift to the top of Verbier (Mont Fort) is one of the most beautiful experiences I have had. Even without the music, Verbier is an extremely special place, but with the music, Verbier transforms into something absolutely magical. The Academy is the educational component of the festival in which the students are coached in everything from the music to stage psychology to injury prevention to even bowing (as in bowing on stage, not bowing an instrument). The Academy also provides many resources for all of us to ask questions about anything from the music business to our future plans/projects. Because the musicians in the Academy spend so much time together in everything from seminars to social events, I have become close to many of my colleagues from the Academy. To facilitate the social aspect even more, the Academy groups instrumentalists into piano quartets with both the intention of creating nucleus social groups (so that people are not overwhelmed with making friends with everyone in the beginning) and performing in the Academy Chamber Music showcase at the end of the festival. The members of my piano quartet have become some of my closest friends from the Academy, and we stay in touch quite regularly to this day.
The masterclasses are the focal point of the Academy, where each student is expected to play both solo and chamber music repertoire for a well-established professor/teacher/performer in front of an audience. I had the privilege to play for Boris Kuschnir, Zakhar Bron, Pamela Frank, James Ehnes, and Gábor Takács-Nagy, and each of them had a unique and different perspective on violin playing and chamber music playing.
The festival is very well-organized, and the programming combines works that are familiar (such as Schumann Symphony No. 1 or Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto) and works that do not get performed very often (such as 16th century English Madrigals).
I utilized every opportunity I had in Verbier from career counselling to performing in their late night concert series (specially designated for students who participate in the festival to perform whatever they like), but the most rewarding aspect of it is meeting all the wonderful people who organize the festival and the Academy and befriending the incredible musicians that participate and/or teach at the Academy. These bonds are lifelong, and I cannot wait to make music with them in the near future wherever it may be!
It was so wonderful to be back at the Verbier Academy after 5 years! First time I came to Verbier was in 2012, and I can definitely say that participating in the Verbier Festival Academy then – was a huge turn in my life. First of all it was a huge inspiration and possibility to work with some of the greatest musicians of our times, also that summer I completely fell in love with chamber music, which plays a huge role in my life now – since last year I even have a chamber music festival of my own! Also a lot of my current chamber music partners and great friends I met in Verbier, as well as a person who has probably been the main musical influence for me during these years – Steven Isserlis. I was enjoying every moment – meeting up with old friends, attending amazing concerts, meeting young and amazingly talented young artists, playing for musicians I admire, particularly I was happy to have a chance to work with Sergey Babayan and Sir Andràs Schiff with whom I have been working regularly during last 5 years, and whenever there is a chance to play for him – I can’t miss it! Also this summer we gave a very enjoyable late night concert at Eglise performing one of my favorite chamber music pieces – Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Roberto Gonzalez, Blythe Teh Engstroem, Benedict Kloeckner and Nicholas Schwartz. In general Verbier Festival has a unique atmosphere of one huge happy family, every day there is full of amazing surprises and unforgettable memories! I’m really happy to be part of it and hope to be back in Verbier soon again!
It is for many musicians a childhood dream to go to the Verbier Festival. It became reality for me in 2013, and it was actually beyond all my expectations. The unprecedented high level of the Academy, together with the wonderful atmosphere and exchanges between the other participants, as well as the joy of performing together, are truly motivating for every musician. And the fact of being able to go to basically each concert and to attend the rehearsals of the world’s top performers is a truly unique experience. Verbier marked an extremely important point in my career, as it is thanks to the Tabor piano award that I have received there that I was able to record my first CD, that was released in October 2017. It was last year as well that I had the joy of taking part for the second time at the Academy, and the changes that were to be found compared with my previous experience were there to make it just as unique.
Indeed, the Verbier Festival Academy was a special experience for me. The Verbier Festival Academy gave me a life-changing experience in almost all aspects. In the musical side, it provides me a lot of great coaches, great masterclasses with great names which I never expected to meet, great stage experiences, great free concerts which allows us to learn from the caliber musicians, a great place to study included with the great Chalet (my accommodations), and the best thing was you got a new family from around the world. We are still in contact with this Festival members and it is the most precious thing to have after the Festival. Verbier is not a regular Festival, it almost feels like a new musical home.
Verbier Festival is in my opinion one of the most important and interesting classical music festivals in the world. It was always my dream to be part of such festival. And the VFAcademy is a great place for young artists and singers! I had a pleasure to work with wonderful coaches as Caroline Dowdle and James Baillieu, singers such as Sir Thomas Allen, Thomas Hampson, Thomas Quasthoff and Anna Tomowa-Sintow, stage director Tim Carroll and amazing conductors Charles Dutoit and Stanislav Kochanovsky. And probably even more important is that I got to perform with and hear the most AMAZING artists who live on this planet. Verbier Festival is a TOP CLASS celebration of Music! As I said during the festival: “Making music with other people who are really highly skilled – I think this is the most beneficial thing for me.”and somehow I was interviewed in the Verbier 25th anniversary video (please see below). All artists coming to the festival are great, and the age doesn’t make a difference. I learned a lot – from people and from nature. It is a great place to be! I will definitely never forget this experience and wonderful 3 weeks I had at Verbier! The most wonderful thing is that Verbier becomes one big musical family.
- captivated and engaged (no mind wandering)
- enraptured or moved (preferably to tears)
- enticed to return time and again for more, and
- consumed with its memory for years and years to come.
For me, every idea, emotion and nuance have to emerge from within. No amount of talent can induce soulfulness and passion. An eminent visual artist once advised me: “Encourage young people to explore their world (outer and inner), expand their potential and imagination to the utmost, and, their talent will find its place in life.” Clearly, the Verbier Festival Academy shares that philosophy.
To conclude, here is a special rendition of “Hallelujah” that combines 2 powerful voices – Leonard Cohen and the cello.