click photo to enlarge Gilbert Varga conductor

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Gilbert Varga is one of Europe’s most sought-after conductors. Having extensive experience in both chamber orchestra and symphonic repertoire, Varga has held positions with several orchestras and guest conducted major orchestras throughout the world.

Leyla Gunes Manager

Susannah York Skinner

London-born Gilbert Varga studied violin from the age of four with his father, Tibor Varga, the famous Hungarian violinist. After an accident brought an abrupt halt to a promising solo career he studied conducting under three very different and distinctive maestros - Franco Ferrara, Sergiu Celibidache and Charles Bruck.

The earlier part of Varga's conducting career concentrated on work with many chamber orchestras throughout Germany and France including extensive work with the Tibor Varga Chamber Orchestra. From 1980-1985 Varga was Chief Conductor of the Hofer Symphoniker and between 1985-1990 Chief Conductor of the Philharmonia Hungarica in Marl, with whom he toured throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. In 1990, his final year as Music Director, he conducted their debut tour to Hungary with Yehudi Menuhin.

Orquesta Sinfonica de Euskadi

Newsletter/Autumn 2000:
Varga renews Music Directorship in San Sebastian

Newsletter/Spring 1999:
Basque-ing in glory

Newsletter/Autumn 1998:
Varga adds festival directorship to his many talents

Newsletter/Autumn 1998:
Intermusica in Japan

Since that time, Varga’s reputation as a symphonic conductor increased and he was swiftly invited to conduct several prestigious European ensembles including the Munich Philharmonic, the radio orchestras of Cologne and Frankfurt and the Gurzenich Orchestra. From 1991-1995 he was Permanent Guest Conductor of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, and from 1997 until 2000 he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Malmö Symphony.

North America has also welcomed Varga’s exemplary baton technique. In recent seasons he has had hugely successful debuts with Minnesota and St Louis Symphony Orchestras; he has also conducted the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, Los Angeles and St Paul Chamber Orchestras and has appeared twice at Aspen Music Festival. In South America, Varga appeared at Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires in the summer of 1999, returning in May 2000 during a tour of South America with the Euskadi Symphony Orchestra. Further afield, Varga has made successful appearances with Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Tokyo and the Sydney Symphony.

In Europe Varga has worked with most major symphony orchestras, including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony and Hallé Orchestra. In 2001-2 Varga’s European engagements included Orchestre National de Belgique, RAI Turin, Gothenburg Symphony (with whom he made a successful recording with trombonist Christian Lindberg) and performances at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival with his own Euskadi Symphony Orchestra.

Forthcoming engagements include his debut with the orchestra of the Bayerische Staatsoper and re-invitations to the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Orchestra of Santa Cecilia (Rome), Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, , WDR Cologne and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Varga’s discography includes recordings with ASV, Discover Records, Tring (The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Collection) and Koch International (Munich Chamber Orchestra and Bamberg Symphony).

The 2002-3 season marks Varga’s fifth as Music Director of the Euskadi Symphony Orchestra.

February 2003

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selected repertoire
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BARBER Medea’s Dance of Vengeance, op.23
BARTOK Concerto for Orchestra
Miraculous Mandarin Suite
Wooden Prince Suite
BEETHOVEN Symphonies
BRAHMS Symphonies
Piano Quartet op.25 (orch. Schoenberg)
BRITTEN Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge
DVORAK Symphonies no. 7,8,9
KODALY Harry Janos Suite
Galanta Dances
LISZT Mazeppa
LUTOSLAWSKI Concerto for Orchestra
MAHLER Symphony no. 9, 10
MILHAUD Le Boeuf sur le toit
MOZART Most Major Symphonies
MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)
NIELSEN Symphony no.3
PETTERSSON Symphony no.7
PROKOFIEV Symphony no.3
RACHMANINOV The Isle of the Dead
RAVEL Ma Mère l’oye
La Valse
Le Tombeau de Couperin
Rhapsodie Espagnole
RESPIGHI Feste Romane
ROUSSELL Bacchus & Arianne Suite no.2
SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht
SCRIABIN Poème de l’extase
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony no.8, 10
STRAVINSKY Firebird (1919)
Till Eulenspiegel
Tod und Verklärung
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphonies no. 4,6

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Latest releases:

Hakan Hardenberger plays Swedish Trumpet Concertos
Bruch: Violin Concertos 1& 3
Koch 3-6522-2

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Milwaukee Symphony (Mozart, Mendelssohn, Nielsen)
He has perhaps the best stick technique of any conductor I’ve seen since Erich Leinsdorf. He is economical and utterly clear in his intentions, but Varga is no mere technician. His gestures overflow with warmth and understanding, to which the players responded sensitively. Even the most mundane details of the score…glowed with beauty.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Orchestre de Paris (Chopin, Bartok)
He accomplished his mission with constant care, remaining perfectly faithful to his prestigious soloist…He conducted this difficult work from memory, making the Orchestre de Paris sound jubilant while displaying total ease in a work so closely related to his lineage.
Le Figaro

Indianapolis Symphony (Bartok Wooden Prince Suite)
Greater challenges of colour and rhythm were well met in The Wooden Prince, and the fantastic, but psychologically realistic, story seemed to spring into three-dimensional life. Varga managed some difficult transitions and tempo fluctuations with a kind of precise flamboyance. You don’t see that in many who wave a stick for a living.
The Indianapolis Star

Ensemble Orchestral de Paris (Haydn, Beethoven, Poulenc)
Gilbert Varga, along with the excellent players of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, counterbalanced the soloist superbly.
Le Figaro

Milwaukee Symphony (Mozart, Beethoven, Kodaly)
Gilbert Varga’s conducting was a case study in grace and economy of means at Friday’s Milwaukee Symphony matinee. Varga’s elegance got results. Good balance, ensemble and rhythm, finely shaded dynamics and thoughtful interpretations were the rule throughout.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester (Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chausson)
Gilbert Varga wields his baton like a gentleman. His gestures are clear and unmistakeable and without fuss. He communicates the music in a very attractive way, with taste and elegance.
Berliner Morgenpost

Rotterdam Philharmonic (Bartok Miraculous Mandarin Suite)
Gilbert Varga leapt into these colourful scores with passion, energy and enthusiasm and urged the orchestra to a wild, turbulent "painting" of this bizarre story.

Gürzenich-Orchester (Debussy, Mozart, Bartok)
He seemed to work small miracles. His relaxed movements, his precise beat, his ability to realise his mode of expression without any showy effects, and his refusal to rely on a score, in order to fix the orchestra with his gaze – all this worked like a charm on the playing and the concentration of the musicians.
Kölner Stadt Anzeiger

The musicians let themselves be inspired by this whirling dervish of a conductor, and made music with as much passion as they were capable. Thus the Bartok provided a marvellous ending to concert worth hearing.
Kölnische Rundschau

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