Kramnik at the Verbier Music Festival

by Albert Silver
8/3/2016 – We have seen many great chess events preceded by quality musical performances, and now the favor has been returned: during the great Verbier Music Festival, held in the heart of the Swiss Alps, chess activities were organized including a simul by Vladimir Kramnik to musicians and the director of the festival. With concerts broadcast online live, it is a must on your calendar. Read about it and enjoy some truly magnificent music.

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There are music festivals and there are music festivals. The Verbier Festival is a classical music festival which encourages encounters and sharing between great musicians and young aspiring artists from around the world. With its different orchestral programmes, the Festival strives towards excellence in music education. The audience is invited to live a special experience at the heart of the Swiss Alps by attending prestigious concerts, witnessing unique encounters and participating in a wide range of free activities.

Nestled in the Swiss Alps is the Verbier Festival of music, a resounding success each year

In the early nineties, after twelve years working as an artists’ agent, Martin T:son Engstroem had an ambitious idea-to create a summer festival in the heart of the Swiss Alps, far from the major cities where most festivals take place. Verbier had the intimate atmosphere he felt was necessary to encourage musical excellence, and at the same time be open to the world. He imagined a festival with a resident youth orchestra and an academy where renowned artists would teach the next generation and audiences would have a wide choice of activities from early morning until late at night. In 1994, his vision became a reality.

The Salle des Combins is the Verbier Festival’s main concert hall, with 1700 seats. Each row is on a separate tier, which guarantees and excellent view of the stage. Improvements to the sound proofing and heat insulation make this a very high quality non-permanent venue.

With help from his friend Avi Shoshani, Secretary General of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the first season’s line-up was spectacular. Evgeny Kissin gave his first piano recital, and violinist Maxim Vengerov ended his concert with the audience gathered around him on stage – a magical moment of pure intimacy. Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Mischa Maisky, Gidon Kremer, Yefim Bronfman, Yuri Bashmet and Frans Helmerson were also present, and the Festival’s musical family began to take shape. In this idyllic setting, artists who had never played together before agreed to collaborate in programmes of original chamber music -the now-famous “Rencontres Inédites” or "New Encounters".


Consider for example the breathtaking 12-minute performance of Bach’s famous concerto for four pianos accompanied by an all-star string orchestra. On the pianos are legendary pianists Martha Argerich, Evgeny Kissin, James Levine, and Mikhaël Pletnev.

So where and how did chess come in? This year, one of its partners was the Neva Foundation Timtchenko, a foundation dedicated to chess education and chess organization that is already well established in the chess world.

They were key in the Women Grand Prix event in Geneva in 2013 among others. For the past five years, they have been a partner of the Verbier Festival, and this year, in 2016, the Neva Foundation announced it had become a Main Sponsor of the event. As explained at its official site:

"By supporting this prestigious festival, the foundation acts in total coherence with the objectives it pursues: promote the best of Russian culture, encourage cross-cultural bridges between musicians of all origins and enable transgenerational knowledge.

This year again, beside its role as a main sponsor, the Foundation will continue to support the Verbier Academy and the Verbier Junior Orchestra by giving young Russian musicians the opportunity to train with the best and perform during the Verbier Festival.

The nature of this upgrade also came in chess activities held on July 30-31 including a simul by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik.

Here Kramnik faces renowned musicians Mischa Maisky, Christian Thompson, Daniel Lozakovitj, Martin Fröst, Daniel Hope and the festival's creator Martin Engstroem. (@ Isabelle Cottet)

How renowned are his opponents? Listen to this wonderful rendition on the clarinet by Martin Fröst of Piazzolla's La Muerte del Angel.

If you go to the official website of the Verbier Festival, you can not only get all the information you wish, but you can watch the concerts live as they take place in high resolution and great sound quality.

Link to the official site of the Verbier Festival

All concerts are broadcast by Medici.TV the foremost online classical music broadcaster, used by music festivals, music competitions, and more throughout the year. They also have a huge catalogue of previous recordings that can be accessed at any time, and searched for by composer or artist among others.

A look at the searchable catalogue at Medici.TV

If they are not already in your bookmarks, add them now!


Here, the beautiful virtuoso Yuja Wang played the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no.2 with the Verbier Festival Orchestra. Sit back and enjoy this great performance, which represents very much what the Festival is all about: great music for all to bask in.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.


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Chessspawnvt Chessspawnvt 8/4/2016 09:14
@Aighearach. Let us know when he clears the air about this instance. I'm not buying it for now. A friend who saw him there told me that he looked quite normal.
Isledoc Isledoc 8/4/2016 03:56
high mountain air is as good for ankylosing spondylitis as it used to be for TB.But hey why not enjoy a nice paid vacation and the adulation of talented people rather than sweating it out with the rising stars of chess seeking to depose you.
Aighearach Aighearach 8/3/2016 10:12
If you look into what is published about Kramnik's health problems, you'll be able to go the rest of your life without saying stupid things in response to stories like this. ;) He doesn't like to talk about it all the time, but he has cleared the air in the past, so if you don't go and look it up you might never hear details. It boils down to, sometimes he is in pain and has to take pain killers. He has to take a high dose, and they leave him too sleepy for a serious tournament. Obviously a simul against amateurs he just has to show up. It is a lot easier to manage sleep and medication schedule for an afternoon than for a couple weeks of serious all day work. Like, duh. Great that Kramnik is getting some rest and relaxation in, hopefully the mountain air is helpful.
Chessspawnvt Chessspawnvt 8/3/2016 06:35
So much for Kramnik's ill health (reportedly a back problem) preventing him from playing in the 2016 King Rex Cup in St. Louis. The question begs, but apparently was not asked by Chessbase, why did he really not go to the US? FIDE politics as in Rex is close to Gary and Vlad is a buddy of Kirsan's?
Kokoschka Kokoschka 8/3/2016 03:57
Yes, you are missing something. His problem is with his back. He happens to be standing up when he plays a simul.
TMMM TMMM 8/3/2016 03:56
Giving some simuls is not nearly as stressful as playing in a long tournament against the best of the world - it is not just the games which take a lot of energy, but also the preparation required for each game.

So I perfectly understand Kramnik goes for a holiday in Switzerland and enjoys some casual chess as well.
stephen brady stephen brady 8/3/2016 02:04
I'm confused. Kramnik is too sick to play in the Sinquefield, but well enough to play in a simul? I am probably missing something
fightingchess fightingchess 8/3/2016 12:39
it is a shame kramnik misses sinquefield cup and goes for these crappy simuls.