Gilbert Varga, son of the celebrated Hungarian violinist Tibor Varga, studied under three very different and distinctive maestros: Franco Ferrara, Sergiu Celibidache and Charles Bruck. A commanding and authoritative figure on the podium, Varga is renowned for his elegant baton technique, and has held positions with and guest-conducted many of the major orchestras across the world.
In North America, Varga regularly guest conducts the symphony orchestras of Houston, St Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Utah and Nashville amongst others and in 13-14 makes his debut with the orchestras of Kansas City and San Diego. In Europe, Varga works regularly with the major orchestras of Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Cologne, Budapest, Porto, Brussels and Glasgow amongst others. In May 2013 Varga was appointed Principal Conductor of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, an appointment that comes at an exciting time for the orchestra as the city of Taipei embarks upon a journey to build the orchestra its own concert hall, a process in which Varga will be heavily involved as Consultant.
Repeatedly acclaimed for his ability to draw out a broad range of colours and emotions from the orchestra, Varga’s programmes frequently feature the ballet suites, tone poems and symphonies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of a recent performance of Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, the Leipziger-Volkszeitungcommented: “The Hungarian gypsies were lascivious and witty under Varga’s baton, full of fire with ardent strings and blazing brass. The oboe, clarinet and horn gave beautiful solos, and the flutes and piccolo were so soft, that the delicate pizzicato sounded almost coarse.”
In the earlier part of his conducting career Varga concentrated on work with chamber orchestras, particularly the Tibor Varga Chamber Orchestra, before rapidly developing a reputation as a symphonic conductor. He was Chief Conductor of the Hofer Symphoniker between 1980 and 1985, and from 1985 to 1990 he was Chief Conductor of the Philharmonia Hungarica in Marl, conducting their debut tour to Hungary with Yehudi Menuhin. In 1991 Varga took up the position of Permanent Guest Conductor of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra until 1995, and from 1997 to 2000 was Principal Guest of the Malmö Symphony. From 1997 to 2008, Varga was Music Director of the Basque National Symphony Orchestra, leading them through ten seasons, including tours across the UK, Germany, Spain and South America.
Varga’s discography includes recordings with various labels including ASV, Koch International and Claves Records. His latest recording, released in January 2011, of concertos by Ravel and Prokofiev with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Anna Vinnitskaya on Naïve Records was given five stars by BBC Music Magazine.