Born: July 4, 1921; Györ, Hungary
Died: September 4, 2003; Grimisuat, Switzerland
Tibor Varga has had an illustrious career as a violinist, in later life becoming a highly important violin teacher and school administrator in addition to successfully taking up conducting.
He studied with Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch, one of the great teachers of violin technique. At the age of ten, he made his public debut, then was enrolled at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest by Jenö Hubay (a master of gypsy-style Hungarian lightRead more music composition). He remained there until 1938, a student of Leo Weiner in chamber music and Kodály in composition. He began his professional career while still a pupil at the Academy, when he was 12, with little interruption except during wartime. In 1938, he entered Budapest University to study philosophy.
He resumed his concert career after the war in Hungary, but left the country when the Communist Party (backed by occupying Soviet forces) took full power in 1948. As the base for his international career, he joined the faculty of the Northwest German Academy of Music in Detmold as professor of violin in 1949.
In 1954, he founded the Tibor Varga Chamber Orchestra at Detmold, and thereafter frequently toured with it, sometimes as soloist and sometimes as conductor. In his career, he has visited practically every part of the world where classical music concerts may be held, and played in virtually all the great concert and recital halls. In addition to the standard violin repertory, he became well known as a proponent of the violin music of Bartók, Schoenberg, Berg, and other modern composers. His recording in the 1960s of the Carl Nielsen Violin Concerto is considered especially noteworthy.
Since 1955, he made his home in Switzerland, though maintaining his position in Detmold. In 1964, he founded the Tibor Varga Festival in the Swiss city of Sion, the capital of the Canton of Valais, and founded an International Academy of Music in connection with it, specializing in interpretation (or "master") classes for accomplished young players conducted by leading soloists. In a typical year, the International Academy draws around 400 students to attend about 25 master classes. In addition, he added to the festival the annual Concours International de Violon, one of the most prestigious of annual violin competitions, which attracts over 100 entrants a year.
In 1984, Varga founded a string music department at the Conservatory of Sion. In 1991, this organization, under the name École Supérieure de Musique, separated from the Sion Conservatory to join the Fondation de l'Académie de Musique in Sion. The municipality of Sion put a magnificent older building at the disposal of the school. Within one year of the founding of the school, a leading music educator proclaimed the Varga École as "one of the three best professional violin academies in Europe." In 1998, it became a completely independent organization under his own Foundation. Throughout its existence Tibor Varga has remained its director. It is a full time school specializing in string instrument training. About 40 students, from eight to twenty-five in age, are generally enrolled. Numerous graduates of the school are soloists, concertmasters, and first violinists of leading international-class orchestras.
Tibor Varga's son Gilbert Varga was a pupil of Tibor. In a sad irony, the man who brought so many violin students to a fully professional finish was unable to complete that process with his son due to an accident to the young man's hand and arm. However, Gilbert has gone on to begin establishing an important conducting career. Read less