Better timing than any conductor you’ve ever seen

Better timing than any conductor you’ve ever seen


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2017

The irreplaceable Victor Borge.

It is reported that the Danes are making a TV series about him.


  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    This is good news indeed. He should be remembered, as he was not only a wonderful pianist with a beautiful sound and fabulous facility, he was an expert comedian fusing music and antics in a way which attracted thousands of fans for every show. Phonetic punctuation, inflationary language, accompanying Marilyn Mulvey, his stagehand son Ron, seatbelt hidden inside the bench, the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 by ‘Fliszt’ and the list goes on. (If I ever come around to penning an autobiography, our three hour meeting was one of the most interesting three hours in my memory when I almost became his ‘next sidekick’. But perhaps the line that sticks out most happened in the airplane the following morning. He sat in row 1, First class–as I walked by, he smiled, and said, ‘I get there before you do!’)

    • MWnyc says:

      “I get there before you do!” ??

      Lucky for him that he was sweet old Victor Borge saying it.

      These days, if someone sitting in the front of First Class said to a passenger walking past on the way to steerage coach, “I get there before you do!”, he might get punched.

      (Yes, the puncher would be promptly dragged away in handcuffs, but even so …)

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Ha! Well, I did reply to his funny quip–I said, ‘Maestro, I think I get there first because the back wheels touchdown before the front wheels!’ He laughed and said, ‘Oh you may be right!’ I actually one upped the Great Dane!!! Lol!

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Do you know how the “Minute Waltz” was created? Was Borje’s part composed ahead of time, improvised or some of both? I am always blown away by its irresistible musicality and musical wit.

  • NYMike says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the orchestra is the summer DC area Wolf Trap orchestra with concertmaster (told to leave) Tim Baker, founder of the Amadeus Trio.

  • Anne O'Neal says:

    I have wonderful memories of Victor Borge making me laugh as a child when he would appear on television. Even though I’m sure I didn’t understand all of his humor, I found him very funny and a delightful introduction to classical music.

  • Marg says:

    Best laugh I have had over breakfast in a very long time. thank you NL for a great start to my day!!!

  • John says:

    I liked him, but his schtick pretty much remained the same for fifty years. When those old videos come up on PBS fund-raisers, I tuned out. I do give him a lot of credit for having the good sense to turn what would have been a so-so career as a recitalist into a wildly successful career as a comedian.

    • Steve P says:

      Well, it is thoughtful of you to give him something, at least. Otherwise I would have been left with the impression you didn’t appreciate anything he did.

      • John says:

        I said I liked him. I merely observed that he pretty much did the same act for many years. One could have said the same thing about Anna Russell.

    • Daniel F. says:

      Sometimes on YouTube when I see some “thumbs-down” for some great performance by Casals or Pavarotti or Louis Armstrong, it gives me pause to think about the possibility that these people are roaming free in our neighborhoods, shopping in our markets, bringing kids to our schools. Your comment leaves me in much the same state of bemusement.

      • John says:

        I think our family had the very first Victor Borge record album (four 78 RPM disks) produced around the early 1940s and I think I almost wore out those disks. If many millions of people found the same joy over more or less the same material, that’s great in my book.

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    The three times I was lucky enough to actually see him live (once each in Sweden, Norway and Denmark) belong to the best musical memories I have had or ever will have. Yes, he did the same show over and over, but the way he could interact with the public was phenomenal and, even though I knew what was coming, he made me laugh to tears.

    What a man!

    Robert von Bahr

  • Joëlle Félix says:

    My very deep sorrow is that I only got to know him a few months ago, but since I watch at least one video each day. His smile would have all icebergs melted in one go.
    My admiration for him is indicible. He never came to Brussels, where I live but thanks to internet, he is now with me every day and till the end of my life. Thank you to everyone who keeps him alive by sharing pictures, articles, videos and anything about him. Merci. Joëlle