The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Soon after its establishment in 1888, the Concertgebouw Orchestra developed into one of the best orchestras in Europe. “Really magnificent, full of youthful vigor and enthusiasm” as Richard Strauss described it in 1897. The Orchestra was granted Royal status in 1988. It has made more than a thousand recordings and is regarded worldwide as one of the most prestigious symphony orchestras. The fact that it has been led by only a limited number of chief conductors has played a decisive role in this development.
The Orchestra has gained its unique international position with its ‘velvet' strings, ‘golden' brass, the exceptional and personal timbre of the woodwinds and its renowned 'Republic of Percussion', as the section was named by Bernard Haitink.
The musicians are the guardians of the playing culture that gives the Orchestra its unique sound and flexibility. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra consists of 120 virtuosos who perform together at the highest level.
During the fifty years of Willem Mengelberg's reign, a wide variety of composers such as Richard Strauss, Mahler, Debussy and Stravinsky conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra several times. Celebrities such as Bartók, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev performed their own works as soloists. This crucial bond with contemporary composers was continued with Maderna, Schat, Berio, Henze, Nono, Adams and many others.
The guest conductors
The Concertgebouw Orchestra has worked with many guest conductors, each of whom made a unique contribution to the development of the sound and the repertoire, including Arthur Nikisch, Karl Muck, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Pierre Monteux, Eugen Jochum, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti, George Szell, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Colin Davis, Kurt Sanderling, Kirill Kondrashin, Carlo Maria Giulini, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Christian Thielemann and honorary guest conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
The six chief conductors
With the effect from the 2016/17 season, Daniele Gatti will be chief conductor of the RCO.
Serving before him in that capacity were Willem Kes (chief conductor from 1888 to 1895), Willem Mengelberg (1895–1945), Eduard van Beinum (1945–1959), Bernard Haitink (1963–1988), Riccardo Chailly (1988–2004) and Mariss Jansons (2004-2015).
Willem Mengelberg laid the foundation for the orchestra’s acclaimed Mahler tradition. Eduard van Beinum introduced Bruckner’s symphonies and French music.
Bernard Haitink refined the orchestra sound and broadened the repertoire. His recordings and the Christmas Matinee concerts televised in many European countries earned him wide acclaim. Haitink was appointed honorary conductor in 1999.
Conductor emeritus since 2004, Riccardo Chailly provided a great impetus to the programming of contemporary music and opera.
Under the direction of Mariss Jansons, the orchestra consistently focused on composers such as Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss and Brahms, as well as important twentieth-century composers like Shostakovich and Messiaen, to whom large-scale thematic projects have been devoted.
In his first season as chief conductor, Daniele Gatti adds an emphasis on composers such as Debussy, Strawinsky, Ravel and the Second Viennese School.
CD's of the RCO are available HERE and of course in most classical music record shops.