Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
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Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Known to be one of the worlds most premium orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (In Dutch: Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest) is the most famous and esteemed orchestra of the Netherlands.
Basically, this orchestra is named for the Concertgebouw (concert hall) in Amsterdam from where it originates. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands awarded the title of Royal on the orchestra in 1988.
The 11th of April observed the opening of The Concertgebouw; however the Concertgebouw Orchestra was not established until later. Willem Kes, the first principal conductor for seven years, led the orchestras first concert in the Concertgebouw on 3 November 1888.
Willem Mengelberg became head conductor in 1895, and kept this title for fifty years, a considerably long term for a music director. He is thought of having brought the Orchestra to a highly prestigious standing on the international front, particularly backing contemporary composers of that time, including Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.
For the first 75 years or so, the Concertgebouw Orchestra had a complex list of conductors. The orchestra had conductor positions titled eerste dirigent (first conductor), who assisted the chief conductor with programming, and tweede dirigent (second conductor), who did what he was told, along with the chief conductor.
A few of the first conductors who assisted Mengelberg as chief conductor included included Karl Muck (1921-1925), Pierre Monteux (1924-1934), Bruno Walter (1934-1939), and Eugen Jochum (1941-1943). Those who served as second conductor included the composers Cornelis Dopper, Evert Cornelis and Eduard van Beinum.
Mengelbergs post as chief conductor was taken away from him, and he was then after banned from conducting in 1945, with his increasing involvement with the Nazi occupying forces during the German occupation of the Netherlands in the Second World War.
After an appeal, the initial ban for the rest of his life was reduced to six years, and applied retroactively from 1945. He never conducted an orchestra after 1945 and died just before the end of his sentence in 1951.
Debuting with the orchestra in 1929, Eduard van Beinum took over as principal conductor in 1945 and served through to 1959. He became the second conductor of the orchestra in 1931, and followed as co principal conductor in 1938.
Van Beinums spheres of excellence included the symphonies of Anton Bruckner followed by his commercial recordings with the orchestra of Bruckners Eighth and Ninth Symphonies for the Philips Records. He served as the sole chief conductor after World War II until he died on the Concertgebouw dais from a heart attack which proved fatal in April 1959.
On 7 November 1956, Bernard Haitink made his debut with the Concertgebouw, and became the orchestras first conductor in September 1959 following van Beinums death. Haitink and Eugen Jochum shared the position of chief conductor from 1961 to 1963. Then in 1963, Haitink became sole chief conductor and remained at this post until 1988.
During Haitinks reign as sole chief conductor, the conductor system was made easier so as to have an assistant conductor rather than first and second conductors. Thus, assistant conductors then on include Edo de Waart and Hans Vonk. Under the leadership of Haitink, the profile of recordings of the orchestra increased with many recordings for the Philips Records, EMI and Columbia Records.
The Dutch government, in the early 1980s, threatened the orchestra with reductions in its financial support which could have led to the discharge of 23 musicians from the orchestra. In protest, Haitink threatened to resign from his post. However, the financial crisis was finally resolved. Later Haitink was given the position of Conductor Laureate.
Succeeding Haitink as chief conductor, Riccardo Chailly was elected and he made his debut with the orchestra in 1985. Chailly remained chief conductor from 1988 to 2004 being the first non Dutchman to hold the post.
A complete Mahler symphony cycle, a number of the Bruckner symphonies, shorter works of Shostakovich, the entire Kammermusiken of Paul Hindemith, and the orchestral works of Edgard Var?se are some of the recordings he made with the Orchestra. After his exit in 2004, he was given the title of Conductor emeritus of the KCO.
Mariss Jansons, the conductor from Latvia, made his KCO entrance in 1988 and was elected chief conductor on 22 October 2002. Formally, the further extension of Jansons contract as chief conductor has not been publicized as yet but he is still listed as KCOs chief conductor for the 2007-2008 session.
The orchestra had a strong bond with Gustav Mahler and supported many of his symphonies. The Mahler Festival, 1920 is worthy of note as a great piece of his music. George Szell and Kiril Kondrashin, Permanent Guest Conductor from 1978-1981, also worked in unison with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Nikolaus Harnoncourt was named Honorary Guest Conductor of the KCO in 2000.
Another reason for the noticeable distinctiveness of the Concertgebouw Orchestra is the fact that it has only had six chief conductors, making it different from other orchestras of the same age and talent.
Sometimes described as typically Dutch, the Concertgebouw Orchestra has been able to earn itself a place as one of the top most orchestras in the world, with what has been described as its velvet strings, the golden brass sound and the exceptional timbre of the woodwinds.
Furthering this status as a world renowned orchestra are the nearly one thousand recordings it has made. The orchestra is also one of the opera orchestras for productions at De Nederlandse Opera.
The present executive director of the orchestra is Jan Willem Loot. Loot will retire in November 2008, as planned. Effective from 1 December 2008, the orchestra announced the appointment of Jan Raes as the next executive director for the orchestra.
Some previous artistic directors of the Orchestra were Rudolf Mengelberg, Marius Flothuis (1955-1974), and Peter Ruzicka. Joel Ethan Fried is presently the head of artistic administration for the orchestra. Only just, the KCO has started issuing CDs under its own label, RCO Live which is conducted by Jansons and Haitinik.
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