Jaap van Zweden: I’ll promote new Dutch music in New York

Jaap van Zweden: I’ll promote new Dutch music in New York


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2016

Thrilling news for residents of New Amsterdam York.

The incoming conductor of the New York Philharmonic has pledged to promote contemporary Dutch music with the orchestra.

Van Zweden was presented as Ambassador for New Dutch music at the Classical Next meeting in Rotterdam.

He said: ‘Met mijn benoeming als chef-dirigent van de New York Philharmonic is het een grote wens van mij om Nederlandse eigentijdse muziek nog nadrukkelijker te presenteren. Ik hou van nieuwe muziek. Dat draag ik graag uit. Ook daarom vind ik dit ambassadeurschap ontzettend eervol. Nederlandse muziek van de 20e en 21e eeuw verdient een plek in het repertoire van orkesten, ensembles en festivals. Ik wil er serieus werk van maken. In New York, maar ook met de andere prachtige orkesten waarmee ik het geweldige werk van nieuwe Nederlandse componisten onder de aandacht kan brengen.’

Or: ‘With my appointment as chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic it is a big wish of mine even more to emphatically present Dutch contemporary music. I like new music. … Dutch music of the 20th and 21st centuries deserves a place in the repertoire of orchestras, ensembles and festivals. I will take it seriously. In New York, but also with other great orchestras with which I can bring the great work of new Dutch composers in the spotlight.’

van zweeden1


  • Brian says:

    Interesting. The scuttlebutt on his hiring was that the Philharmonic wanted to change course after the Gilbert era, which put (too much?) emphasis on European modernist composers. VanBiesen and the board wanted to focus back on a more populist agenda. Of course, maybe Van Zweden is really talking about one 10-minute piece a year, not a major Dutch music festival…

    • John Borstlap says:

      In contrast to popupar belief, the classical repertoire is NOT populist music. Also, there are lots of 20C works which are NOT modernist. Even more surprisingly, there exist works by composers of Dutch descendence, which are NOT modernist / atonal / sonic art / Louis Andriessen. So, ‘Dutch contemporary music’ can mean many different things. Maybe the New Yorkers are in for some surprises.

  • Stuntman Milka says:

    Together with his delightful personality, this will surely be a treat.

  • Anne says:

    what about all the wonderful composers in NYC???

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Here in Dallas, the contemporary works we got with JvZ were pretty grim.

    My strongest memory is the most painful one, a work for violin-cello-piano and orchestra that seemed to go nowhere over three movements and 30 minutes.

  • John Kelly says:

    This news should go down especially well with the NYPO subscribers, at least 50 of whom got up and barged out after about 10 minutes of the Miraculous Mandarin. And that was a count of people sitting in front of me, I didn’t look behind. I didn’t dare.

    • Bruce says:

      In my [much smaller, hopefully more provincial] city, when we played the Rite of Spring, a friend of mine told me that the old ladies seated behind her were grumbling “if they keep programming this modern garbage, I’m going to cancel my subscription.”

      In fairness, the piece was only about 95 years old then…

      • John Borstlap says:

        It’s a master piece, but not everybody’s taste and rightfully so. I love it, apart from the Danse Sacrale with the silly ending. Debussy was very impressed but called it ‘Une musique nègre’, and ‘primitive but with all the modern assessories’. Much of it is on the edge of what still can be music, and this tension is one of its great attractions… the context is musical, but including lots of stuff that wants to bump out.

    • Cyril Blair says:

      What is the point of living in New York and attending music concerts if mentally and emotionally you are just Betty from Olathe?

      • John Borstlap says:

        The apparantly ‘conservative’ taste of classical audiences, or: the NY Phil’s audience, is probably an emotional compensation for the city’s image of a progressive, modernist, cutting-edge metropole. One would think people would flock to performances of Boulez and expecially, Xenakis and the like, but no.

        In NY, a general problem of orchestras is more prominent than in other cities:


  • harold braun says:

    So what’s the outcome here?Only that Mr.van Zweden can’t do anything right for anybody here.At least he is good enough for giving Mr.Leberecht and some commentators here some opportunity for live out their cynicism,foul mouthing and frustration.No matter what the Dutchman would propose,he’d get slammed here,contemporary, Dutch,no contemporary music at all, Beethoven cycle,complete works of Varese,wouldn’t matter…. He has the bad luck of not being a hip swaying lady conductor,who gets a great coverage here for dropping a fork at home…
    What biased,preposterous nonsense..

    • John Borstlap says:

      Forunately a majority of musical listeners and orchestral programmers understand the qualities JvZw delivers….. and fortunately they entirely ignore the spite and ad hominam attacks which always accompany independently thinking and high-achieving musicians.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I agree that Jaap van Zweden gets regularly bashed by Norman Lebrecht. The responses are mixed and include positive or very positive remarks.

  • Karl F. Miller says:

    So what about American Music? I have had enough of Lindberg and Salonen. So now what will it be, de Vries, Louis Andriessen, et al? No doubt we will have some American, a Gershwin, Bernstein or Copland…what a bore!!! Why can’t one of America’s finest orchestras play some American Music?

  • Peter says:

    “Nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
    Nationalism in music is for the smallest of the small minds only.

    • Emil Archambault says:

      Such as Smetana, Bartok, Chopin, Dvorak, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Wagner…

    • John Borstlap says:

      Which counts for performance mainly. For composers, national folklore was often a source of inspiration, and mostly not small-minded because they could understand and appreciate composers in other countries doing the same Ravel, Stravinksy, Szymanowski). But some composers indeed cultivated nationalistic narrowness in spite of their achievements (Debussy, Wagner), and that is not to their credit.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Nobody is playing American 20th c music anymore. Why?

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Curious–are there any piano concerti composed by Dutch composers in the last 25 years?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Hans Kox wrote one, just a couple of years ago. I did not hear it as yet, but it was a success with audiences. Also there is a piano concerto by Tristan Keuris:


      • Dominy Clements says:

        Mine was finalist in the Edvard Grieg composition competition many years ago but has sat on file ever since. Any takers? Cracking cadenza…

        • Jeffrey Biegel says:

          Sounds interesting! Is it available on YouTube to watch? And you might let the Maestro know about it if he is serious about bringing Dutch compositions to NY.

        • Jeffrey Biegel says:

          Interesting! Are there performances on YouTube to watch and listen? You might let the Maestro know about it, if he serious about bringing Dutch works to NY.

          • Dominy Clements says:

            Alas, no recording of this piece is available – just a big pile of paper. It was the same competition Helge Evju’s concerto was entered for (Grand Piano label GP689). 1st prize was a performance, but no win no nothing (I think mine made the last 4).

    • Dirk Fischer says:

      Erik Lotichius wrote two wonderful piano concerti, both of which were recorded – no.1 by Sandro Ivo Bartoli and no.2 by Eliane Rodrigues.

  • herrera says:

    Bad contemporary music is ruining it for good contemporary music.

    Alas, we have lost all standards of “good” or “bad” and in lieu of quality, we use other measures like “new” or “nationality”.

    Riccardo Muti has a point, how many contemporary pieces have been played just once, all in the name of “see, we do play the latest work” or “see, we play diverse nationalities”, and then disappear from the repertory?

    The favored argument that “you have to keep playing new things, because you never know which one of them will turn out to be a classic in 100 years”, means basically, orchestras are playing the lottery: you could have a winner in your hands, and in a century, you get bragging rights, like “our orchestra played the world premier of this piece”, but too bad for our audience back then who had to suffer through 99 bad pieces just to hear 1 good one.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A lot of thuth here. But how could you otherwise know what is ‘a good piece’? And when the context of a musical tradition (the ‘value framework) erodes, there are no longer any norms either – the irritant that causes a negative reaction may be the very aspect that makes it a good piece in an entirely different value framework. And this framework is a flexible one as well, changing over time.

      The politeness with which conductors and soloists and chamber groups stick-out their neck for a modern piece has to be admired though, it is not their fault that they have no context with which to sense artistic quality. The only compass they have, is their musical instinct, but how many performers dare to steer on that vague quality?

      It seems to me that it all comes down on personality. If a composer has something musical to say, and he uses a musical language which is compatible with an average performance culture, and the piece in question is played well (but what is ‘well’?), something must come across.

      The greatest barrier is the means composers use: if they don’t find a receptive ear, there is no communication. Let alone it it is their ideal to not communicate at all but present the audience with an ‘aural object’ and nothing more (like Ligeti who said: ‘I don’t write for the audience, and not for myself, it is a thing in itself unrelated to its environment’).

  • Sandro Ivo Bartoli says:

    Erik Lotichius’ first Piano Concerto is a good piece! I bet it would be appreciated in America: while learning the Concerto, Erik told me that one of his inspirations was Bix Beiderbecke, and there’s no denying a certain jazzy feel to the work. I don’t know whether it is available in print, but if anyone is interested I can share my copy of it.

  • anne karraj says:

    In the seventies, NYPhil had Boulez as music director, but that had a certain additional “goal”: the subscribers were quite old and one could even inherit subscriptions from parents, uncles or grandfathers… Boulez put a lot of Mahler on the program and after 2-3 seasons, the overall subscribers were 40 years younger. I know, I lived there !