Breaking: Jaap wins Concertgebouw prize

Breaking: Jaap wins Concertgebouw prize


norman lebrecht

October 17, 2019

In a strong indication of where Amsterdam is looking for its next conductor, Jaap Van Zweden has just been awarded the annual Concertgebouw Prize.

Citation: ‘Jaap van Zweden has been intimately associated with the Concertgebouw from an early age. As an Amsterdam child he performed several times, won the Oskar Back Competition there in 1977, was concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from the age of 19 and later performed as a conductor with various orchestras. As chief conductor of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, he gave many unforgettable performances. The concertante Wagner operas are dear to many music lovers. Van Zweden is now one of the most celebrated conductors of his generation internationally.’

Van Zweden, 58, is music director of the New York Philharmonic and in Hong Kong.#



  • Isendoorn says:

    The Concertgebouw had nothing to do with the Concertgebouw orchestra; two completely separate organisations. This has been mentioned here countless times but it still seems to be hard to imagine. So no, this award is not an indication of the direction the orchestra is looking.

    • Rgiarola says:

      I would also include that he was already too many duties in short or even mid-term.
      Past MDs didn’t have so few time to share in places so far away. It would be a setback, in this specific point

  • Michael Turner says:

    Accepting other correspondents noting of the lack of linkage between the prize and the orchestra, I look in on folk like Van Zweden and the ensembles that they are directors of and wonder whether we’d all have a more interesting life if conductors lead fewer orchestras. While, in the past (60 + years ago and before), some conductors held multiple posts, many didn’t. This meant that we weren’t hearing “conductor X’s” Eroica (for example) in Munich, Chicago, Hong Kong and Sydney. It’d surely be better to have a wider range of personalities out there. I know that orchestras need to look at the marketing draw that their MDs provide, there are many ensembles out there who have garnered the talents of less-well-known folk and provided their concertgoers with musical personalities hat they have come to love.

    As a Brummy, I look to Simon Rattle and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as good examples of people who have not just kept hoovering-up multiple MD posts, like they were going out of fashion.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      More than any other current top conductor, Christian Thielemann has a very focused career. He’s always had one “full-time” commitment at a time. Since 2000 it’s Bayreuth in the summer, to the exclusion of other appearances. He concentrates on music he’s good at, though his repertoire is not as narrow as many of his critics claim. He is the polar opposite of the jet-setting, jack-of-all trades conductor. That deserves to be celebrated, even by those who don’t relate to Thielemann’s interpretations.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Some years ago there was on YouTube a very good performance of Debussy’s Jeux conducted by Thielemann, music at the extreme end on the scale where CT, at the opposite end, happens to be famous for his heavy German repertoire. Jeux is complex, light, flashing, colourful, and he brought it off brilliantly. Unfortunately, the video has been removed. So, he can do that also.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Well said Petros. Thielemann deserves a lot of credit for this.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    I’m all in favour of anything which makes it more likely that Jaap! leaves the NYPO sooner rather than later.

    • John Borstlap says:

      ???? According to many flies on the wall, he has taken the orchestra out of a valley of worries and will continue to do so in the coming years when the orchestra faces refurnishing of the hall.

      • Edgar says:

        “refurnishing of the hall” – it certainly needs refurnishing. My proposal is to gut the building in which it sits, and build a new one inside. Or remove the building entirely and replace it with a modern 21st century structure with a hall that at last will afford the NYPhil with the acoustics they never got in the present obnoxious and soulless barn (which, in its original design, would have looked more like the classical, time-honored shoe box with great acoustics, but was made wider at the insistence of those who thought only dollars would make good music. They lost both music and dollars as the result).

        In sum: simply refurnishing the hall won’t be enough.

        • John Kelly says:

          You are quite right but there isn’t the money to do it (though there should be). I agree with you that the hall is absolutely unsalvageable. I chatted some years ago with Glenn Dicterow about the acoustics and believe me, the players know how much better they sound on the rare occasions they play at Carnegie………….

          • NYMike says:

            The problem with completely rebuilding the hall is putting the Phil on the street for more than 2 years thereby losing its subscription base. When Borda became CEO, she scotched those very plans.

        • Vaquero357 says:

          I remember reading once that the buildings in Lincoln Center were constructed rather cheaply and weren’t meant to last more than 30 or 40 years. The goal was quick urban renewal – get rid of the old Skid Row and figure out what to do with the land, permanently, a few decades down the line.

          So if nobody has a sentimental attachment to Symphony H…… er Avery Fisher H….. er David Geffen Hall, except for the wealthy people who donated a lot of money to build/rebuild it, maybe demolition & start over IS the best solution?

          • John Borstlap says:

            Indeed many modernist buildings are built for some 40 years, exactly what the architect Leon Krier says about modernism. Older architecture however, was built for ages, and they still stand and can be used indefinitely, for different purposes.

        • Solent says:

          Why is Avery Fisher hall so bad when the exact same designed hall in Minneaplis is so good?

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Are you sure the two buldings are “exact same”?
            I just took a quick look at their respective Wikipedia entries and noticed different capacities and architects.

        • Amos says:

          Although not politically correct the last time they tried to tweak the hall, shortly after the 1962 opening, George Szell commented that the effort was akin to removing a wart from a badly disfigured individual. As I recall he indicated the hall was an insult to music. Fortunately he leant his name to Issac Stern’s successful effort to save Carnegie Hall from demolition.

    • Patrick Gillot says:

      Make sure of what you wish as conductors are not particularly queuing up to be the NYPO conductors these days…. Jaap has done very well for his first season.

  • V.Lind says:

    He’s having a good week.

    I remember when it was conducted by Yip WIng-sie, who was utterly inspirational. Best outreach programmes I have seen. Hope JVZ is keeping that up. Sounds like he is sensitive to HK.

    • John Borstlap says:

      He is dedicated to the HK Phil, and did not want to drop it when he was appointed in NY. It is a beautiful orchestra, with international players.

    • Nick2 says:

      Yip Wing-sie has just stood down as Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta where she has been in charge almost from its beginnings. She and her orchestra have done fabulous outreach work. Merely asking – might you be confusing the two orchestras?

      • John Borstlap says:

        The director of the HK Phil has stepped down as well. The new man is a German, Benedikt Fohr. (The protests in HK are not about these changes but about something very different.)

  • Anno says:

    It’s a sad situation that such a Task Manager/Drill Sargent is leading NY Phil.

  • DRuddle says:

    … and one if the most overrated conductors active today.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Why do deaf people go to concerts? There are museums.

      • FrauGeigerin says:

        I honestly agree that he is not the conductor with the clearest technique and very often he has to resort to verbal instructions for things that he could just show if he had a better hand. Sometimes he is not the most pleasant man (although never rude), but he is one of the few conductors out there who really understands the orchestra, how it works, he is perceptive of the orchestras mood and energy, never stops unless there is something important and explains why he stopped, knows how to rehearse… that is sadly more rare than one would expect.

  • Joop says:

    I agree with Isendorn. The concert hall and the orchestra are entirely separate entities.
    Additionally, and most importantly, the orchestra despises him.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A silly lie. The orchestra choose him after a number of very successful guest appearances, and he is a breath of fresh, musical air after the Gilbert period with much superficial modern music and weak classics.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Sorry about that…… I thought the comment was referring to the NY Phil. The thought that the Concertgebouw Orchestra would ‘despise’ JvZw is ill-informed: he has recently worked with the orchestra in brilliant concerts and in excellent rehearsel climate. Mostly due to the fact that there are many new players in the orchestra, so any remnants of past problems have disappeared.

    • Patrick Gillot says:

      Ah yes they despise him mmm… Remember Chailly told them off and then Jansons. They got into trouble with Haitink who chose the Radio Orchestra and Vienna for his final concerts. Then they stupidly hired Gatti before they stupidly fired him. They have been looking for two years for somebody they dont despise and the quality of this orchestra is dropping in the meantime.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed…. there you are. Much of these problems were due to its management and not to the players. The staff is a lousy bunch with a provincial mind set. It is like a peasant used to his tractor trying to drive a Bentley.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    No doubt Jaap! is a good choice of MD if you have a good regional orchestra that’s got a little complacent and you want to bring it up to snuff…but this is the NYPO.

    In the past couple of seasons I heard the NYPO under Jaap!, Bychkov, Esa-Pekka S, and Eschenbach. Jaap! was clearly inferior – and you cannot blame orchestral fatigue. I heard a lamentable concert with Yuja Wang in Brahms 1, where despite her best efforts there was simply no connection between Jaap! and her, and a meticulously played and really dull performance of Prokofiev 5. (When I got home I put the Jarvi performance on my stereo to remind myself what it should sound like.)

    I would have loved it if Bychkov had chosen/been offered (unsure) NYPO over the Czechs. I can’t say I miss Gilbert, though.