Dutch go crazy for Jaap van Z

Dutch go crazy for Jaap van Z


norman lebrecht

January 10, 2020

Our correspondent at the Concertgebouw says the audience gave Jaap Van Zweden a standing ovation before his concert last night.

‘His name is being sung around as the next chief conductor in Amsterdam. The audience clapped their hands raw. And that was before the concert even started’ says one report.

‘Van Zweden is for many Gatti’s dream successor,’ said another.

It was practically a coronation.




  • Paul Wells says:

    If he left New York for Amsterdam, maybe both sides would see it as a win.

  • So let’s go with him!

  • Frank says:

    The first review says, more or less: “His name is mentioned as the new conductor in chief.”
    It all depends WHO is saying that. If it’s people in the hall, it’s basically meaningless.
    The orchestra decides about the next Conductor in chief; not the audience, nor the music critics.
    The veteran music critic of the Parool daily, mentioned in his review of this Sacre, that he did not see any smiling faces in the orchestra as the audience was applauding Van Zweden and the orchestra.
    There’s no love. The Concertgebouw regards Van Zweden as an upstart (in the Eighties he used to be a kid from the hood who just happened to sit in the concertmaster chair), and they see him as a tough taskmaster who can make an iffy orchestra get better, like Hong Kong. The Concertgebouw doesn’t need to get better, is their thinking.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I would not have taken the standing ovation after the concert seriously, as without exception everyone gets it in Amsterdam. Before the concert is a different matter. They may as well offer the job to him.

  • Sir Ed says:

    I attended the concert on wednesday. Jaap surely got a warm welcome, not a standing ovation nor clapped the audience “their hands raw” before the concert. He got a huge standing ovation afterwards. With good reason: this Sacre was phenomenal. Reverse side: barely any signs of enthousiasm from within the orchestra…

  • WiseGuy says:

    He is absolutely incredible. He should be the next RCO chief.

  • Marcello says:

    It is a Dutch habit in concert halls to give always (literally always) a standing ovation, and therefore not a relevant fact.

  • anon says:

    Sorry, Fake News. I was there in Amsterdam, and the standing ovation was only partial and it came after the Rite of Spring (as would be expected), and definitely not before. (Will send Norman proof that I was there …)
    Oh, and btw, the concert was quite alright, but a few significant problems such as the bassoon playing the first note of Le sacre too weakly, and then re-starting. It looks like they were making a recording of the concert, and that will get edited out.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    There is a good reason for that.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    He should be their director. Hardly any conductor ends up with the right orchestra, and JvZ and the NYP are going to kill each other. But the Concertgebouw’s former concertmaster is the right musician to retrieve and keep their sound. The NYP can have Jaap serve out his five years and then put in a call to Mirga, if she’ll even take it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      With all due respect, but this is a crazy comment.

      • Evan Tucker says:

        With all due respect, I’ve been insulted by John Bortslap. I feel like I’ve truly been initiated into this website…

        • John Borstlap says:

          Welcome! And do some preparational reading, ear cleansing, and have a PA who restrains you from embarrassing revelations.

      • Axl says:

        This blog is not the place where people can say “crazy comment” etc. If someone have an own opinion or idea for example how this thing x should be go – he/she can say/write it.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Evan writes: “The NYP can have Jaap serve out his five years and then put in a call to Mirga, if she’ll even take it.”

      That will almost certainly be too early for Mirga. She is right at the beginning of her career, in her first job. The best is to give her time to develop into the top-top conductor we hope she will become.

  • Louise says:

    Dutch concert audiances give everybody a standing ovation. It’s a habit.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There are always two groups standing-up after a concert: 1) the people who want to show that they have REALLY understood the music, and 2) the people who are immensily greatful that the music finally stopped so that they can get home.

  • fflambeau says:

    Nationalism over culture.

  • anon says:

    Having spoken with some friends in that orchestra, it sounds very unlikely that they would have him. They’re looking for something else.

  • fflambeau says:

    I think a better choice for the Conzertgebouw would be Alan Gilbert (if he wants to leave Germany). More innovative. I remain unimpressed with van Z.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      You must be aurally challenged.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Gilbert is for the unmusical people who are bored by anything pre-1945 and who need affirmation that they are up-to-date by sound art reflecting what they hear in daily life.

      • John says:

        You really don’t want ANYONE to perform your music, do you?

        • John Borstlap says:

          Certainly not people like Gilbert. With music which does not require a musically- and psychologically-sensitive inner life, such conductors are OK, maybe even brilliant. But with something like a Brahms symphony, conductors like Gilbert have just no affinity and they merely conduct the sound of the music.

  • I can only think of the positives.

  • Simon says:

    I was at the final concert yesterday (with Simone Lamsma performing the Britten Violin concerto instead of the Mengelberg Mahler 10), very good concert indeed. My only concern with Jaap as chief of the Concertgebouw is that he seems to have a narrow range, seemingly consisting of “aggressive/bombastic” music (Rite of Spring, Bruckner, Wagner).

  • sam says:

    Jay-Z can be the second conductor in history, after Mengelberg, to hold the music directorship of the NY Phil and the Concertgebouw at the same time.

    From Amsterdam to New Amsterdam.

  • Mike says:

    Of course they did. The Dutch are traditionally nationalistic.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Unfortunately the opposite is true. They suffer from a form of anti-chauvinism: a Dutch artist can never be really great. And if he is, the reaction is: who does he think he is? Therefore, gifted Dutch artists go abroad to make a career, and if/when they come back famous, they are hailed like the messias because THEN they contribute to national cultural identity. JvZw had a lot of headwind at the beginning of his conducting career, which was in Holland, and he could only spread his wings when he got to Dallas. It is a provincial country with a conformist, provincial, smallminded mentality.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        The pattern you are describing is quite common among many other countries too. Franz Welser-Möst may be a current case in point in Austria.

        In this light, my question is how did Mengelberg and Haitink take over the Concertgebouw in the early 30s? Was it due to different times?

        • John Borstlap says:

          Mengelberg led the orchestra from 1895 till 1944. Haitink from 1961 till 1988. These were indeed different times.

          In Mengelberg’s time, the conductor had total control over the orchestra in all respects, he was the ‘dictator’; with Haitink the relationship was very different, he collaborated with the players as became costum over the last 50 years in the profession. Mengelberg had a German background, Haitink was very Dutch and in the beginning of his period at the CO he had a lot of trouble, in spite of his discrete and gentle way of working – ‘who does he think he is?’ After he got famous abroad, it went better.

      • Tamino says:

        That pattern is quite common for small nations, particularly ones that once had a glorious imperial past, but today are only a small entity anymore. Netherlands, Denmark, Austria come to mind.

  • Kelvin Grout says:

    That would be a huge mistake! By the way Dutch audiences stand always at the end of concerts, no matter what the quality was, so it’s not such a big step to stand before as well.

  • Loge says:

    Unfortunately this doesn’t say much; at the Concertgebouw the audience always gives a standing ovation. I read a review in a Dutch newspaper (Het Parool) that said the musicians didn’t seem to like Van Zweden much. I wouldn’t be surprised about that, because I don’t think they would appreciate his somewhat ‘authoritive’ manner. Unfortunately…..

    • John Borstlap says:

      In Dutch group think, the worst sin one can commit is to give the impression that one knows more, can do more, has some capacity which escapes the others, which is considered unfair. Instinctively, the group will try to ‘make small’ the one who sticks-out. It is a remnant of collective psychology of history when the country was a calvinist one.

  • Larry W says:

    Leave New York and go to Amsterdam. Everyone’s happy.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    I am sure the Dutch will go crazy if the Concertgebouw Orch bring in Zaap – but not for a good reason.

  • ML says:

    I hope Chicago can get him or Bychkov after Muti’s term.

  • LewesBird says:

    Several people commented correctly on how the Dutch will give a standing ovation to absolutely anything at all, always, ever, right away, for the whole duration of the applause.

    They called it a “custom”, a “habit”, “quirky”. I suppose it’s all of these things *stricto sensu*, but really nothing of the sort. The Dutch, or a majority of them, are just philistine about music, but very astute about being seen to “behave properly”. So that’s why they do that. They’re just showing off.

    Of course, not everyone is like that. There are exceptions. But they have to follow, too — because once the morons in the expensive seats in the front are up, everyone else has to follow — or they won’t be able to see a thing.