Jaap Hired by U.S. Orchestra!

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Jaap Hired by U.S. Orchestra!

Post by Ralph » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:52 pm

New director for DSO

Orchestra passes baton to Dutch conductor who energized orchestra as guest

12:50 PM CST on Thursday, February 1, 2007

By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News


A year ago, Jaap van Zweden was just another name on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's guest-conductor schedule, and one of the least known. Thursday, at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the 46-year-old Dutchman will be introduced as the orchestra's new music director – and, by definition, the highest-profile figure on the area classical-music scene.
Michael Mulvey / DMN

Although he has only conducted the DSO in one set of concerts, in February 2006, Mr. van Zweden was an instant hit with both musicians and audiences here. He quickly rose to the top of the list of potential music directors.

"From the very first note he drew from the orchestra, I was jolted," said DSO concertmaster Emanuel Borok, one of four DSO musicians on the 15-member search committee. "I thought, my God, there is some energy here. For the rest of the week, there was a sound coming from the orchestra, from the strings especially, that I was wanting to hear for many years. The sheer volume and the healthy energy that was coming from the orchestra was just overwhelming."

Although Mr. van Zweden said he felt "a fast click" with the DSO, he said one set of concerts wasn't enough to judge the orchestra's longer-term needs.

But it's no secret that tidying up the DSO's violins will be a priority, as well as generally tightening an ensemble that too often played on autopilot for former music director Andrew Litton. And permanent players need to be picked for two key positions, principal oboe and principal trumpet. Above all, Mr. van Zweden must re-energize the orchestra and get the city excited enough to fill conspicuous swaths of empty seats at the Meyerson.

Mr. van Zweden's appointment culminates a hushed search that began three years ago, shortly after Mr. Litton announced he would vacate the job in June 2006. Because of prior commitments, Mr. van Zweden won't take over until the 2008-2009 season. But as music director-designate he'll conduct three weeks of concerts in 2007-2008 and help plan his debut season.

"I'm really happy to go to your country, to work there and give great concerts with this phenomenal orchestra," Mr. van Zweden said in a phone interview.
Also Online

Video: Dallas Symphony Orchestra officials welcomed Jaap van Zweden of Holland at a Thursday news conference.

Although something of a celebrity in his native Netherlands, where he is principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Mr. van Zweden is still establishing himself as a guest conductor with major European orchestras. He began conducting only 13 years ago, as a sideline to a career as a well-known violinist.

He is virtually unknown in the United States, where apart from the DSO he has conducted only the St. Louis Symphony. Even his name, pronounced Yahp vahn ZWEH-dn, doesn't exactly trip off American tongues.

But before taking up conducting he was the youngest-ever concertmaster (first violinist) of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of Europe's most celebrated. He learned conducting, he says, at a 4-foot distance: watching the preeminent practitioners of the art work with the Concertgebouw. He names Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Carlo Maria Giulini, Eugen Jochum and Georg Solti as "really big influences."

His DSO performances proved that he's an outstanding orchestral technician. What players described as demanding but gentlemanly rehearsals yielded performances of striking precision and intensity.
Jaap van Zweden

THE NEWS: The 46-year-old Dutch conductor has been named music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, starting in the 2008-2009 season.

BACKGROUND: Born in 1960 in Amsterdam, educated there and at New York's Juilliard School. Early on an acclaimed violinist, was only 19 when named youngest-ever concertmaster of Amsterdam's Royal Concergebouw Orchestra.

CONDUCTING: Began conducting on the side in 1994, pursued it full-time from 1997. Has conducted the Concertgebouw, London Philharmonic, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic and others and has recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies. Currently principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic.

PLUSES: A decade and a half playing in one of Europe's most celebrated orchestras, observing the world's pre-eminent conductors. DSO performances demonstrated finely honed rehearsal and performance techniques.

MINUSES: Virtually unknown in the U.S., still building his reputation in Europe. And still a work in progress as a musical interpreter.


"You'll see the same faces onstage," The Dallas Morning News reported of his DSO debut. "But something miraculous has happened: The DSO is playing like one of the world's greatest orchestras."

Compelling, charismatic

With a $24.7 million annual budget, the DSO is one of the biggest-ticket arts organizations in North Texas and the biggest classical-music institution, with the widest reach. In addition to an almost year-round schedule of classical, pops and school concerts, the orchestra supplies faculty members for Southern Methodist University and other educational institutions.

Although even artistic decisions are made in concert with the DSO's president, Fred Bronstein, the orchestra's music director is the most public face on the area's classical-music scene.

"He's a wonderful person, very intense, very personable, very charismatic," Dr. Bronstein said of Mr. van Zweden. "He has a wonderful intuition about people. I think that's one of the things that give him a huge advantage with the orchestra.

"I think he will do very well with the orchestra – and with the community. I think people will find him extremely engaging. And his English is wonderful."

Based on his growing reputation in Europe, Mr. van Zweden was booked for a November 2002 guest gig with the DSO, but he had to cancel because of post 9/11 visa delays. Two years later, Dr. Bronstein saw the conductor lead Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in London, with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields, and he rescheduled him.

"It was very compelling and a beautiful performance," Dr Bronstein said. "We were beginning the search, and I thought this was somebody we would want to have. Of course, until somebody is in front of the orchestra you have no idea of the chemistry."

When Mr. van Zweden finally did appear with the DSO, the dark horse became an overnight front-runner. The orchestra's musicians were abuzz from the very first rehearsal.

"Probably 15 seconds after the music started, it was like a lightning bolt," said Dr. Bronstein, who observed a rehearsal from a box seat in the Meyerson. "The orchestra sounded completely different. It was just not a sound I had heard before. That's when I thought, this is something really special."

Paul Phillips, director of orchestral activities at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts and another member of the search committee, was struck by the conductor's rehearsal technique.

"It was almost a textbook example of how to work efficiently and well with a professional orchestra. He didn't waste time. He was very insistent, very demanding, but in a respectful way, a pleasant way that engaged the musicians in the process."

Mr. van Zweden himself praised the DSO's responsiveness.

"If I thought I had to say something, and I didn't, I had the feeling that they understood the way I was thinking about phrasing, about the type of sound we would like to have."

After Mr. van Zweden's DSO debut, members of the search committee, headed by Roger Enrico, chairman of Dreamworks Animation, flew to Copenhagen to observe the conductor in rehearsal and concert with the Danish Radio Symphony. Dr. Bronstein also went to hear him with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, in the Netherlands, and he talked with musicians who had worked with the conductor.

Frequent-flier miles

As with many major conductors today, Mr. van Zweden will rack up frequent-flier miles jetting back and forth across the Atlantic. In addition to the DSO, he'll continue his appointment with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, and he's due to become principal conductor of the Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2008.

His initial DSO contract calls for him to conduct 12 weeks in the 2008-2009 season, and then 15 weeks in each of the next three seasons. His contract with the Dutch orchestra is for between 14 and 17 weeks per season; the Belgian orchestra involves only seven weeks. That will leave little time for the guest conducting that helps conductors spread their reputations.

Asked about Mr. van Zweden's salary, Dr. Bronstein said, "The terms of the agreement are confidential." The DSO's 2004 Internal Revenue Service filing, the most recent available, listed Mr. Litton's annual salary as $577,520.
Also online

DSO says Dutch erred in report about conductor

Help wanted: Superconductor

Dallas Symphony's Litton takes a bow

Guest conductor van Zweden makes quite a showing

Claus Peter Flor, whom many hoped might advance from the DSO's principal guest conductorship to the music director's post, is contracted through the 2007-2008 season. "We've not had any conversations in terms of what happens beyond that," Dr. Bronstein said.

Home base for Mr. van Zweden will remain Amsterdam, but he'll also have a residence in Dallas. He and his wife, artist Aaltje van Zweden-van Buuren, have four children: Anna-Sophie, 21; Daniel, 18; Benjamin, 16; and Alexander, 12.

The experience of raising Benjamin, who is autistic, inspired the couple to establish a foundation that sends music therapists to the homes of autistic children and supports international symposia. Mr. van Zweden has organized and conducted concerts to benefit the foundation, Stichting Papageno, named for the spirited bird catcher in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. Its Web site is www.stichtingpapageno.nl.

"The plan is to have the family as much as I can in Texas," Mr. van Zweden said. "I really want to be a part of the Texas family."

Once the norm, truly resident music directors have become much rarer in today's jet-set world. The Pittsburgh (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra recently hired Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck to lead a mere 10 weeks per season. Mr. van Zweden's 15-week commitment to Dallas is virtually unheard-of these days.

"That's a great statement about his sense of commitment," said Henry Fogel, president and CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League, a national service organization based in New York. "It's certainly at the high end of the range, if not beyond it."


Jaap van Zweden likes Dallas because it reminds him of Amsterdam.

Not that our freeways look anything like the Dutch capital's canals. But when the conductor first heard the Dallas Symphony Orchestra rehearsing in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the rich, warm acoustics of the Dallas hall reminded him of Amsterdam's 119-year-old Concertgebouw, one of the world's most celebrated concert halls.

"With the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the most beautiful instrument is the hall," says the Amsterdam native, who Thursday will be named the next music director of the DSO. "I had immediately almost the same feeling with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. This hall is adding so much to the sound. It is so incredible in America to be able to work in a hall which has almost the same quality."
What others say

"Sometimes with conductors one thinks they're painting pretty pictures in the air, but they're not really involved with the orchestra and the music. You can almost see the tactile sense between him [Jaap van Zweden] as a person and the music that he's making, and the connection he's got, psychologically, with the orchestra. I was very impressed."
–Paul Phillips, director of orchestral activities, Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts and member of the DSO's music director search committee

"In all those years in the Concertgebouw, he never played under a bad conductor. Most of the conductors that worked there were the greatest of our time, and he had a first-hand working relationship with them. And he was a fantastic violinist to begin with. His knowledge of strings, his thirst for a string sound that immediately makes you think of the great European orchestras like Berlin and Amsterdam and Vienna – for me, as a violinist and concertmaster, this is a thrill."
–Emanuel Borok, DSO concertmaster and member of the search committee

"You can see the strength in his conviction, his passion, the tenacity in him as he talks about the music and as he expresses his objectives for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He's not a tall individual; he's fairly stockily built. That strength you see in his shoulders and neck comes through in his professional life as well."
–Blaine Nelson, managing partner, Dallas-Fort Worth Deloitte; chairman of the DSO board of governors

"What was striking about him was his ability to create a really distinctive sound, especially the richness and depth of the string sound. That, coupled with his ability to do things in a way that really lifted the orchestra up – and the reaction of the public. I still get letters and e-mails from people asking me about him. Obviously, no pun intended, he really struck a chord with the audience as well as the orchestra."
–Fred Bronstein, president and CEO, the Dallas Symphony Association


In a phone conversation, Mr. van Zweden shared thoughts on his life, career and hopes for his new relationship with the DSO.

When you came to guest-conduct the DSO in 2006, did you know the orchestra was looking for a new music director?

No, never. It was mentioned not even by Fred [Bronstein, the DSO's president] or by anybody from the orchestra, nor to my management. But during my stay and rehearsals it was clear to me that they were looking.

Had you been thinking about a music directorship in the United States?

It was always on my mind to go back to the United States, because I studied there and loved it so much. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to work with some great orchestras in your country, but not directly that I wanted to have a music directorship.

How did you get started in music?

My father is a pianist, and he was always playing with Gypsy violinists. At the same time, he had a classical background. So he was a teacher and worked with me for many years. I was into the violin from the first day I heard the instrument. I began studying when I was 7.

When did you think you would pursue music as a career?

There was a competition when I was 9 years old in Amsterdam. I tried it and won, and then I started to take it really seriously. From, I would say, my ninth birthday I really saw that that was my future, to be a musician.

How did you become concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw at age 19?

I got my degree from Juilliard, from Dorothy DeLay, in 1980, but I was already playing around with a lot of the orchestras in Europe. I was playing as soloist with the Concertgebouw and Kiril Kondrashin in Mexico City – Paganini Concerto No. 1. The concertmaster had an accident, and they asked me to replace him for a month. I said, 'I can try it.' I had played with the Juilliard orchestra, but not as concertmaster, and I had no orchestral repertoire. I knew my violin concertos and sonatas, but not the Mahler symphonies, things like this.

I started out with [conductor Bernard] Haitink, with Das klagende Lied of Mahler. I loved it from the first minute. It was a huge experience for me. After a month, it was obvious that the concertmaster could not get better, because his arm was heavily disturbed and he could not play again. They asked me to stay.

So here I was, a schoolboy in this great orchestra. It was a great experience, all those fantastic conductors, and at the end some of them were really friends, like [Leonard] Bernstein and [Georg] Solti.

How did you start conducting?

That's quite a story. We were in Berlin, in this concert hall that had been rebuilt, and Lenny was conducting Mahler 1. He said, "I would love to go into the hall and listen a little bit to the orchestra. Jaap, can you conduct the opening?" I said, "I've never conducted in my life." He said, "Yes, you can do it."

So I went up and conducted the opening. I know it was a disaster, but afterward he said to me, "You know, I saw something there. I think you should develop this a little more than you think."

I did a little bit here and there, combining conducting and playing. I would do Vivaldi Four Seasons, then conduct Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence. I started safely, with just strings, but then I started small symphonies. At a certain time I saw that the few orchestras I was working with really liked what I did. They said, "You should really develop more and more."

I took some serious lessons for two seasons with a Dutch conductor who is not conducting anymore. At a certain time I thought, if I really want to get into this, get deeper into the music, I have to stop playing the violin and read. It's so important that it's not just beating time and knowing the notes, but what is behind the notes. I had the experience of all the stories the great conductors told me. Still, I had to sit down with scores and books and biographies of the people I was conducting.

I stopped playing the violin eight years ago. I still have to learn so much music. I cannot combine that with playing the violin. And there are so many great young violinists now. I would be uncomfortable not playing on my own level.

What conductors most influenced you?

First I would say Lenny. Then I would say Haitink. I would also say Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Giulini, Jochum and Solti. These men were really big influences for me. At the Concertgebouw we would do a [Bach] St. Matthew Passion with Harnoncourt in week 24, and in week 25 Lenny would come with Mahler 9 and he would change completely the style of playing. We had to be like a chameleon. I think that's important for all the major orchestras in the world now. We should be able to change all kinds of styles.

What do you think are the strengths of the DSO?

The orchestra responded so fast, and knew so fast the direction I was thinking and feeling. There was a fast click. ... I knew nobody there, but it was a little bit like coming home.

The feeling of the orchestra was that it's not just some people onstage. It's like a musical family. That's a very strong point of this orchestra. And there is great discipline in the orchestra, which I personally like a lot. You can work very quickly when you have a lot of discipline.

If you are conducting and say, "I want this" or " I want that," this is wrong. I always think we should produce this kind of sound, we should go in this direction. We are colleagues. We are not 75 years back. We are in modern times. I was sitting for many years in their chairs. I understand they want to be treated with respect.


The newly named music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has only been conducting orchestras for 11 years. Before that, Jaap van Zweden was an acclaimed violinist, at age 19 named the youngest-ever concertmaster of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Student years: Born in Amsterdam, initially trained at the conservatory there, he continued violin studies at New York's Juilliard School under Dorothy DeLay, teacher of legions of major violinists including Itzhak Perlman.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Mr. van Zweden, 46, will be introduced Thursday as the DSO's new music director.

Making a name: Alongside his Concertgebouw appointment, he concertized and recorded as a solo violinist. "He became something of a celebrity here, via show pages in the Dutch popular press," says Roland de Beer, classical music critic of the Amsterdam newspaper De Volkskrant

Change of direction: Mr. van Zweden began conducting on the side, at first with lower-visibility orchestras in Europe, Ukraine and Argentina. By 1996 he was chief conductor of the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra in Enschede. Then from 2000 to 2005 he was chief conductor of the Residentie Orchestra in the Hague, with which he recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies. He moved to the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in 2005.

"He developed quickly," Mr. de Beer says. "I think he grew into a capable figure, sometimes excellent."

Branching out: As a guest conductor Mr. van Zweden has appeared with the Royal Concertgebouw, City of Birmingham Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, WDR Cologne Symphony and Danish Radio Symphony orchestras and the Orchestra National du Capitole de Toulouse.

In the United States, besides the DSO he has conducted only the St. Louis Symphony.

Although Mr. van Zweden has little operatic experience, he has conducted La traviata and Fidelio with the Nationale Reisopera in the Netherlands and in March will make his Netherlands Opera debut with Madama Butterfly.

The man: "I think he is a somewhat atypical conductor type," Mr. de Beer says. "He is streetwise, acting rather direct and simple, and not afraid to show his teeth. On the other hand, he seems slightly influenced by Buddhist attitudes and other examples of serenity, and he has never been reluctant in telling what he learned from other musicians and conductors."

Scott Cantrell

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:18 pm

I assume these people have it written into their contract that they will be expense-accounted business class flying with suitable additional compensations for the inherent inconvenience of international flying these days under any circumstances. Just having to deal with Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, where you can't get your carry-on luggage and yourself into the men's room at the same time, would deter me from being an international jet-setter conductor if I were in every other respect qualified.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by BWV 1080 » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:19 pm

I for one think it is about time, after all the war has been over for 60+ years now. Time to let bygones be bygones and forget about Pearl Harbor and Bataan. Lets hope this paves the way for other orientals to lead US symphonies.

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Post by piston » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:40 pm

:( :roll: :?: :!:
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by GK » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:43 pm

Ralph continues to fool us with his titles. I thought that Dallas was getting Ozawa. :wink:

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Post by otterhouse » Sat Feb 03, 2007 3:37 am

A couple of years ago, Jaap van Zweden won 30.000 Euro in a casino in
He was kidnapped after he came out of the casino, together with his
Manager (or something). At a traffic light, they escaped (and the
missed him!!). In Eindhoven of all places!

(lp->mp3 hobby page)

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Feb 03, 2007 4:10 am

piston wrote::( :roll: :?: :!:
It's ok, Steve, I got it. :) Similar thoughts crossed my mind every time I heard the name of the head of the military in North Vietnam (General Giap for those too young to remember).

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Feb 03, 2007 4:14 am

otterhouse wrote:A couple of years ago, Jaap van Zweden won 30.000 Euro in a casino in
He was kidnapped after he came out of the casino, together with his
Manager (or something). At a traffic light, they escaped (and the
missed him!!). In Eindhoven of all places!

(lp->mp3 hobby page)
:shock: This could never happen in New York City: There are no casinos there. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Posts: 263
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2005 4:37 am

Post by otterhouse » Sat Feb 03, 2007 9:01 am

For all of you, who want to hear Jaap van Zweden conduct; here is a link to a Avro radio recording of Schumann's Rose Pilgerfahrt:
http://download.omroep.nl/avro/podcast/ ... oncert.mp3

What do you think of this performance?



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