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Dutch Conductor Jaap Van Zweden - How will He Fare as the Next Music Director Of The New York Philharmonic ?

  A few months ago , the highly respected Dutch conductor Jaap Van Zweden (Yaap Fan Zvay-den ) 55, was appointed to be the next music director of the New York Philharmonic , where he will succeed  the American Alan Gilbert in 2018 .  Van Zweden is currently music director of the excellent Dallas symphony orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic , and has been making quite a name for himself with leading orchestras of Europe and  America as a guest conductor ; he has appeared with considerable success with the New York Philharmonic several times and was one of several eminent conductors under consideration to succeed Gilbert when he steps down .  
   One of them was the distinguished Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is currently the orchestra's composer in residence, but he declined the job because he wants to have enough time to concentrate on composing as well as
conducting .  The orchestra's home in Lincoln Center, David Geffen hall, formerly Avery Fisher hall , will be closed for some time beginning in 2019 for extensive renovation in the hopes of improving its acoustics, long considered problematical ,  and the
orchestra's management is seeking a temporary venue or venues for the transition period .  
   Van Zweden began as a highly gifted violinist and had studied in his native Netherlands and at the Juilliard school , which is located right next to Geffen hall . At the age of 19 he became the youngest concertmaster in the history of the renowned  Royal Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam , one of the world's foremost orchestras , playing  under many of the world's most renowned conductors .  Among these was the legendary Leonard Bernstein , who asked him to conduct the orchestra at a rehearsal one day so he could check the orchestra's playing from the auditorium ( conductors often do this at rehearsals to check the balance between the various sections of the orchestra to achieve clarity and transparency of sound etc ) .  Van Zweden was taken aback as he had no conducting experience, but Bernstein  sensed that he had potential to be a conductor , and the rest as they say, is history .
    So Van Zweden gave up his career as a violinist and  began to achieve success as a conductor , eventually becoming chief conductor of the Netherland Radio orchestra in Amsterdam and  was appointed music director of the Dallas symphony ,  a fine orchestra which has had such well known conductors as the Mexican Eduardo Mata and the American Andrew Litton and others as music directors and made recordings for various record labels such as EMI , RCA and others .  Van Zeden has also made recordings of the complete Beethoven and Brahms symphonies among other works in Amsterdam  .
   According to reports , the orchestra has reached world class quality under Van Zweden , known to be a very demanding and meticulous conductor , and the orchestra has released a number of recordings on its own label, including Mahler symphonies .  Van Zweden has also been conducting concert performances of  Wagner operas , and he is currently working on a cycle of Wagner's monumental Ring of the Nibelung  with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, which has also been conducted by many eminent conductors including his older Dutch countryman Edo De Waart .  Naxos records is recording these live performances, and the first part of the four part cycle, Das Rheingold, has already been released .
    But now Van Zweden has  taken on one of the most prestigious , difficult and demanding jobs in classical music - leadership of the New York Philharmonic , a position which subjects a conductor to  merciless criticism form all corners of the musical press .Eminent conductors such as Bernstein , Dimitri Mitropoulos, Sir John Barbirolli , Zubin Metha and others have received  relentless flack  from music critics in New York over the years and have been taken to task both for the repertoire they programmed and the way they have inbtepreted a wide variety of orchestral repertoire . This is no job for the faint of heart .  
   Current music director Alan Gilbert is a staunch champion of  new or recent music by a wide variety of  contemporary composers , and some critics , such as Anthony Tommasini , chief music critic of the New York Times , are concerned about whether the new man will do enough  contemporary music .  In fact, Van Zweden is no stranger to contemporary music , but the  question is will he do enough , and which composers will he champion ?  Only time will tell, but Tommasini is keeping an open mind and  has stated that  Van Sweden deserves a chance to show what he can do on the job .  This is a job where you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't when it comes to programming ; many critics will blast you for not doing enough, or the kind of works they hope to hear , and unfortunately , too many New York Philharmonic subscribers have very conservative tastes and are reluctant to hear new works . 
   From all reports, the members of the New York Philharmonic respect and admire the man who will be their next chief and are delighted to have him ; he would  never have been chosen without their approval .  Only time will tell how the combination of Van Sweden and  the New York Philharmonic turns out . But the signs are positive , and good luck to him . He will certainly need it !

Posted: May 02 2016, 11:07 PM by the horn | with no comments
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