The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in Dutch) is the best known and most respected orchestra in the Netherlands, and is generally considered to be among the world's finest. It is named after the Concertgebouw (Dutch for "concert hall") in Amsterdam in which it gives its concerts. Its "Royal" title was conferred upon it in 1989 by Queen Beatrix.
The Concertgebouw opened on April 11, 1888. The Concertgebouw Orchestra, however, was not founded until a little later. It gave its first concert in the Concertgebouw on November 3, 1888 under the principal conductor for its first seven years, Willem Kes.
In 1895, Willem Mengelberg became its chief conductor, remaining with the organization for fifty years, a uniquely long tenure for any music director. He is generally regarded as having brought the orchestra to a level of major international significance. From 1945 to 1959, the orchestra's principal conductor was Eduard van Beinum. After he suddenly passed away, Bernard Haitink and Eugen Jochum took over, with Haitink becoming sole principal conductor until 1988.
Riccardo Chailly was the principal conductor of the orchestra from 1988 to 2004 and the first non-Dutchman to hold the post. In 2004, he was succeeded by Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons.
Uniquely among orchestras of this caliber and age, the Concertgebouw Orchestra has had only six music directors, which has been yet another factor in creating the orchestra's distinct character. With its ‘velvet’ strings, the ‘golden’ brass sound and the exceptional timbre of the woodwinds, sometimes described as ‘typically Dutch’, the Concertgebouw Orchestra has won itself a place amongst the small, select group of top world orchestras. The nearly one thousand recordings that the orchestra has to its credit have also contributed to this reputation.
- Home page of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (http://www.concertgebouworkest.nl/uk/index.html)
- Home page of the Concertgebouw (http://www.concertgebouw.nl/ce_main.htm)