Jaap van Zweden
He is the great conductor that the Netherlands was waiting for, in the line of an Eduard van Beinum, a Willem van Otterloo or a Bernard Haitink. Nominated as the musical director of the New York Philharmonic, where he will take the reins in 2018, this workaholic force of nature has risen in just ten years to be one of the greatest modern conductors. Jaap van Zweden worked fast: at just 19 years old, he was the youngest solo violinist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra which perhaps he will conduct one day - certainly we hope that he does. From 1979 to 1995 he got a front-row seat, as a main player, and as an observer of all the conductors who came and performed, concert after concert, at the head of this famous phalanx which is a part of that tightly-closed circle of the world’s greatest orchestras. Well-liked in his homeland, he is adored in the US, where he was named "conductor of the year" by Musical America (the oldest classical music magazine in the states) in 2012, in recognition of his critically-acclaimed work as musical director of the Dallas Symphonic, and as the visiting conductor at some of America's most prestigious orchestras.
Van Zweden's art is possessed with an uncommon conviction, and it expresses it with flamboyant force, and a sunny energy shot through with a warm lyricism. He loves to direct great cycles of later romanticism: Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, not forgetting Mozart and Beethoven. Hailed unanimously by enthusiastic audiences, these concerts have been very quickly followed up by recordings which now constitute a vast discography which is utterly thrilling and very high-level. The power of his performances remains irresistible to audiences the world over.
Recently named as director of the Gstaad Festival Orchestra in Switzerland, he is going to assemble a team of around 15 young conductors, following the work already done by Neeme Jäarvi over three seasons. In 1997, Jaap van Zweden and his wife Aaltje set up the Papageno Foundation, which aims to support the families of autistic children. Over the years, the Foundation's work has seen the creation of several programmes in which professional musical therapists and musicians receive additional training in using music as a major tool to work with autistic children. Papageno House, a new house for autistic children and young adults, was opened in Laren, in the Netherlands, in August 2015, with the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Maxima.
Jaap van Zweden's high-quality discography covers the complete symphonies of Beethoven and Bruckner, Mahler, Tchaïkovsky, Shostakovitch, alongside Stravinsky as well as lesser-known composers like Verbey or Wallin. His love of orchestra and the Germanic repertoire have made him an excellent performer of Wagner, whose Meistersinger, Lohengrin and Parsifal he has recorded. A complete recording of the Ring, with his Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, is set to come out on NAXOS.
Before becoming the great international conductor who is applauded today, this consummate musician, curious to a fault, recorded several albums as a violinist. At ease in all styles, van Zweden offers up Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Samuel Barber's Concerto via The Art of the Violin by Locatelli and concert pieces by Shostakovitch or Rihm.
François Hudry/QOBUZ/November 2017
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