For the Royal Concertgebouworkest, the 2021–22 season is all about collaboration, ambition and daring. The orchestra has just set out its complete concert season in a brightly coloured brochure.
‘Our outlook on the future is one of optimism,’ says the orchestra’s new management team in their introductory message. Confidence in being able to realise its artistic plans is also evident from the fact that the orchestra offers subscription series just like in previous years, available from 11 May.
Major programming highlights include a new collaboration with creative partner Pierre Audi, intensified collaborations with a number of renowned conductors, concerts with artist in residence Yefim Bronfman, a series of very diverse concerts centring on the theme Made in America, a tribute to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and a large selection of contemporary music. In addition, this summer will see the second edition of Concertgebouworkest Young, the successful European youth orchestra for talented young musicians with a diversity of backgrounds who could use a little extra support.
The Concertgebouworkest is entering into a three-year partnership with the visionary director Pierre Audi. Mr Audi has worked as opera and theatre director at the world’s most prestigious theatres. Between 1988 and 2018 he served as artistic director of the Dutch National Opera, a function he combined for several years with the artistic leadership of the Holland Festival. Currently he is general director of the Festival d’ Aix-en-Provence and artistic director of New York’s Park Avenue Armory, which is specialized in groundbreaking productions in unusual surroundings.
As its creative partner, Mr Audi will be working with the Concertgebouworkest this season on a mise-en-espace for a newly commissioned work by Tan Dun at The Concertgebouw and on a special programme at the Gashouder (Westergas Amsterdam) in collaboration with an unexpected guest artist. More information about this unique project will be released in the fall.
‘I am looking forward to working closely with the Concertgebouworkest on exploring in the coming seasons new accents in its programming’, says Mr Audi. ‘This challenge is also a wonderful opportunity to work with composers, conductors and the orchestra on continuing to explore the interaction of music with other art forms. Such initiatives are particularly relevant now, as we search for ways to highlight the importance of classical music to the new generations and to a wider section of society.’
In the coming period, the orchestra will be strengthening its bonds with a number of conductors who are of great importance to it. Conductor emeritus Riccardo Chailly will be leading the orchestra annually, starting in March 2021 with works by Zemlinsky, Bosmans and Shostakovich which deserve more attention. In his first season as honorary guest conductor, Iván Fischer will be conducting Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ and Mahler’s First Symphony, as well as a programme featuring all three Bartók piano concertos. The orchestra is embarking on a two-season Brahms cycle of four concerts together with Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
Daniel Harding, for his part, will be leading the orchestra in multiple programmes each season beginning this summer with three BankGiro Loterij Summer Concerts, including the second annual Concertgebouworkest Young youth orchestra, the summer tour of European venues and festivals, and Opening Night on 10 September, on which soloist Leonidas Kavakos will be performing Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto. The new season also sees Fabio Luisi conducting two programmes, in addition to sharing his knowledge and experience with young, talented conductors when he presides over the Ammodo Masterclass. The orchestra will undertake an extensive tour to Asia with conductor Tugan Sokhiev.
Other esteemed conductors who will be leading the orchestra in the coming season are Stéphane Denève, Paavo Järvi, Susanna Mälkki, Trevor Pinnock and Jaap van Zweden.
A number of eminent conductors will be making their first appearance with the Concertgebouworkest. Maestro Jordi Savall will conduct a festive Baroque programme, and the orchestra is thrilled to be working for the first time with Constantinos Carydis, Maxim Emelyanychev, Jonathon Heyward, Riccardo Minasi and Kristiina Poska (the last two having originally been scheduled to appear in the 2020–21 season).
Serving as artist in residence is the renowned pianist Yefim Bronfman, who will be appearing as soloist with the Concertgebouworkest in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto and the world premiere of Elena Firsova’s Piano Concerto, op. 175. He will also be performing chamber music with a number of musicians from the orchestra.
Other soloists sharing the stage with the orchestra in the coming season include pianists Behzod Abduraimov, Kirill Gerstein and Daniil Trifonov; violinists Lisa Batiashvili, Janine Jansen, Leonidas Kavakos and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider; and baritone Matthias Goerne. The orchestra is looking forward to first performances with soprano Renée Fleming and the pianists Stephen Hough and Alexandre Kantorow. Among the soloists from the orchestra’s own ranks are the orchestra’s leader Vesko Eschkenazy, principal trombonist Jörgen van Rijen and principal clarinettist Calogero Palermo.
In collaboration with the John Adams Institute, the orchestra is devoting three weeks to American symphonic music in a series of performances based on the theme of Made in America. The astounding diversity of these works is showcased on three completely different programmes featuring music by John Adams, the African American composers Julia Perry and George Walker, the innovative Charles Ives and Julia Wolfe, the crossover works of Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, the highly personal musical language of Jennifer Higdon and Peter Lieberson, the radical immigrant Edgard Varèse and film music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams and others. Various interesting educational projects, talks, lectures and chamber music concerts have also been planned around the theme.
In collaboration with the Sweelinck 2021 Foundation, the Concertgebouworkest is commemorating Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s death 400 years ago. Besides compositions by Sweelinck himself, the programme features a commissioned work by Joey Roukens. Chamber music celebrating the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’ has also been planned.
The Concertgebouworkest has a long history of collaborating with composer–conductors – from Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler in the early decades of its existence to John Adams, Thomas Adès and Matthias Pintscher today. Tan Dun, too, is very much a part of that tradition. This season, the Chinese composer–conductor returns for the fourth time and will be conducting two world premieres: a trombone concerto featuring soloist Jörgen van Rijen and the Requiem for Nature for chorus, orchestra and soloists with a mise-en-espace by creative partner Pierre Audi.
Other world premieres by Elena Firsova, Beat Furrer, Annelies Van Parys, and the Dutch composers Joey Roukens and Hawar Tawfiq have also been planned for the 2021–22 season.
The Concertgebouworkest also enjoys performing works which have undeservedly been rather neglected since their first performances, such as Henriëtte Bosmans’s Concertstuk for violin and orchestra and Otto Ketting’s Pas de deux. After all, a premiere alone does not automatically earn a composition a place in the orchestral repertoire. Among the post-war works which have since become true classics are Morton Feldman’s Coptic Light, György Ligeti’s Atmosphères and Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra.
The Concertgebouworkest has considerably expanded its education and talent development activities in recent years. After a season in which the orchestra was forced to pursue these activities mainly online as a result of COVID-19, their development now continues in the new season. Its collaborations with schools are resuming. Concertgebouworkest Young, which caters for talented European musicians aged 14 to 17 who could use a little extra support, is being held for the second time, with performances planned in Amsterdam and Cologne. The Concertgebouworkest Academy is entering its twentieth season with ten participants. The successful live-streamed Ammodo Conducting Masterclass is being presided over this season by Fabio Luisi.
For years, the Concertgebouworkest has looked to the future in the knowledge that classical music must not be taken for granted in our rapidly changing world. Especially since the outbreak of the corona crisis, online streaming is booming, and the number of high-quality video recordings available at concertgebouworkest.nl/video is rapidly growing. For those unable to attend live concerts, they provide a terrific way to see the orchestra perform.
The orchestra is also connecting with increasingly diverse and younger audiences through a number of different concert formats. Music lovers who have as yet had little or no opportunity to come and hear the Concertgebouworkest for themselves can get acquinted with essential masterpieces, energetically introduced by the presenter Thomas Vanderveken, at Essentials. This highly successful series is being extended with the addition of a fourth concert, exclusively for the Entrée youth association.
Young music lovers of six years and up are welcome to visit the two Children’s Concerts, where music is presented in fun and lively ways. The Family Series offers the opportunity to introduce one’s children or grandchildren (aged 8 to 16) to the Concertgebouworkest in three engaging and specially introduced concerts.
The orchestra is also keen to reach a diverse audience outside The Concertgebouw. In accordance with the theme programming without borders, the orchestra, together with its creative partner Pierre Audi, is planning special performances at unconventional locations. As in previous years, the orchestra will again be organising two Club Nights at different club venues in Amsterdam. In addition to its various international tours, the Concertgebouworkest will be performing in the Dutch cities of The Hague, Eindhoven and Heerlen. At the Dutch National Opera, the orchestra will be performing Weber’s Der Freischütz in June 2022.
Each season the Concertgebouworkest travels abroad to perform for audiences all over the world. The 2021-2022 season starts with the traditional summer tour to important European halls and festivals. In November, the orchestra will travel to South Korea and Japan. In addition, there are performances in Bucharest, Dortmund, Luxembourg, Paris and Cologne to look forward to.