Press overview

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2018–19

26 February 2018

new productions, a new home, new audiences

Major vocal and music drama productions are the focus in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s new season. A number of milestones also mark the autumn of 2018: the orchestra is celebrating an anniversary, is moving house and is completing RCO meets Europe, its acclaimed tour of all twenty-eight member states of the European Union.

RCO House

In the autumn of 2018, around its 130th birthday which it will be celebrating on 3 November 2018, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is moving to its new home, RCO House, located at Gabriël Metsustraat 16: a stunning listed building designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage, just a stone’s throw from the Concertgebouw. Thanks to vital support from donors, foundations and corporate partners, the property has been purchased and is now being renovated to meet the orchestra’s needs and wishes. The total project costs € 12.5 million; a major campaign has been launched to raise € 10 million. So far, € 8,5 million has been pledged.

RCO House will be equipped with rehearsal studios for members of the orchestra, a small ensemble space and offices for staff. The orchestra will thus be able to make its growing education and talent development objectives a reality and enjoy more direct contact with audience members. Needless to say, the Concertgebouw will remain the orchestra’s home base for its symphonic concerts and its chamber music concerts in the Close-up Series.

Requiems, operas, ballets and theatre

Listening closely to its audience, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is continuing to build its own repertoire which is rooted in the symphonic tradition and which aims to uphold that tradition through contemporary compositions. In its 130th season, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will be putting an emphasis on symphonic–vocal and music drama productions. In addition to the great requiems of Berlioz and Britten, the orchestra will be performing for the very first time Honegger’s ‘dramatic oratorio’ Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher and Weill’s ballet chanté entitled Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins). The season also marks the first collaboration ever between the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Toneelgroep Amsterdam (to be known as International Theater Amsterdam starting in the coming season). The two are joining forces in a musical theatre co-production called Death in Venice at Theater Carré. The orchestra is performing Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at the Dutch National Opera and Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle at The Concertgebouw. In addition, three complete ballets have been programmed: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker in the Christmas Matinee, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and Stravinsky’s Petrushka. At Easter, the orchestra will be performing Bach’s St John Passion.

Daniele Gatti conducts RCO Opening Night

The season kicks off on 14 September with the festive RCO Opening Night, when chief conductor Daniele Gatti will be conducting Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring soloist Evgeny Kissin, considered a legend by many.

Later in the season, Maestro Gatti will conduct symphonies by Mozart (No. 40), Brahms (Nos. 2 and 4), Bruckner (No. 3) and Mahler (No. 7), three symphonic poems by Richard Strauss and two works by Louis Andriessen - Mysteriën, a work first performed five years ago to mark the orchestra’s 125th anniversary, and De staat. 

Other conductors

Honorary conductor Bernard Haitink is returning with Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6, and conductor emeritus Mariss Jansons will be conducting Britten’s War Requiem. Guest conductors making appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the coming season include such familiar faces as Semyon Bychkov, Myung-Whun Chung, Iván Fischer, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Daniel Harding, Thomas Hengelbrock and Philippe Herreweghe. William Christie and Dima Slobodeniouk are both making their first appearance with the orchestra.


The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has always enjoyed fostering relationships with living composers. In the 2018–19 season, it has commissioned works by the Dutch composers Christiaan Richter and Michel van der Aa. The latter will be writing a work featuring violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaya and cellist Sol Gabetta as soloists. It will also be performing contemporary works by composers including Karim Al-Zand, George Benjamin, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Eötvös and Lotta Wennäkoski. In its innovative Horizon Series, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will be presenting twentieth-century works and newly commissioned compositions in programmes built around current themes and featuring extramusical excursions into dance, theatre and projected images.


The 2018–19 artist in residence is the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who will be performing piano concertos by Beethoven, Birtwistle, Dvořák and Messiaen. Aimard will also collaborate with members of the orchestra on a number of chamber music concerts, including one of two RCO Club Nights – concerts in a relaxed lounge setting. He is also giving a masterclass for members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Academy.

Other popular guest soloists in the 2018–19 season are violinists Isabelle Faust, Janine Jansen and Leonidas Kavakos; pianists Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman and Mitsuko Uchida; and countertenor Bejun Mehta. Among the soloists making their first appearance with the orchestra are pianist Beatrice Rana, violinist Alina Ibragimova and a large number of vocal soloists. Two soloists from the orchestra’s own ranks are also being showcased: principal flautist Kersten McCall is performing Soie by Wennäkoski, and Perry Hoogendijk takes centre stage in Vaughan Williams’s Tuba Concerto.

RCO meets Europe draws to a close

In its 2018–19 season, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will be visiting fifteen countries, giving a total of twenty-five concerts outside the Netherlands.

The orchestra is concluding its unique tour project RCO meets Europe with performances in Cyprus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Croatia. Since 2016 the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will have visited all twenty-eight member states of the European Union, performing one work in each country with a local youth orchestra (Side by Side). By the end of the tour, the orchestra will have visited six countries for the first time: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia.

The essay competition for young Europeans, which the orchestra launched in 2016 as part of RCO meets Europe, has so far yielded ninety-nine entries from fourteen countries.

Side by Side has received a great deal of attention all over the world. And just three months after the completion of RCO meets Europe, Side by Side is being extended: on 14 February 2019, during an extensive tour of the US, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will be performing an opening work in New York City together with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. 

Talent development

The Side by Side initiative clearly shows that talent development is one of the orchestra’s top priorities. For fifteen years, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Academy has successfully moulded young orchestral musicians. The orchestra also works closely with the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic and the South African National Youth Orchestra, thereby investing in the future of symphonic music in multiple ways. 

New audiences and education

The proportion of younger listeners (aged eighteen to thirty-five) attending concerts by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has risen considerably over the last four successive seasons. The Saturday evening Essentials Series in particular is reaching an increasingly younger audience – indeed, over half of all ticket holders are under forty. The three Essentials concerts in the 2018–19 season are built around Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Brahms’s Second and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

With its RCO Club Night, the orchestra also attracts audience members from outside the traditional setting of the concert hall. These concerts feature musicians from the orchestra playing two sets of chamber music in an intimate lounge setting at a club in Amsterdam.

The orchestra looks forward to welcoming children six years and older to its two Family Concerts, which this season feature Carnival of the Animals in the Recital Hall and Petrushka in the Main Hall of The Concertgebouw.

The orchestra also reaches a young audience with its education programmes and supports Méér Muziek in de Klas (More Music in the Classroom), an organisation working towards music education for all primary school children in the Netherlands.