Classical music

HKPhil music director named head of New York Philharmonic

Jaap van Zweden lands one of the biggest jobs in classical music as he is named to succeed Alan Gilbert in 2018 as head of world-leading orchestra. Hong Kong Philharmonic offers its congratulations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 January, 2016, 8:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 4:34pm

Jaap van Zweden, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director, is to also head the New York Philharmonic - one of the most prestigious positions in the classical music world. He will take up the role at the start of the orchestra's 2018-19 season.
  New York Phil chairman Oscar Schafer and president Matthew Van Besien yesterday announced that the 55-year-old Dutch conductor will succeed Alan Gilbert as the orchestra’s next music director in what will be that orchestra's 177th season. Van Zweden will serve as music director designate in the 2017–18 season.
  “I am thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure with the New York Philharmonic”, said van Zweden. “Both the NY Phil and HK Phil are unique groups of highly talented musicians. It’s such an honour to be able to work with them both. Two great cities, and two great orchestras.”
  The announcement ended months of speculation that van Zweden, who took over the helm  at the Hong Kong Philharmonic from compatriot Edo de Waart in 2012, was up for the top job with the prestigious American ensemble.

RTHK video feature on Jaap van Zweden's arrival in Hong Kong in 2012

  In an interview with the South China Morning Post before conducting the Hong Kong Phil’s second instalment of Wagner’s Ring cycle, Die Walküre, last week, van Zweden said he has a “phenomenal relationship” with the New York Phil  and “it’s the same type of relationship which I found when I came here, this eagerness, this enthusiastic music-making of the highest level.”
  Van Zweden has been music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 2008 and the honorary chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor emeritus of the Radio Chamber Philharmonic.
  He will be the New York Phil’s 26th music director and will be conducting the orchestra for 12 weeks each year. He follows in the footsteps of some of the most illustrious names in the history of classical music, including Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, Sir John Barbirolli, Arturo Toscanini, Willem Mengelberg and composer Gustav Mahler.


Named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year for 2012, van Zweden was appointed at age 19 as the youngest-ever concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and began his conducting career 20 years later in 1995. Like de Waart, the Amsterdam-born conductor has a solid reputation as an “orchestra builder”.
Van Besien said:   “Having experienced his passionate and dynamic artistry with the New York Philharmonic over four appearances in the last four years, I believe Jaap van Zweden is not only a logical choice for the Philharmonic’s next music director, but an incredibly inspired and exciting one.
  “As both a strong musician and leader, Jaap brings energy and electricity that mirror our hometown, the great city of New York, and his deep commitment to the music itself promises many thrilling performances for our audiences.
  “Moreover, Jaap will be an engaged, visionary, and dedicated partner in building the future of this orchestra, including the planned renovation of David Geffen Hall, activities during the renovation, and the eventual return to our concert home.”
  Y.S. Liu, chair of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society, said the news came as no surprise: “Jaap is one of the world’s best conductors and he has taken our orchestra to new heights, leading the HK Phil on a very successful European Tour in 2015 and conducting our major performance and recording project of Wagner’s Ring cycle.
  “This appointment further proves the high quality of his work, and it is an honour and privilege for the HK Phil to have a conductor of this calibre as our music director.”