“My character has an Amsterdam swagger.”

“My character has an Amsterdam swagger.”

Amsterdammer Jaap van Zweden (62) was the youngest ever concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. He became a conductor more than 25 years ago. He traveled to the United States and Asia. The tentative endpoint is the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, where it will begin in January. Now here is his biography: This is YapWritten by journalist Peter van Engen.

Frederick Berntsen

“A CV like this makes me a bit embarrassed,” says Jaap van Zweden. “You usually do something like this at the end of your career, and I’m not at the end yet. But I’m not at the beginning either, there was a lot to tell about my violin-playing and conducting career.

“When you begin an action, you will climb a huge mountain. The closer you get to the top, the clearer it becomes. At the bottom of the mountain, the path is countless. Hand technique is more important than you think, and certainly more important than you realize as a beginner.

Jaap van Zweden sits in a corner by the window in his favorite cafe, De Joffers, in Willemsparkweg. He’s been coming there for twenty years, and it’s a place that “has an alternative French vibe, not chic and authentic.” Amsterdam South is a neighborhood. He calls himself Amsterdam. “The way I live here; I only have a few streets to go to. I’ve always created the same thing in another city, New York, Dallas, which is the neighborhood where I hang out, have breakfast, and have lunch. I always take care of the streets of Amsterdam around me.

Van Zweden believes that management is the greatest thing of all. It started with no expectations, and it was an exciting adventure. A conscious adventure indeed. He took comprehensive classes, and that was the basis. The path has not always been upward, but rather a challenging one. “I had to get to know the orchestra. I know what a bassoon is, but how does this instrument work? Why is it important to cut a good reed? How does it affect a person’s mind if the reed is bad?”

For many orchestras, it’s good to know what you want, as van Zweden learned. At the same time, major orchestras like to incorporate tradition, the orchestra’s DNA, into your ideas. “I once asked a trumpet player in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra: ‘Why do you breathe here when you hear this note?’ Then he gave him a thumbs up: Much better. You have to keep the music constantly alive. Every day I try to find something new in a piece. When that doesn’t happen, when you’re no longer a detective who wants to investigate what the music can tell you, it becomes routine and the orchestra feels “With that. And then you have to stop.”

“I think that in time I will have a very clear sense of when I should stop conducting performances. But if you think I should stop because the quality leaves much to be desired, you should contact me. When I said goodbye to the violin, I could Really playing the violin, wasn’t it? That was very good, dare I say it. But when I closed the bag, it was done. It will be the same with management.”

This is also your personality, and there is a certain degree of that rücksichtslosigkeit in.


A person changes throughout his life. Does your life experience have an impact on his behavior?

“Do you think a person changes? I don’t think so. Situations change, your environment changes, but you basically remain the same. One of the big changes in my life was having a disabled son. This fact greatly affected the whole family. We increasingly realized that we We walk a difficult path, from one school to another: two parents are terrified about this boy.

“The heavy burden of that time gave me a depth to my life that I didn’t want to miss. In that moment, it adds an extra dimension to making music. When the music is composers talking about their personal grief, it’s easier to understand. Ultimately, music thrives on “Life experience. There are young conductors with an old soul, and they’re instantly great. Those are the exceptions.”

Daughter Anna Sofia comes with her grandson, who is displaying a book. Van Zweden said to him: “My piano book, look at it!” The Great Thief of Amsterdam, how wonderful! Then your grandfather should buy you a piano.”

“My character has the swagger of Amsterdam,” van Zweden continues. “And perhaps also the spirit of the free city, which I love so much. It is often said that I am too frank, and perhaps I say what I think too quickly. I think that saying something that takes a turn is a waste of time. Many Amsterdamers believe that they have the right on their side, and that too in Internally. When I started conducting orchestras, I had very little time, and in addition to the Amsterdam mentality, it was sometimes a difficult experience for people, including orchestra members. It took me 25 years to learn how to do it, and I learned how to tame my impatience My patience. Patience is also a means. I wanted very quickly. I planted a seed, and would like to pick those flowers today. But that is not possible.

“I teach once a year in Gstaad, and it’s a new dimension in my life. In the past, I would have blown up with a student like that if I didn’t get it right the first time. Now I think: Just do it again. I’m getting older, I’m an adult.” 62 years old already. Teaching, I’m at the age for that. It’s part of nature to pass on something, paving the way for new people. You have to be able to do it, and you have to do it without jealousy and with tremendous dedication. In our profession: not everyone able to cross.For me, there were only two people who helped me a little, Edo de Waart and Leonard Bernstein.

Do you now know what action is?

“Yes, of course. Things always go well when you are fully prepared, when you have something to say. First comes the music, then the orchestra members, then you come again to put everything in order. That is the order. If you think: first me then “The rest, things will go wrong. Music is the starting point, you should never stand in the middle or pretend that you wrote all those notes. You have to keep your feet on the ground.”

“Music is my life. To know me you have to attend my concerts. I’m not much more than that night I performed. My whole life ends on an evening like this. I’m married to music, but not to the stage. I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t insist on it anymore. I feel That I am at home on stage. I have a thing for my audience, but I don’t care about the applause. I don’t do it for the applause, but because the music is so great. Success is not important, success comes and goes. When I am buried later, there will be no success behind my coffin. What “What you give is what you take with you in life. When you give to others, you give more to yourself. Giving is wealth.”

Peter van Engen: This is YapAmbo|Anthos, €24.99.

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