The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam must be one of the most daunting concert halls in which to perform for any conductor or soloist. Not only because of its excellent acoustics and legendary status in the classical world, nor for the busts of the 46 composers who keep their beady eyes trained on you from their perches on the balcony ledges, but because to get to its famed stage, they will have to negotiate the steep, red-carpeted stairs that run down to it next to the hall’s organ. It’s little wonder that some more “senior” conductors take the less precipitous option of a staircase to the side! 

The Concertgebouw
© Hans Roggen

The hall has long attracted the world’s great conductors, soloists and orchestras and the 2022-23 season is no different. Among those making the descent to the Amsterdam stage, much focus will be on Klaus Mäkelä, whose appointment as the Royal Concertgebouw’s eighth Chief Conductor from 2027 was recently announced. Next season, you can watch Mäkelä conduct five programmes with his future band, along with a concert with one of his current ensembles, the Orchestre de Paris. Other conductors in the RCO’s roster next season include former Chief Conductor Riccardo Chailly, Iván Fischer, Daniel Harding, Myung-whun Chung, Paavo Järvi and everyone’s favourite nonagenarian, Herbert Blomstedt. There’s even an extremely rare guest appearance by Kirill Petrenko. 

The RCO is undoubtedly one of the world’s best orchestras, but the Netherlands boasts many fine ones who play regularly in the Concertgebouw. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, led by the excellent young Swiss conductor Lorenzo Viotti, plays eleven programmes, mostly of core classical repertoire, but there is a welcome opportunity to hear Karol Szymanowski’s Fourth Symphony, which is really a huge concertante work for piano and orchestra, featuring soloist Lucas Debargue. 

The Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Netherlands Radio Philharmonic), whose Chief Conductor Karina Canellakis is one of the finest on the international circuit, performs 26 programmes – all of them matinees. On Saturday afternoons, you’ll often find them playing the NTR ZaterdagMatinee, including concert performances of operas such as Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz and John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer. The orchestra also premieres Helen Grime’s Violin Concerto, with soloist Leila Josefowicz. Sunday mornings in the Concertgebouw tend to contain more popular fare, although Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony should set you up for a hearty Sunday lunch. 

The Amsterdam Sinfonietta and leader Candida Thompson always put together inventive programmes, performing three concerts next season, while the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra has nine programmes of eclectic fare, ranging from Bach’s St John Passion to Philip Glass’ Third Symphony. 

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra makes three appearances next season, each including a mighty symphony. Brahms’ First and Rachmaninov’s Second adorn their earlier matinee concerts, but in May, Chief Conductor Lahav Shani tackles Gustav Mahler’s huge Resurrection Symphony, which should fill the Concertgebouw’s sumptuous acoustic gloriously. Another orchestra based outside Amsterdam, the Residentie Orkest The Hague, performs an all-Dvořák concert under Jonathan Bloxham, while Anja Bihlmaier conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth in December. 

Janine Jansen
© Eduardus Lee

The Concertgebouw is a key destination for many international orchestras on tour. The Cleveland Orchestra includes it on its European tour, performing Bruckner under its Music Director Franz Welser-Möst. In March, another American orchestra – the Saint Louis Symphony – appears with Stéphane Denève. From Vienna, both the Philharmoniker and the Symphoniker make appearances, conducted by Jakub Hrůša and Omer Meir Wellber respectively. The Camerata Salzburg, synonymous with the music of Mozart, makes up a trio of Austrian visitors, performing with popular Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. 

Ivan Fischer appears with his Budapest Festival Orchestra, while Bavarian visitors include the Munich Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, both playing Mahler: the Philharmonic playing the Sixth under Lorenzo Viotti, the BRSO the Seventh with Daniel Harding.

The longest distance travellers next season are the Seoul Philharmonic, undertaking the 17,000km round trip with its Music Director, Osmo Vänskä for a programme of Tchaikovsky (Sunwook Kim playing the First Piano Concerto) and Stravinsky (The Firebird Suite). 

The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
© Everlast Creative Lier

It’s not just about orchestral blockbusters though. The Concertgebouw hosts a number of fine chamber ensembles next season, including some terrific string quartets: the Borodins, the Pavel Haas, Hagens and Takács Quartets all appear, along with the outstanding French quartet, the Quatuor Ébène. Soprano Renée Fleming sings a rare recital, an evening sharing the limelight with Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin, who plays Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Sonata.  

Starry solo pianists treading the Amsterdam stage include Daniil Trifonov, who appears in duo recital with his former teacher Sergei Babayan, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who plays both books of Debussy Préludes, Beatrice Rana (Chopin and Beethoven) and Alexandre Kantorow (Brahms and Schubert). Nobody knows what Grigory Sokolov will play next June – his programmes are rarely announced in advance – but it’s bound to be special and will almost certainly include at least half a dozen encores! 

From solo piano to full symphony orchestras, few halls can offer such a packed programme – 300 events – in their season as the Concertgebouw! 

Click here to see all the events at the Concertgebouw.

This preview was sponsored by Het Concertgebouw.