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The RCO is a symphony orchestra of international renown, whose character has been shaped by several generations of musicians, longstanding collaboration with each of the six chief conductors and the unique acoustic properties of the Concertgebouw’s main hall.

The musicians: a unique culture

The Orchestra has gained its unique international position with its ‘velvet’ strings, ‘golden’ brass and the exceptional and personal timbre of the woodwinds. The musicians are the guardians of the playing culture that gives the Orchestra its unique sound and flexibility. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra consists of 120 virtuosos who perform together at the highest level.

Collaboration with composers

During the fifty years of Willem Mengelberg’s reign, a wide variety of composers such as Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra several times. Celebrities such as Béla Bartók, Sergey Rachmaninoff and Sergey Prokofiev performed their own works as soloists. This crucial bond with contemporary composers was continued with Bruno Maderna, Peter Schat, Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, Luigi Nono and John Adams, and is still RCO policy.

Mahler and Bruckner

The Orchestra has gained international acclaim with its interpretations of the late romantic repertoire. The Mahler tradition, embedded in the many performances Mahler conducted here personally, achieved great heights during the Mahler Festivals in 1920 and 1995. Bernard Haitink made a huge impression with his complete recording of the Mahler symphonies and with the Christmas matinees. Bruckner, too, is a vital part of the Orchestra’s repertoire. After the war, it was Eduard van Beinum in particular who drew attention to French music and the Bruckner symphonies.

With his interpretations in the concert hall and on CD recordings, Riccardo Chailly made a major contribution to contemporary music and opera. His Mahler interpretations also enjoyed wide popular and critical acclaim. With the arrival of Mariss Jansons in 2004 a new phase has started, with continued interest in composers such as Mahler, Bruckner and Richard Strauss as well as major twentieth-century composers such as Shostakovich and Messiaen. In Mariss Jansons’ first two seasons as chief conductor, he has conducted a broad repertoire ranging from Haydn and Mozart to contemporary Dutch compositions and a commisioned work by Henze.

The guest conductors

The Concertgebouw Orchestra has worked with many world-famous guest conductors, each of whom made a unique contribution to the development of the Orchestra’s sound and the repertoire, including Arthur Nikisch, Karl Muck, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Rafael Kubelik, Pierre Monteux, Eugen Jochum, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti, George Szell, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Colin Davis, Kurt Sanderling, Kirill Kondrashin, Carlo Maria Giulini, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and honorary guest conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.