Dirigenten te gast. Het fenomeen gastdirigent, in het bijzonder bij het (Koninklijk) Concertgebouworkest 1888-2004

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


These days, guest performances by conductors with symphony orchestras are considered to be perfectly commonplace occurrences. Nonetheless, the phenomenon of guest conductor is hardly discussed in the literature on conductors and orchestras. Consequently, a study was initiated based on the following questions. How did the phenomenon of the guest conductor develop from around 1890 to 2000? What importance do guest conductors have for an orchestra? Can one arrive at a definition of the term “guest conductor” which would apply to any orchestra, and can universally valid models of the guest conductor be defined? The present study focuses on the Concertgebouw Orchestra. It would appear that guest conductors have enriched and broadened the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s repertoire and calibre. The result is a taxonomy ranging from leading conductors to conductors starting out on their careers; from Pultvirtuosen to musicians with a poor conducting technique; from specialist conductors to composers who wished, or who were permitted, to conduct mainly or exclusively their own works; and from conductors who led the orchestra regularly for longer periods to substitutes with shortcomings. There were also leading conductors who never worked with the orchestra, or who only did so occasionally. They either did not wish or were unable to appear with it because of performances elsewhere, illness, death, war or political circumstances, because their financial demands could not be met, because they conducted repertoire deemed of little interest, or because the orchestra did not wish, or no longer wished, to work with the conductor in question. Enormous differences in remuneration were found. The hypothesis was confirmed that a guest conductor is one who performs on a single concert, or during one or more limited periods, with an orchestra with which he or she has no long-term association as principal or chief, first, second or assistant conductor, etc. The choice of which guest conductors conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra appears in varying degrees to have depended on a sometimes complex combination of internal and/or external factors in which business, political and personal motives, in addition to artistic considerations and chance, could play a role. Political influence exerted by the Dutch government and from abroad has been considerable. Record companies also influenced the orchestra’s policy. In addition, the members of the orchestra have exerted great influence through their own abilities and, for nearly forty years, via their own artistic committee. The greatest influence exerted by the public took the form of controversial protests against the appearance of Paul van Kempen in 1951 and even caused a split between Het Concertgebouw N.V. and the orchestra. Similarities and important differences were observed in the way guest conductors have been recruited to lead the Concertgebouw Orchestra and orchestras abroad. The appearances by Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler laid the foundation in Amsterdam for two great traditions. The policy pursued has shown to be initiatory, but also in large part reactive. Although the role played by guest conductors in helping achieve and secure the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s leading international position has been substantial, this would have been impossible without capable orchestral players.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Wennekes, Emile, Primary supervisor
Award date30 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2012


  • guest conductor
  • conductor
  • Concertgebouw Orchestra
  • RCO
  • symphony orchestra
  • composer-conductor

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